Not to be confused with the remake; this is one of Tim Burton’s early works. 10-year-old Victor (Barret Oliver, The Neverending Story) loses his dog Sparky when Sparky is hit by a car. Unbeknownst to his parents (Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern), he brings Sparky back to life a la Frankenstein. Unfortunately Sparky gets loose and the neighbors think he’s a monster. Before long, there’s an angry mob wanting to put Sparky back in his grave.
There are obvious homages to James Whales’s Frankenstein movies, both in plot and appearance. It’s shot in black and white, and at one point Sparky hides from the mob in a windmill (on a miniature golf course—too cute!). Though in terms of theme, I’m not sure what the moral lesson is (unlike with Frankenstein, it‘s not that reviving the dead is wrong—this works out pretty well here), though I suppose it involves not being judgmental and jumping to conclusions.
My only gripe about the movie (besides that it’s short—only 29 minutes) is that since it’s made by Walt Disney Productions, there’s a lot of shameless product placement crammed in. Otherwise, the actors are great, Sparky’s makeup is amazing, and it’s funny without being sappy. For example, my favorite quote: “I guess we can’t punish Victor for bringing back Sparky from the dead.” I just don’t understand why it’s called Frankenweenie, since Sparky is a bull terrier.
I don’t have many precautions for parents, besides that a major plot point is a dead pet. The accident isn’t shown, nor do we see anything graphic like a mangled corpse. It’s probably Burton’s most wholesome venture.