Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News



It’s alive! It’s alive! Tim Burton’s ability to make excellent films is once again alive!

I’d just about given up hope on Burton as a director since over the past decade or so, he’s been more concerned with making films that look like cliché Tim Burton films than actually examining the dark, the mysterious, the unknown and the quirky, all elements that were staple of his earlier work. When Burton was still on the rise, there always appeared to be some risk to his films, a desire to tell stories no one else had the capacity for. And yet since his failed remake of PLANET OF THE APES, Burton’s work has gotten a little sloppier, a little lazier with his visual style becoming a parody of itself and his eye for unique characters essentially going blind. BIG FISH and CORPSE BRIDE are nice films that shouldn’t be disparaged during this time period, but when you look at pictures like CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, SWEENEY TODD, ALICE IN WONDERLAND and DARK SHADOWS, they all give off the vibe of films made by someone who thought those ideas fit into what a Tim Burton film should be, and not necessarily because they had passion for the material, as was crystal clear with BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and ED WOOD.

That old-school Burton strangeness is back with FRANKENWEENIE, the feature-length stop-motion animation take on the 1984 live-action short film that got him fired from Disney once upon a time. There’s a sense of imagination and wonder that’s been missing from Burton’s films over the past few years that’s quite apparent as you watch FRANKENWEENIE that it really just feels like the enigmatic director gives a shit again. The result is a sweet tale about a boy and his incredible love for his dog, who, after meeting his accidental death, is reanimated using lightning (á la Frankenstein) in order to keep their friendship alive.

Victor (voiced innocently by Charlie Tahan) is a bit of a strange kid. He loves making homemade movies. He’s quite the science nerd, and, while he doesn’t seem to have many friends at school, when he comes home, he knows he has the loving companionship of his dog Sparky to keep him company. However, this ranges far beyond just an owner-pet relationship. This boy’s dog is his best friend, and so you can understand the emotional toll it takes on him when his pal dies. Very quickly Burton is able to credibly build this bond to make it mean a great deal when it’s fractured, which makes Victor’s decision to try to bring Sparky back to life, no matter how crazy and ridiculous a plan it may be, that much more heartfelt.

Once successful, FRANKENWEENIE heads down the path of a kid doing his best to keep his reanimated dog a secret, because the quiet suburban town he lives in wouldn’t be able to handle the news of a zombie canine running around New Holland. Burton once again invokes this fear of what’s different in a place where everything seems very uniform – much like he did in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and, to an extent, BEETLEJUICE – and, in addition to using Danny Elfman’s score which has a SCISSORHANDS-like sound to it at times or even Martin Landau as the unrestrained science teacher Mr. Rzykruski, who sounds an awful lot like Landau’s portrayal of Bela Legosi in ED WOOD (“But I will show the world that I can be its master. I shall perfect my own race of people... a race of atomic supermen that will conquer the world!”), Burton seems to be resorted to some of his old tricks, but, unlike his recent attempts to copy himself, for FRANKENWEENIE, Burton is at least re-using the things that have worked extremely well for him in the past and continue to do so.

A lot of credit here on FRANKENWEENIE goes to screenwriter John August, who has crafted a remarkably funny and smart script for Burton to follow. The attention to detail in its nod to classic horror are brilliant, be it the Bride of Frankenstein, Igor or Mary Shelley's name itself, and, as Victor’s classmates begin to learn of what he was able to pull off and attempt to do it for themselves with other dead animals and pets, August slowly works the film’s dark tones into a third act free-for-all filled with such awesome madness, it brings about fun memories of GREMLINS once they’ve started multiplying.


The animation here is a strange balance between rugged and top shelf. Something like the crudity of Sparky’s design, which looks colored with pencil in spots, is a polar opposite to the careful articulation of Landau’s Rzykruski, who is fascinating to watch even when he’s only talking as his teeth have been given movement during the process. There is a rough around the edges quality to FRANKENWEENIE’s appearance that really works here and is more a charm of the world Burton has created than a distraction.

FRANKENWEENIE is a wonderful return to form for Burton, which brings about optimism that he’ll continue to make films that inspire him to do his best work – something we haven’t seen in far too long. You can usually tell when a filmmaker really has his heart and soul in a movie, and it couldn’t be more apparent with Burton on this project. Welcome back, Tim Burton of yesteryear. I missed you dearly. I hope you stick around for awhile longer.


-Billy Donnelly

"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"

Follow me on Twitter.

