frankenweenie blu ray 


MOVIE: So-so Tim Burton entertainment   

PICTURE: Excellent   

SOUND: Excellent  

TECH SPECS: 1.85:1/DTS-HD Master Audio   

RELEASE DATE: January 8, 2013  

By William Kallay

There is no more charming story than a tale about a boy and his dog. The bond between a boy and his best friend is undeniable. The playful bond and occasional sad ending make these kinds of stories irresistible. So how come Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" left me out in the cold?  

In 1984, when Burton was a Disney animator, he made a short live-action film of the same name. He cast actors Daniel Stern and Shelley Duvall, shot it in black-and-white, and made a charming film. At the time, Disney was under considerable fire. The studio had been making mediocre films for years and it wasn't until 1979 when things started turning around with "The Black Hole." "Tron" pointed the studio in the right direction in 1982. By then, it was too late.

By the time Burton made "Frankenweenie," there was hope and promise of a youthful director leading Disney out of the dark. It was not to be. "Frankenweenie" was Burton's last film at Disney for awhile and the studio's management was pushed out in favor of Michael Eisner, Frank Wells, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Burton went on to a stellar film career and Disney eventually flourished.

Burton, of course, started in animation and created his own signature look to his films. Creepy, yet lovable characters with huge eyes and Goth looks have dominated Burton's animated world (and live-action) for decades. The idea that Burton would revisit one of his early films was intriguing, especially since he would be making it with stop-motion puppets.

"Frankenweenie" should have been a moving and charming homage not only to old monster movies, but to Burton's past films. In his long career, as with any talented director, he's had hits and misses. There is no denying his incredible talent. But I found his latest venture empty. Most of the characters were flat. Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) has the voice, but not the energy, of a young scientist bent on bringing his dead dog to life. Sparky is a cute dog, but nothing memorable. Their relationship never once got my tear ducts to flow.

If it sounds like I'm being to harsh on this film, I'm not trying to be. I've been a fairly avid Tim Burton fan since "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" (1985), and I've seen almost every single one of his films since then. "Frankenweenie" very much reminded me of "The Corpse Bride" (2005). The look of both films is remarkable. The story idea is sound. I came out of both films without much memory of what transpired on the screen.

What the film does well is the animation. There is much fluid movement in the characters and the sets are incredible to behold. Each character is infused with visual personality. I especially enjoyed the homage to Burton's suburban town of Burbank, California. I also really enjoyed Victor's dedication as a young filmmaker with his movie camera and projector. As much as I like digital filmmaking technology, there is something almost magical about splicing two pieces of film together as Victor does.

The Blu-ray picture quality is stunning. Every piece of random dust or lint on the characters is super sharp. The beauty of stop-motion animation is the handmade quality about it. Seeing pieces of the character's clothing move unnaturally is so much fun in high definition. I really enjoy those "flaws." The Blu-ray emphasizes black-and-white incredibly well.

The 3-D version of the Blu-ray reminded me of the old 3-D Viewmaster toys. At first, the detail and three-dimensional look is cool to look at, but I must confess that the format gives me a major headache. I'm glad that Disney provides a 2-D version which is much easier to watch.

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is excellent on all levels. Danny Elfman's score fills the room with playful delight. This is a well-recorded score. Sound effects and dialogue are also recorded well and play beautifully over my sound system.

Most boy-and-his dog-movies end on a sad note. Usually the dog meets a sad end and the boy must cope with life without Old Yeller or Skip. "Frankenweenie" pretty much starts right off on a big bummer. The movie then attempts to get the audience back with an uplifting comeback. That really doesn't happen with this movie. It's a shame, because I really wanted to enjoy Burton's return to animation. Perhaps next time around, he'll have a triumph instead of a sad puppy.       

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photo: © Disney. All rights reserved.         
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