Tim Burton is back! Way back! All the way back to his original brief stint with Disney which, I think, began and ended with his short film Frankenweenie. If I recall the lore correctly, it was this film that reassured both him and Eisner’s Disney that Burton was not a good fit in the Magic Kingdom.
Well, 30 years brings a lot of change, not the worst of which is the general acceptance of corpse-based kiddie entertainment, and so we Burton returning to the fold with this full length stop-motion animated treatment of his previously career-killing professional short.
Well, it’s cute. Very cute.
I really couldn’t take the Barb to see ParaNorman. Too scary. But she was fine during this movie which, if I’m not mistaken is the only full-length stop-motion animated feature to be in black-and-white. And possibly the first black-and-white kidflick (animated or otherwise) since color became cost-effective.
It’s got a nice look. The story takes place in the mythical city of New Holland (Burbank), which looks way less creepy than Edward Scissorhands’ pastel suburbia and recalls Ed Wood’s Baldwin Park home of Bela Lugosi.
In a cute twist, the townspeople of New Holland are normal, but their children are all escapees from old horror movies. Victor Frankenstein, the lead character, is the normal one. One of his classmates is a hunchback, another looks and dresses like Pugsley Adams. The class bully speaks like Boris Karloff and there’s a wide-eyed toe-headed girl who looks like she escaped from the Village of the Damned.
And then there’s Victor’s crush, his girl-next-door, who looks and sounds exactly like Lydia Deetz from Beetle Juice. And is voiced by Winona Ryder.
Victor’s favorite teacher looks exactly like Vincent Price—but sounds like Bela Lugosi from Ed Wood, probably because Price is dead and Martin Landau did the voice.
In a refreshing turn, Victor’s parents, while not fully getting him, are actually pretty supportive and cool.
If you don’t know the story, it’s basically about a kid whose dog gets hit by a car, and he uses his love of science (and his dog) to bring him back. It’s fleshed out a bit with the Vincent Price character hosting a science fair, so that soon all the kids are looking to Victor to help them with their science projects (which they mistakenly think his dog is).
It’s a cute device that allows them to pile on the references to the Universal horror classics, a little Toho, too, and it makes the 1:20 movie go by fast.
The Boy, The Flower and The Barb all liked it, even without catching most of the references. I enjoyed it but I wasn’t really impressed, beyond the look and the fact that the parents weren’t completely worthless. It’s kind of a desultory affair, moving from scene-to-scene without much drive.
In that sense, it’s sort of like Dark Shadows, which itself feels like a wan recapitulation of Edward Scissorhands. But it’s watchable and probably re-watchable even. And that ain’t bad.