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Oct. 5, 2012, 9:20 a.m. CST

    Who the FUCK is The Kidd?

    by Ricardo

    Never heard of it

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 9:21 a.m. CST

    I gave up on Burton a while ago

    by disfigurehead


  • Oct. 5, 2012, 9:21 a.m. CST

    I liked Charlie...

    by Wickham Jones

    I enjoyed Depp's Wonka. I might be the only one, but that's cool. I agree with you about the rest of the films. I've been looking forward to this one since his live action short from the '80s.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 9:47 a.m. CST

    By 'Vs' you mean.....

    by Righteous Brother

    Sat passively watching the film, whilst taking notes.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 9:58 a.m. CST

    Ok I get it...Frankenweenie is a must see.

    by doom master

    You're like the hundredth positive reviewer so far...

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 10:04 a.m. CST

    What an arrogant piece

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    I love the way you feel you can accurately say which Tim Burton films are REAL Tim Burton films and not pretending to be Tim Burton Tim Burton films. Just because YOU dont think they meet YOUR standard what Mr Burton should be doing with his time does not make you an expert. Frankenweenie has been in production for years. He has been making this while he was making Alice and Dark Shadows. So the script and look were signed off long before Dark Shadows even went into pre production. There has been a team in 3 Mills Studios in London for years. They had been there years when I was there in 2010. It was all hush hush, and no one could get into their part of the building to see what they were up to. So in conclusion, you ass, this is another Tim Burton film. From Tim Burton. Following Tim Burtons choices and sensibilities. Not clichéd and not concerned with trying to make a Tim Burton film. You know, because he is Tim Burton. A filmmaker. Who makes the films that he wants to make. You might not have liked those films you mentioned, but to say he is phoning it in to capture former glories is arrogant and disengenous to say the least. People grow, their tastes change, they have kids. You know, life happens. Its like you dont understand either human beings or film making. Those who can, do. Those who can't, write about those who do.

  • I'm debating whether or not to see this immediately after work today. Though alot of the Burton films out there this past decade do feel like how I felt seeing Terry Gilliam direct The Brothers Grimm - there are touches of the artist at work, but it just doesn't feel like there's any 'glue' between the director and the film in places. Corpse Bride had some wonderful art (and I did love Carter as the Corpse Bride's Emily), but the story just felt incredibly one-note.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 10:33 a.m. CST

    What is with the Tim Burton hate?!?!?!?!?

    by BilboRing

    Planet of the Apes sucked balls but that is about it. Since then, I have totally enjoyed Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Big Fish. How can you hate on the man who also brought us Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and Sleepy Hollow?!?!?!

  • I heard he's a photographer now, but no one came 100% confirm the supposed pictures of him. Would've been cool to have him be a part of this movie, but I really love my dogs to I will see it eventually anyway.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 10:40 a.m. CST

    @Col tigh-fighter

    by jemagee

    so if those who can do, and those who can't 'write about it' - what does that make someone who just insults what someone wrote coming off even more arrogantly than the piece they are 'insulting' It's an opinion, everyone is entitled to them, but seems like you belong in a special category if you have nothing useful to add

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 11:45 a.m. CST


    by Col. Tigh-Fighter

    I do for a living. That's why when I hear bollocks from people who obviously think their opinion equals fact, then I get a bit pissed off. I've seen loads of projects from ideas stage through to completion, and I know how they are shaped, changed, and eventually put on the screen. So garbage like -- he’s been more concerned with making films that look like cliché Tim Burton films than actually examining the dark, the mysterious, the unknown and the quirky-- really piss me off. Like Harry *giggle*, he thinks just because he thinks it, it must be the way that it is. And it just makes him, like Harry, look like a spoilt brat. Why should every filmmaker make the same kind of film always, at every point in his life. He's older, wiser, and married with children. All these things feed into your tastes, priorities, needs, and drives. To wipe out a decade of films because they're not all dark and angsty just shows an deep failure to understand both how adults work, and how filmmakers chose their projects. And I havent even gone into how studios, producers, scripts, and collaboration process come into it.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 12:33 p.m. CST

    Sleepy Hollow was good Burton.

    by Michael

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 12:35 p.m. CST

    You can't win Kidd...

