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In Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, a mournful and resourceful 10-year-old boy named Victor, bereft after the accidental death of his beloved bull terrier Sparky, harnesses the awesome powers of science to reanimate his canine best friend. The resulting homage to Frankenstein in particular and horror movies in general is exquisite, macabre mayhem and a kind of reanimation all its own. A lovingly detailed work of stop-motion construction in black and white and story-enhancing 3-D, the feature-length fantasy began life back in 1984 as a live-action short. But stop-motion animation was always what the filmmaker had in mind. And with this stitching together of material old and new, three decades of familiarity with Burton’s obsessions pay off: Frankenweenie is a cool little flipbook of historical Burtonian style. It even brings back old friends, including Beetlejuice‘s Winona Ryder and Catherine O’Hara.
The movie is a romp of escalating ”horror,” as weird suburban neighbor kids (are there any other kind in Burtonburg?) goad the young inventor (and the unstable Sparky 2.0) into danger. And the ghoulishness is in the details, the most charming of which are the perfectly lugubrious line readings by Ed Wood‘s Martin Landau as a science teacher by way of every role Vincent Price ever played in every movie that inspired Tim Burton to become the wonderfully strange filmmaker he is. A-