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Franenweenie (2012) - Movie Review for Parents

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Frankenweenie
Photo © Disney

Bottom line: The black and white stop-motion animated film Frankenweenie presents a heart-felt Frankenstein style tale about a boy who uses science to bring his dog back to life. The film lightly draws from classic horror flicks, and some scenes with monsters could be very frightening or disturbing for young children.

MPAA Rating: PG, for thematic elements, scary images and action
Genre: Animated/Comedy
Guide age recommendation: 8+
Runtime: Approx. 87 minutes
Release Date: October 5, 2012

Frankenweenie - Overview

Young Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan) is devastated when his dog Sparky dies. Nothing his loving parents can say eases his pain, but something his eccentric science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (voice of Martin Landau) says in class sparks an idea.

Victor frantically devises a scientific scheme to bring his beloved dog back to life using electricity from lightning, and it works! Victor is elated to have his best friend back, but when his creepy schoolmate Edgar "E" Gore (voice of Atticus Shaffer) discovers his secret, things begin to get scary. Edgar insists that Victor help him bring a pet back from the dead as well, and pretty soon, the unintended consequences of Victor's experiment are terrorizing the other kids and the whole town.

Frankenweenie - VictorPhoto © Disney

Frankenweenie - Guide Review for Parents

Tim Burton brings his dark and twisted whimsy to the world of stop-motion animation once again with the extraordinary black and white film Frankenweenie. Presenting a tender twist on the Frankenstein story, Frankenweenie centers on a boy who uses his knowledge of science to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life. The movie also lovingly spoofs other classic horror films. Many of the Frankenweenie characters are named or modeled after famous horror characters or actors, and scenes with monsters stomping around the town and people belting out dramatic screams are reminiscent of the over-the-top classics that pioneered the way for modern thrillers. The movie masterfully brings on the spoofy thrill with plenty of comedy and a core premise that is both heart-warming and viscerally disturbing at the same time.

When Victor's dog Sparky gets run over right in front of him, we feel the boy's pain. Viewing kids, especially those who have dogs, may be disturbed by the scene (we don't actually see Sparky get hit) and Victor's resulting devastation. Victor's attempt to bring his dog back are understandable, but despite his success, the whole idea still feels creepy. It's an interesting juxtaposition of emotions, really, and something that could spark some fascination family discussions. Young kids may be disturbed or frightened by Sparky's electrical reanimation, however, even though the dog seems normal and happy other than a few stitches and the bolts in his neck.

Scenes involving monsters of varying sizes could be also be very frightening to young viewers, who will miss the playful throwbacks to classic horror flicks entirely and see only screaming people running away from scary pet resurrections gone wrong. For young viewers or those who are particularly sensitive about pets or the idea of death, this film could be very frightening and disturbing. If you are concerned about the tone and content in the movie, check out the Frankenweenie movie trailers and clips, which give a pretty good idea of what the movie is like. And for families with kids old enough to enjoy the film without getting to freaked out, this movie will be a family classic for years to come and is especially perfect for the Halloween season.

Frankenweenie - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.

  • Violence (High): Sparky is hit by a car (we see the events leading up to the accident, but we don't see him actually get hit. We later see Sparky all patched together after Victor digs him up and brings him back to life. Other violence consists mostly of pets turned monsters stomping around the town chasing people and destroying property as they go. A building catches on fire and someone is trapped inside for a time.
  • Scary Scenes (Extreme): Young kids may be frightened by scenes listed under "violence." Monsters such as sea monkeys that become animated and begin acting like gremlins, a giant vicious turtle, a scary resurrected rat, and a bat monster may be terrifying to young children.
  • Sex/Nudity (None)
  • Drugs and Alcohol (Low): A keg of beer sitting on the ground spills and is shown close up.
  • Profanity (None)
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (Extreme): Edgar manipulates and blackmails Victor to get him to do what he wants. The character Weird Girl thinks her cat is psychic and poops messages to her. The movie also contains some instances of mild verbal bullying, competitiveness and stealing ideas. Because the film is black and white, and due to the tone of the film, characters have a very goth style, especially the character of Elsa. Kids may want to imitate the goth style and subdued mannerisms.
FrankenweeniePhoto © Disney

  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (Extreme): Victor's loss of his dog and the idea of bringing it back so life is very sad and could be unsettling to kids.
  • Movie Topics Kids Might Have Questions About: death, digging up dead pets, bringing living things back from the dead, psychic premonitions, science, lightning and electricity,
*Kids who enjoy Frankenweenie may also like Tim Burton's Corpse Bride and Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas.
Disclosure: The studio provided a free screening of this movie for review purposes as well as travel and expenses to attend the L.A. premiere. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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