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Tim Burton gives great depth to 'Frankenweenie' characters Mr. Frankenstein, Victor, Sparky and Mrs. Frankenstein.
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BY ROGER MOORE
McCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
"Frankenweenie" is darned near an instant classic.
Tim Burton has taken the animated short that launched his career and expanded it into a vivid and moving essay on science and love--the love a budding middle-school scientist, Victor Frankenstein, has for his dog Sparky.
That was the kernel of the original 1984 "Frankenweenie," back at the beginning of Burton's career. Burton gives that genius concept full voice in a rich, delicately textured 3-D jewel in the stop-motion animation style.
Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is a loner, a smart kid who spends hours in the attic, fiddling with science projects. He's pretty much friendless, save for his beloved weenie dog, Sparky.
Mom (Catherine O'Hara) indulges him, but Dad (Martin Short) wants the boy to get out, make some friends and take up a sport.
Victor just wants to come up with a project for the big science fair at school.
Dad suggests they "compromise," and to Dad, that means "nobody gets what they want," so Victor finds himself at the plate, struggling to master baseball.
Miracle of miracles, he hits a home run. But a highlight of his young life is crushed when Sparky chases the home-run ball into the street and is killed.
Victor, a morose, quiet kid, mourns in a morose, quiet way. Mom's reassurance that no one you ever love dies, "they just move into a special place in your heart," isn't enough. It's only when Victor sits through a demented, inspired thunder-storm lesson by his Eastern Bloc science teacher (the always inspired Martin Landau) that he has his answer.
Mr. Rzykruski has made a dead frog's muscles twitch with electricity. Victor will dig up Sparky, patch and stitch him up, attach a positive and negative lead on his neck (bolts, of course) and thunder-storm jolt his beloved dog back to life.
Burton revels in the props and appliances Victor re-purposes for his project. But he ensures that there's an animated warmth to the boy's connection to this playful goof of a mutt, who is pretty much his old self once he's revived--save for the odd body part that falls off.
STARRING: Voices of Charlie Tahan, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara
CREDITS: Directed by Tim Burton, screenplay John August, based on a Tim Burton, Leonard Ripps story. A Walt Disney release. Running time: 1:27.
RATED: PG for thematic elements, scary images and action
THEATERS: Aquia 10,