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Ten Word or Less Review: Extra, Extra!  Burton makes movie that doesn’t suck ass!

Tim Burton lost his status as a must see director after too many garish remakes and awful CGI fantasy escapades. The man who shepherded Pee Wee, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands to the screen so long ago has become a filmmaker to not only dodge but dread, like finding a lump on your neck that wasn’t there yesterday.  Apes, Chocolate Factory and Wonderland are three of the worst kind of bloated and insufferable studio movies of the millennium   After Alice I really just wanted to tell Mr. Burton to go get a haircut and then go screw himself forever.  But it’s pleasant to report that Frankenweenie represents at least a modest turnaround for the director who hates combs.  Anything that doesn’t feel like CGI a poke to the eye and a kick to the shin is a joy at this juncture.

Frankenweenie is modest in scope, light on bombast and has a mostly genial spirit.  There’s barely a story present, boy’s dog dies, he brings dog back to life, shenanigans ensue.  Characterization is also super slim.  Unlike fellow stop-motion horror effort Paranorman, which had too many grating, annoying characters, the inhabitants of this small town are mostly all quiet weirdos.  I can’t recall an animated effort with so many subtle line readings as well as an absence of blindingly overzealous background characters.  Hero kid Vincent is so low key he barely registers with the viewer.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing but it’s at least it isn’t annoying.

One also has to appreciate a movie that embraces not one but two formats for which the audience at large has minimal appetite, stop motion animation and black and white photography.  Again, unlike Paranorman, Frankenweenie isn’t pushing any boundaries in the stop-motion format aside from its monochrome look.  Paranorman was out to set a new standard for the medium with it’s marriage of high class stop motion animation and CGI.  Frankenweenie is content to keep things fairly traditional.  If a labored, multiyear process as slow as this can feel like a small, modest affair among friends, Frankenweenie achieves that.  It maintains that old fashioned, low-budget quality that the original short had as it channels the same love of classic horror films that inspired the original.  A poodle becomes the monster’s bride, sea monkeys morph into little black lagoon creatures and a turtle becomes Godzilla.  The science teacher who looks like Vincent Price was an endearing touch.

When Burton announced his intention to revisit his first work as a filmmaker it smacked of laziness and maybe it is.  He certainly isn’t pressing himself to do anything adventuresome or amazing with this but it works well enough despite that.  After years of crass showmanship, heartless CGI and bloated budgets he’s finally made another movie which he appears to actually have some affection for and that’s probably why it isn’t atrocious   I don’t know if he’ll ever turn himself around and become a less cancerous filmmaker, Dark Shadows suggests not, but at least he doesn’t have to hang his head in shame this time around.



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