Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Skip Burton’s Frankenweenie remake and watch ParaNorman instead

Fans will have the chance to see two horror themed stop-motion features later this year. And you won’t have to choose between them, as the films will be released about two months apart. But, if you’re only willing to see one family stop motion film this summer, I suggest you skip the remake and take a chance on the newcomer.

Let’s talk about Frankenweenie first. Scheduled for an October 5 release, this is director Tim Burton’s remake of his 1984 short film. As if you couldn’t guess that by the trailer.

It’s disappointing, as Frankenweenie looks like every other movie Burton has released in the past several years. Is the hero rather pale and pasty looking? Check. Bunch of Burton’s favorite actors lending their voices? Check. Did Danny Elfman compose the music? Check! Does the film have a gothic atmosphere? Double check! The only thing missing are the voices of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, though I’m sure there’s time to fit them in before October.

Look, I’m not saying Frankenweenie will be a bad film. But Burton’s been playing it safe since Mars Attacks! and Planet of the Apes bombed. He’s had a few flashes of brilliance since, but most of his films look and feel similar, with a plot depicting a pale faced, misunderstood protagonist and his struggle to be accepted by the “normal” world. The only difference here is that Burton seems to have given up any pretensions of originality and is content on remaking his previous work, rather than trying to jam the same tired story into another franchise.

So, if you plan to see just one stop-motion feature this year, consider buying a ticket to ParaNorman instead. The second feature from Laika, the stop-motion studio behind Coraline, is scheduled for release on August 17 and the trailer looks great.

Okay, we’ve got the misunderstood protagonist, but at least he’s not pasty looking. And we have a fair share of bathroom humor, standard to any modern family feature. And lessons on tolerance, acceptance and being true to one’s self will be learned. But the film also delivers ghosts, witches and zombies! Oh my!!

The film looks like it’s trying to be scary. The zombies appear to be biting people, and the trailer includes a decapitated zombie head, a zombie losing an ear, along with some very spooky moments. In case you’ve forgotten, Coraline had some very frightening moments as well, with images some people considered more appropriate for a PG-13 rated feature.

But ParaNorman also has a sense of humor aimed at horror fans of all ages. Norman’s ringtone, the scene of a hockey-masked figure amongst billowing laundry and the Abbott and Costello meets Frankenstein-like approach (in which the monsters are scary while the people’s reactions are funny) all points to a few genre fans being involved with the production. This looks like the perfect film for the modern horror family, no matter how old you might be.

Judging a film by the trailer is perilous, but I suggest you check out ParaNorman. No reason you can’t see both, but if you end up missing Frankenweenie, don’t worry. I’m sure Burton’s got another film coming out soon that’s just like it.