I kept hearing that Frankenweenie was Tim Burton’s best movie yet, or at least in years, so I was pretty excited to see it with my seven-year-old. She loves The Nightmare Before Christmas so I figured she would love this one, too. And I just knew I would; I love almost everything that man creates.
This time, however, I was mostly disappointed. The film had such a wonderful start, with so many allusions to classical horror films—the creepy classmates were quite excellent!—and tropes either explored or made fun of (mostly made fun of), but it lacked a certain Burton pizzazz.
You want to be surprised when you watch a Tim Burton movie. You want to really be blown away by the dreamscapes and the imagery, the humor coupled with horror. I found myself giving half-hearted “humphs” every now and then, but I didn’t really laugh. Neither did my husband, a fellow Burton aficionado, which makes me think that I’m not alone here.
The characters were mildly interesting enough, but there were so many lead-ins that resulted in nothing that I got frustrated. So many of the kids—particularly the lead character, Victor, and his neighbor, the “little Dutch girl”—had such promising beginnings. And Burton doesn’t usually make his characters come at you under a full onslaught, I know; he has them gradually creep up on you until you feel like you know them like friends, even without much evidence to support why. I just didn’t get that camaraderie with these characters. They felt way too one-note.
And the parents! I’m not into 50s stereotype moms especially, but when you have clueless moms and dads in a Burton movie, they usually wake up at some point with a huge cathartic moment and see the error of their ways. This did happen in the movie, but it just didn’t feel as moving as it did in many of his other films. I can’t put my finger on it, but something magical was missing.
I did read that some critics had similar reactions to mine. Roger Ebert, for example, said the film was good, but not Burton’s best. And while I am inclined to agree with that, I still wouldn’t call it Oscar-worthy—yet it was nominated for an Academy Award just last weekend (it lost to Brave). And there’s one scene in particular when a beloved pet turned into a creature of death is harpooned with a piece of fallen wood and dies that gave my kid nightmares—which probably would make me dislike any movie, honestly.