So I went and saw Frankenweenie this weekend because it was that or Taken 2, and I just couldn’t stomach the idea of paying to see another person taken from Liam Neeson’s family. You’d think he would have them chipped, like I would have done for my cat if I gave a shit. Frankenweenie however, made me confront one of my own personal fears, which was going to a kid’s movie alone, as an adult man, and risk getting profiled as a potential pedophile. Turns out my fears were unfounded, because it was just me and two other couples in the whole giant theater. So instead of being treated as a potential child abductor/molester, it was just loudly commented that I was the only one in the theater as they walked in.
Weird > Pederast in my book.
I saw Frankenweenie for the first time when it was still a live-action short. I mention this not to get Tim Burton street cred, if that’s even a thing, but rather to illustrate a point. And it’s not even an interesting or particularly well-thought out point, so this would probably be a fine time to get up and stretch if you’ve been sitting at the computer for a while. My point is, at the time, Tim Burton was at the height of his weirdness. It was released to capitalize on his popularity after Beetlejuice and Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands. And as a young man, sitting in my friend Greg’s bedroom watching the pirated version he got from wherever the hell one pirated things before the Internet, I was completely taken by the dark creepiness of it.
Fast forward to tonight, where I was the dark, creepy adult waiting in an empty theater for a children’s animated movie. Frankenweenie 2012 was that old Tim Burton’s work. It was morbid and fantastical and obtuse and exactly what a 23-year-old me, wide-eyed with wonder at the artistry of this noir master, had come to expect from Burton before the Alices in Wonderlands and Sleepy Hollows and goddamn Dark Shadowses began to erode his legacy. Frankenweenie is a classic Tim Burton movie from before he started to suck the bag.
It was almost too much in fact. It maybe crosses the line to “being weird for weird’s sake”. Not a problem for the most part, but at one point in the third act I distinctly remember thinking “Really? THAT’S what he’s going to go with.” At points, it feels like the film is standing up and screaming “LOOK AT THIS SHIT!!! WEIRD, RIGHT?!” which was a little distracting.
On the upside, Winona Ryder is getting work again, and she was the first love of my life, so I think it’s about time everyone gave her a break on the whole kleptomania thing. She’s goddamn lovely. Just leave her alone.* Also in the voice cast was Martin Short, who it is also pretty good to hear from again, but not as good as a certain doe-eyed temptress.
In the long run, I like Tim Burton trying to be Tim Burton, even if he doesn’t quite make it feel as effortlessly dark as he once did. The story was good, the animation was great..it’s just not 1992 and, sadly, I think the time for gothic stop-motion animation has passed.
This is a great rental for anyone, but at $12 a pop in the theater, you better have kids with you that you want to traumatize a little. Otherwise, you’ll just be that weird, old guy, sitting in the empty theater and contemplating whether they REALLY sanitize the 3D glasses between each use when you should be watching the movie.
*Hear that, Winona? I totally stuck up for you. You should call me. We can have dinner and sex and talk about how awful people are. What we won’t talk about is the brief time I stopped loving you in favor of Samatha Mathis, because she showed her cans in Pump Up The Volume.