    by Darth Macchio

    creepythinman trademarked the FACT! after each opinion. Didn't see that once in Kidd's review for Frankenweenie above. Though, to be truthful, he did not predicate each and every sentence in the review with "In my opinion..." or "In my view..." or "To me...". He did use some "opinion" phraseology here and there but as he explains his views on Burton's recent history, he doesn't also explain that they are his views and not facts. So I guess it could be easy to misinterpret a statement as fact when it's meant as opinion. Except, of course, I would have thought the context of "critic" would have covered that notion of "this is what this critic *felt* about this movie or this director's career" but perhaps all reviews should preface everything they write with a "In my opinion..." disclaimer so people, both in the industry and out (and even Tim Burton himself if he ever read any of this - which I doubt) will know unequivocally that a review is just one person's opinion. Not one person stating facts. I'm not even trying to defend Kidd or anybody here...but it's getting old...ever review the Kidd does is plagued with this absolutist nonsense. I've been here a long time and have been a avid reader of some reviewers and while not all reviewers have been great and some seemed to be overt plants even, Kidd's reviews are consistent from what I've seen (that means in my opinion by the way - I could be wrong as I'm not making a statement of reality here - hope that's clear). I used to think truth was's already dead. And language comprehension is going with it, apparently. In my opinion, of course.

  • I heard a clip of this waking up to my alarm radio recently and got the whole boy and his dog thing and given the circumstances it would most definitely lead to heartbreak. So is it cry worthy? I like to cry at movies. 'My Dog Skip', my lord did the waterworks flow at the end of that one.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 2:29 p.m. CST

    darth macchio

    by Glenn

    :) Well said.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 2:30 p.m. CST

    col. tigh-fighter

    by Glenn

    :) Well said.

  • I've been anticipating a more fully fleshed out film for years, so I'll definitely see this. Personally, I loved Seen Todd (Sondheim makes me weep with joy/sorrow/triumph/endearment) and thought Burton's film was an excellent interpretation of his work. I haven't seen Alice or Dark Shadows, because I love both properties and those films looked like utter dreck. Overall, Burton has a great track record by my estimation, even if I don't enjoy/am not interested in a particular picture.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 2:36 p.m. CST

    To All

    by Glenn

    As you can see, I have no opinion on either side, because I don't want to walk into the gunfire. But I'll triumph both your writing skills. I will say, this is a review, and all critics boo-hoo their favorite filmmakers when they stray from the supposed golden path, in their eyes. This has been the spine of certain film critics for decades and decades, Pauline Kael, for one, based her whole career on this. I'm a doer, I understand what happens in the assembly line of filmmaking, from development to marketing... and the critic, thank god, should either have no knowledge of these processes or ignore them wholesale; if they did, they might become complicit in these debacles known as Studio Releases.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 3:20 p.m. CST


    by Monnie Knapp

    I think you wanted to "trump" all TBrs writing styles or "triumph over" them, but the inadvertent irony is awesome

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 3:24 p.m. CST


    by Glenn

    Not all. Their posts were very well-written. There is no irony. Critics have their place. Stop assuming.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 3:29 p.m. CST


    by Glenn

    If you think what I wrote was terrible, take me to task... but give the board here an analysis of why you think so, don't proffer up some little bit of sophistry along the lines of "If you can't see it yourself, then you're a bad writer to begin with." Seems every one, you included, is a critic. For this post, THAT'S irony.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 3:37 p.m. CST


    by Monnie Knapp

    I meant it was ironic that you claimed you would "triumph" both sides writing style in a sentence which included a confused word choice. See, that is ironic. You did address it "to All" as well... just sayin'. No worries though, I'm being a snarky-pants. Probably just miffed 'cause I must soon go to work.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 3:52 p.m. CST


    by Glenn

    Whoa. You really misread something. I think you assumed incorrectly, that I intended to TRUMP their writing styles? No -- I meant what I wrote, that I was heralding their writings. "Triumph" can be a verb. For me to say ahead of time that I'm about to show up someone else, would be the height of arrogance and deserves a good stomping. But no, you misinterpreted what I specifically wrote. Snarky bastard. Decaf. What kinda work do you do?

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 4:23 p.m. CST

    Can't wait, seeing it this weekend...

    by Lao_Che_Air_Freight

    Dark Shadows is really growing on me, especially the first hour. October.....'s why there's punkins... Alice I just can't wrap my head around yet...I really like HBC in it, but little else.. Charlie is fantastic, I love the orginal, but the new just has so many great moments. Sweeney Todd was spectacular, loved every minute. Anyone who gives Christopher Lee regular work is a hero in my book, (but Alice was ridiculous, one line, and then his toungue gets cut off - that got a big Fuck You out of me when I first saw that)

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 4:33 p.m. CST


    by Monnie Knapp

    I think you still wanna stick "over" in there. Like if someone says, "I will triumph you," it sounds wierd. "I will triumph over you," is more correct I think. Not that it matters. I do one-on-one, in-home care for adults with special needs. It's usually boring and really chill, like right now, and sometimes turns into a giant shit-storm on a dime. I'm just pissy because I got called in on a day off. It's a good full-time gig that can be held down while also attending school.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 4:51 p.m. CST


    by Glenn

    What are you in school for? And what got you into movies whilst working a job like that? As for the whole 'Triumph' debate, you're not understanding me... I am NOT trying to say "I will triumph over" anyone, or that I will trump anyone, or that I will stomp anyone else's skills here. That would be assholery on my part. This is what it meant: "I am exhorting your writing skills. I am applauding them. I am clapping for you." I am not saying, "I will break you. I will write better than you."

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 4:57 p.m. CST

    I may be walking into gunfire here...

    by the dolphins are in the jacuzzi

    But I've got to agree with Kidd on this one. To me, Burton's past 15-20 years have been pretty spotty. And yeah, I think it started with Planet of the Apes. After that, in my opinion, he mostly seemed to be "phoning it in." There were exceptions, of course. Big Fish was good, Corpse Bride and Sweeny Todd were pretty good. But everything else has been disappointing. The recent movies seem to be more concerned with being interesting on a visual level than being involving on an emotional level. Again, just my opinion, but I agree with Kidd, and I don't think Kidd was out of line for calling it like he saw it.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 5:10 p.m. CST

    Col Tigh, explain to me:

    by Kremzeek

    Why you think the Kidd is always negative, egotistical, etc. Kidd is giving a review of HIS opinion of the film, and Burton--past and present. In HIS opinion, he can tell when Burton has, his heart into a project or not. You're telling me you don't have a favorite director where you can pretty much tell the same thing? Disagree with his conclusions, fine. No problem. But he's arrogant and he thinks his opinion equals fact? What article did you read? Sorry to say, but *you* actually come across as arrogant. Not trying to insult you, but I think you're actually having the opposite affect of what you'd intended by "calling out" Kidd. Doesn't make sense, really. Keep up the good work, Kidd. I may not agree with your reviews 100% of the time, but typically you provide solid, coherent, and relevant information.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 5:16 p.m. CST


    by Monnie Knapp

    Ah, yes, now I get it. You will extol the virtues of their writings; that makes total sense. I have a B.A. in history and anthropology and am currently preparing to apply for graduate studies in history. I've always loved film and television of all sorts, though it is mostly unrelated to my schooling or profession. In the future I hope to work in higher education. I find that my studies have helped me become a more critical viewer of film, however, so that's a connection of sorts.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 5:17 p.m. CST

    Nah, no gunfire, Dolphins

    by Kremzeek

    I agree with Kidd completely on this one, too, as far as Burton's career. But I have no interest in seeing the new Frankenweenie. I guess I'm still way too jaded when it comes to Burton. He was my favorite director growing up. But I was let down too many times and now really don't get excited to see anything he does. (I attempted to give him another shot with 'Alice in Wonderland' since I love the books and love American McGee's darker take, but Burton's movie was beyond awful.) Unfortunately, that's where I'm at with Burton. =(

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 5:33 p.m. CST

    This "vs" crap is so frigging annoying.

    by Hint_of_Smegma

    Kidd, as if that's your real name, we get it. You needed to establish yourself on the site, granted. Done. But its now at the point I see "The Kidd vs.." and I just blank over. Even if it's film I'm really interested in. As I will continue to do from now on after saying my piece - you're putting a lot of people off reading your work.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 5:50 p.m. CST


    by Glenn

    "Extol the virtues" -- see? Now I can triumph your brevity! It's a shame that someone educated won't be involved in filmmaking, we need more types like you in there. Did you know Walter Hill graduated with a degree in History? The Raoul Walsh types, men/women who lived a life prior to movies, always made/make the films loaded with true experience....

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 6:09 p.m. CST

    Hey, Smegma (sheesh...)

    by Glenn

    You know what's frigging annoying? People who can't focus on the big picture but have no problem pointing out little, irrelevant details that niggle only them due to some obsessive-compulsive need to trample. Doubly annoying is when an individual claims an anonymous posse for themselves as 'proof' that they're in the majority, without stated evidence of such. What I find entertaining is that you absolutely can't stand that he's staked a nom-de-plume claim for himself on the site -- which is his right, they employ him here -- yet your chosen ID has to do with bodily fluids, the clear sign of someone who has yet to leave his anal-retentive stage behind. The fact that I had to type your name in response, tells me you're probably closer in mental age to sperm, than you are to a grown-up person. It would be WELCOME by me, individually -- because I don't know anyone else's feelings here nor would I vouch for them -- if you stay out of Kidd's forums from now on. Whether or not I enjoy or appreciate his reviews -- though for the record, I do -- it'll be a great day when 'smegma' like you stop taking up scrolling space on my browser. You've shown yourself to be a person not to be bothered to be reckoned with. Cue your personal attacks now with nary a hint of substance about the matter at hand. Don't back down. Get more insulting as the minutes tick by. Show me up. Make me cry.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 6:15 p.m. CST

