For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of this film non-stop. I don’t know why I started listening to it. Especially considering that I’d never seen the film until this week. It was recommended to me on YouTube, which potentially shows you how much Disney I’ve been listening to lately. I guess it makes me feel better about how awful the world it right now. After months of ignoring it, I couldn’t resist the lure of the Rock singing a Lin-Manuel Miranda song anymore. Turns out, the soundtrack is absolutely amazing. It was only fair that I actually watch the whole film. At least I knew that if the story was bad that I’d have the songs to fall back on.
I had quite a bit to do on Sunday and my day ended up massively going off the rails. Meaning I forgot about watching a film for today’s post until that evening I didn’t really have time to watch what I’d originally planned so I ended up finding the first quick thing I saw on Netflix. What I didn’t realise at the time was that this film was a sequel. I’m not saying that it became difficult to follow because it’s still a kid’s film. It just meant that I was a bit slow on the uptake with certain references. I just thought the writers couldn’t be bothered to include all of the necessary context, which seemed quite an interesting choice.
I feel so much better about doing these film reviews having had a week’s break from it all. Maybe, I need to come up with a plan to do film reviews every fortnight and some other film related content on the alternate weeks? I don’t know. I never want to reach a point where it feels like doing the things I love starts to feel like work. I’ve started to realise that my self-imposed schedule is really driving my life more than it probably should. I spend so much of my free time writing or watching/reading something to write about. Then there are the photos I take every week. It’s fine in lockdown because what else would I be doing? But, eventually, I’m going to want to start socialising again. Having spent a year forced to stay inside, I’m starting to realise how little I went out before. Although, there’s no need to worry about that yet. The UK isn’t going to be getting out of this mess any time soon so I might as well carry on watching films when I feel like it.
Pixar films have been a bit dangerous in the last few years. By which I mean, they have been steadily getting more and more existential and they make me sad. Inside Out is one of the best discussions about mental health that I’ve ever seen. Coco explored the concept of death in such a moving and human way. These are the kind of films that I wish had been around when I was a kid. Maybe I’d have grown up to be a slightly more well-adjusted adult. Not much obviously. Pixar are great but they can’t perform fucking miracles! Considering the studio has something of a habit of making me cry, I was especially concerned about their latest film but I also knew that I couldn’t miss it. Even the poster was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. How could I not watch the whole thing?
I felt as thought I’d seen this film at some point but I never had. It’s probably just because of how much attention this film was given. If I remember correctly, this was a major deal. The David Hasselhoff cameo also ended up being a major deal and apparently got him a new generation of fans. However, even the prospect of briefly seeing the ex-Baywatch star wasn’t enough to get me to watch this film. Until I’d decided to watch the most recent SpongeBob film. It only felt right to watch the show’s first movie outing before I gave the latest one a try. As I mentioned on Tuesday, I’m not a big fan of the show, so it wasn’t as if I was massively looking forward to it. Still, I’m not in the mood for much complexity right now. This felt perfect for my mood. At the very least, it wasn’t going to be too long.
I can’t say that I was ever a fan of SpongeBob SquarePants when I was younger. It just passed me by and I wasn’t really aware of its existence until I was too old to care. I briefly lived with a guy at uni who had been given the nickname Sponge and had the animated character tattooed onto his person. Still, I didn’t feel like checking it out. I didn’t watch a whole episode until I first subscribed the Netflix and started watching it ironically as an adult. I appreciated the series but I can’t say that I saw what all of the fuss was about. So, I’m not exactly the kind of person who would be rushing out to watch the latest movie but these are Covid times. Nothing really makes much sense right now so I decided to watch it. At the very least, I figured that it would work with my current reduced attention span.
Okay, confession time. Until last night, I’d never seen Coco. Why? I honestly don’t know. I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t often go to see animated films at the cinema these days. I only went to see Frozen 2 because I owed my friend for dragging her to see the awful Joker when she didn’t want to. Of course, there was nothing to stop me watching it once it came out on Blu Ray. Well, nothing but price. Disney Pixar films are always so expensive. But now I’ve got Disney+ and I might as well use it. It’s not as if I’ve been making the most of it in recent weeks. I bought it because I wanted to watch The Mandalorian and I’ve still not done that. And the second season is already here. What am I doing with my life?
