Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hotel Transylvania vs Frankenweenie

Hotel Transylvania, directed by Genndy Tartakovsky
     0 stars out of 3 possible ("D/F," Not Recommended)
Frankenweenie, directed by Tim Burton
     ** (2 stars out of 3 possible, "B," Recommended)

Audience:  5th graders and up

Hopefully this review will be timely enough for some families who are still headed out to those free summer movies at the park.

I was surprised by these movies.  Initially I thought the black and white Tim Burton offering would be too bizarre while the colorful Hotel Transylvania with current star voice-overs would be both clever and funny.

Exactly the opposite occurred.

Tim Burton's quirky yet tender revival of Frankenstein was both original and entertaining.  The characters were believable and stop-motion animation was perfect for the overall mood of the film.  True, the plot is somewhat macabre as it deals with young Victor's mostly successful attempt to revive his pet dog, Sparky, following an unfortunate hit-and-run.  This is why I recommend it for older elementary children, or kids who have actually read some version of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  The main drawback to the film is a forced "happy" ending, which short-circuits some of ethical questions raised in the original novel.  Still, Victor's friends learn that just because science CAN do something doesn't mean it SHOULD.  Audiences will also enjoy Tim Burton's send-ups of seemingly-creepy science teachers (I know I have a particular chemistry prof in mind), sea-monkeys and Igor.

In contrast, Hotel Transylvania was a predictably modern take on the current vampire and monster craze.  What could have been unique and funny disintegrated into merely a  pop culture tween plot with plenty of bathroom humor thrown in.  Vampire Daughter wants more freedom.  Vampire Dad is overprotective.  Clueless Human Boy stumbles into Vampire Family.  Vampire Dad learns a lesson about trust.  Anything funny or clever was viewed months prior in the previews.  Worst of all, our kids don't really learn anything about honesty, realistic dating relationships or positive role models.  This movie is just another example of dumbing-down culture for the next generation.

Unfortunately, Hotel Transylvania had the star power to garner a sequel while Frankenweenie was relegated to the oddly artsy dustbin.  Perhaps if Tim Burton hadn't already stereotyped himself with such freak-reations as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride and Alice in Wonderland more families would have braved this more touching effort.

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