    Funny, hint_... I'm just the opposite

    by Kremzeek

    I'm glad Kidd does the "VS" thing because I can automatically skip to his reviews, which I find to typically be the best written and coherent of the bunch on AICN. I especially grow tired of having to read thru 10 paragraphs of Harry's life story and constant hyberbole in each of his posts. Although, I gotta say Quint is a decent writer for the most part, too. Go Kidd. And don't stop the VS thing. It helps me find your posts in the mire of shit on the front page.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 6:19 p.m. CST


    by Glenn

    Okay, man, from here on out, you and I are talkback brothers. You're very clear-headed, cooled out, and logical. Feel free to engage me on topics anytime, to even disagree about stuff.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 6:31 p.m. CST

    Haha, rumourd. Deal

    by Kremzeek

    Although, I'll admit, I'm still working on the leve-headed thing. I've been known to sling some insults around here in years past. But, as I get older (and hopefully wiser), I find it really does no good. I'm all for being more even-keel and level-headed around AICN. Makes for much better conversations--even when there's disagreements. Hell, I was even TB pals with the much-loathed Asimov_Lives back when he was posting all the time (and I was going under the "dstrange" handle). He had quite a few heated arguments with people--especially regarding JJ's Star Trek. But even though I disagreed with most of his opinions, we were actually cool with each other. What's the point of having talkbacks about FILMS if all we're gonna do is shit on each other. I'm down with forming a posse. Haha

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 6:39 p.m. CST

    Hm, kremzeek...

    by Glenn

    It'll be a conditional thing, then, until one of us blows it with the rage of that vein-thing in Julia Roberts' forehead. I'm fairly new around here, just HelenKellering around for the true cineastes who don't feed their failed/successful egos with the embryos of bad taste. I would only form a posse if major, major amounts of Death could be inflicted. Since that's most likely impossible, I'll stay all Dalai Lama. For the record, what were the opinions surrounding that Trek film? Yours, namely? I ask because I have a few friends involved with those projects now...

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 6:50 p.m. CST

    Haha, ok no posse. But as far as Trek...

    by Kremzeek

    First, HAHA. Pretty priceless response about the posse. I definitely share your concerns there. Lets hold off on the forming of said posse for now then. As far as Trek: This is a topic I'd love to get into further. Unfortunately, I dont'have the time right this second. However: You might have a Friday shindig to go to, but I myself am dead tired from work and look forward to be being lazy all evening. So, I will gladly expound more on this topic when I get home in a bit. Let's head over to this TB tho: Don't want to start talking Trek in a completely unrelated post. And, as I said, if you've got plans for the night, no worries. I'll look forward to your response in a few days or something.

  • At that point in time his only misfires in my eyes were mars attacks and pota...Big Fish and Alice in Wonderland are the only other films I've seen of his in the 21st century, and I didn't even see aiw by choice. Regardless, he seems happy to be with hbc, and Frankenweenie is the first film of his since Big Fish I am interested in.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 7:36 p.m. CST

    yes Burton is back

    by fred

  • Thanks Billy. How's that baby doing?

  • Oct. 6, 2012, 12:39 a.m. CST

    Sounds like...

    by KonkBob

    Burton was jerking Kidd off as he feverishly penned this one. It's a return to form!!!

  • Oct. 7, 2012, 2:18 p.m. CST

    Sadly, I called it. It's a bomb.

    by OutsideChance

    It came in at fifth place, taking in only $11.5 million. I figured it was too dark for the kids and it looks like I was right. Oh well, it will make a nice cult film for Halloween on college campuses.

  • Oct. 10, 2012, 5:04 p.m. CST

    Rumoured or whatever the fuck your name is...

    by Hint_of_Smegma

    Your post would have more credibility if you'd left out the ridiculous "you're someone not to be bothered with" attempts at dismissal, all the while writing a huge post about how you must be superior to me. Talk about an inferiority complex, it's pretty obvious who's closer to the age of sperm, sunshine. If you take such great offense, at me pointing out a rather annoying and now redundant marker Kidd is sticking with, well, tough titty sweetheart. As you take great pains to moan about me, I'll damn well vent my spleen too wherever I feel like it. Now, please, go fuck yourself. You could make a Kidd theme of it and call the session Cuntface Vs Himself. There. You're welcome.