I almost didn’t have anything to review today. For some reason, I never got around to watching a film this weekend. I guess I just spent too long trying to get through that bloody Murder, She Wrote book. I didn’t realise until Monday that I’d forgotten. So, I had the choice to write something else for today or watch something and review it in the same night. I had thought about weighing in on the Johnny Depp/Fantastic Beasts news but I didn’t know if that would go against my ban of the writer who must not be named. In the end, I picked the quickest new release on Netflix that I could find. I didn’t know anything about it but someone I follow on Instagram had watched it recently. What did I have to lose?
Yes, we should all be doing what we can to learn more about racism and how to live a more anti-racist life. Watching documentaries is a great thing but, every so often, it’s good to take a bit of time off and remember that life isn’t all bleakness. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by the things you’re hearing and reading about, do remember that Black people have been feeling like that their whole lives. So, it’s important not to let fatigue turn into ambivalence. After all, there are so many other things you can do to keep on living an anti-racist life. That includes watching and celebrating films made by, starring and written by Black people. We all know that there is a huge disparity in Hollywood when it comes to the representation of non-white people in all areas. It’s more than just Oscars so white. So, we need to start proving that people watch films starring BIPOC actors and telling BIPOC stories. And what’s the best way to do that? By watching films starring BIPOC characters.
Years ago, I started watching this film but, for reasons I can’t remember now, I never finished it. I also never went back to it. So, in an attempt to justify my Disney+ subscription, I decided to finally finish it. Plus, it seemed like a good companion for my review of The Willoughbys on Tuesday. The stop motion animation is a full-length remake of a short film that Tim Burton made in 1984. The earlier film got him fired from Disney because it wasn’t deemed suitable for a young audience. Of course, Disney changed their tune after Burton found future success as a director. They released his short for home video release in 1992 and as an extra with the DVD of The Nightmare Before Christmas. After signing a two-picture deal with Disney, Burton made a stop motion animation version based on the original film. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really think much of Corpse Bride when I watched that, which might explain my reticence to watch this. I love Burton’s style but sometimes his narratives can be a bit much. But, I can’t resist a good literary homage.
Like the original short, Frankenweenie is filmed in black and white. Mostly because the film is both a parody of and homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein. Meaning it’s based on the super popular gothic tale written by Mary Shelley in 1818. The narrative follows the basics set out by the 1984 short but with a few exciting embellishments. Victor Frankenstein is a boy without many friends. In fact, he only has one. His family’s dog Sparky. After Sparky meets a grisly fate, Victor has the idea tom reanimate him for his science fair project. The idea was given to him by his science teacher. Victor finds a way to bring Sparky to life but his fellow students find out about his revived pet. What will happen when they start to force Victor to give them the secret to bringing animals back from the dead?
Tim Burton wanted to make the original film using stop motion animation but it was seen as too costly. This time, he had the clout to get it done, so we get to see his original artwork come to life. Burton has always had a flair for the gothic and his designs here are glorious. The film pays homage to the horror films he loved growing up and there are plenty of references to catch. Victor’s science teacher, Mr Rzykruski, has been designed to resemble Vincent Price and one of his schoolmates is called Edgar E Gore. We always knew that Burton was a fan of the genre but this film is everything we could have expected. It’s made with love and care, which makes it impossible not to fall for its charms.
It’s not a flawless film and the ending does get a bit messy and muddled. I guess this is to expected when you make a feature film out of a 30-minute short. However, none of these imperfections is so bad that you can’t ignore them. This is a film that is full of energy and fantastic little details. This was a passion project for the director and the end result is a delightful one. The stop motion animation brings the story to life and the world Burton creates instantly draws you in. It’s not the greatest film that Burton has ever made but it doesn’t matter. It’s a lovely story that clearly meant a lot to its creator. And who wouldn’t relate to the story of a young boy desperate to bring back his childhood pet?
As a children’s film, this works on quite a few levels. It has some horror elements in it but there’s nothing too scary that a younger audience won’t be able to enjoy it. It’s got plenty of humour and happier moments to make sure nobody gets too scared. The story is pretty slick and doesn’t waste any time unnecessarily. It might not look the same as the rest but this is a classic Disney film. You could argue that Burton has reigned in his weirdness here, which is a valid point. But I don’t think that matters. This film wasn’t supposed to be about pushing things too far. It was about his boyhood love of horror films and presenting something that could recreate that feeling for a new generation of children. On that basis, it does exactly what it needs to and it does it really well.