Last Sunday, after publishing my article on President Barack Obama’s ideological influences, my wife April and I caught a matinee of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, a traditional family film you shouldn’t miss. Today, having swallowed last night’s bitter pill, I really want to go back and watch it again. The film’s fantasy — to bring your best friend back to life — speaks to a need many of us feel today as we recognize the America of years past no longer exists. We are not a “center-right” nation any more.
The black and white, stop-motion film remakes an early Burton short of Frankenstein reinvented into ’50s suburbia. Clever references to classic horror abound from the visual style to the characters’ names and designs. Victor, Burton’s adolescent alter ego, spends his days shooting amateur monster movies in his back yard with his dog Sparky. He’s an oddball amongst the picket fences and perfect lawns but he has his loving dog and a drive to create.
Then Sparky dies and Victor’s life collapses.
He goes to school, bored and depressed until his science teacher, a Vincent Price-inspired, Martin Landau-voiced Mr. Rzykruski, shows what happens to a dead frog with a few zaps of electricity. This moves Victor to attempt the dog-version of the classic 1931 Frankenstein sequence: