FRANKENWEENIE (Tim Burton) directed by Tim Burton, written by John August from an original screenplay by Leonard Ripps and Burton, with the voices of Charlie Tahan, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short and Winona Ryder. A Walt Disney Pictures release. 87 minutes. Opens Friday (October 5). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNNN
Frankenweenie is simultaneously the best movie Tim Burton's made in years and proof of his arrested artistic development. After more than a decade of uninspired remakes and reimaginings - his Gothic take on Sweeney Todd being the one exception - he's had to return to a short film he made in 1984 to find a project he cares about.
That said, Burton is fully invested this time out, expanding the story of suburban kid Victor Frankenstein's quest to resurrect his beloved dog Sparky into a gorgeous black-and-white stop-motion feature filled with striking images, smart commentary on the value of intellectual curiosity and devastating emotional beats.
Fleshing out the story to feature length, screenwriter John August brings the material back to its miserable origins, giving us room to consider Victor's selfish motivation in reviving his dead pet. (Burton backs away from it pretty quickly, but it'll resonate with anyone who's lost an animal.)
And a subplot in which Victor's classmates create their own abominations gives Frankenweenie a great third act - and suggests Burton has one helluva Godzilla movie in him.