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dir Tim Burton
scr John August
prd Allison Abbate, Tim Burton
voices Charlie Tahan, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, James Hiroyuki Liao, Conchata Ferrell, Tom Kenny
release US 5.Oct.12, UK 17.Oct.12
12/UK Disney 1h27
Little monsters: Victor, Sparky and friends
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Expanding his 30-minute 1984 short, Burton has created one of his most enjoyable movies in years. Not only is the adventure thoroughly engaging, but it's packed with references to great monster movies. In other words, it's the kind of classic you can watch over and over.
Victor (Tahan) is a lonely boy whose best pal is his dog Sparky. And when Sparky dies suddenly, he begins to pay extra attention to his science teacher (Landau), planning a reanimation experiment that, shockingly, works. Victor manages to hide this from his parents (O'Hara and Short) and the nice girl (Ryder) next door, but his friend Edgar (Shaffer) can't keep a secret. Soon several other students (Capron, Liao and Short again) are working on experiments of their own.
The stop-motion action is shot like a classic monster movie: in black and white with a strong sense of light and shadow and a witty attention to detail. Constant nods to the genre keep us chuckling, from the zapped hairdo of the neighbour's poodle to Gremlin-like sea-monkeys and a Godzilla-like snapping tortoise. There are also name-checks of authors, filmmakers and actors in every corner of the screen, including a vintage Christopher Lee Dracula movie playing on a television. But more than referring to other films, Burton is building his own universe and telling his own story.
The film has a beautiful home-made look to it, more along the lines of the early Wallace & Gromit films than the much slicker Coraline. These figures exist in real space, with crisp detail and extremely expressive faces. Each character is packed with personality thanks both to the model-makers and the voice artists. Victor's creepy blonde classmate (O'Hara again) is especially memorable, as she and her fluffy cat Mr Whiskers constantly freak everyone out then dive right into the action.
As a monster thriller, there are some genuinely creepy touches, especially as the creatures converge on the town's Dutch Day celebration, leading to a classic confrontation of angry townsfolk, scared kids and unexpected heroes. This sequence feels perhaps a bit too quick and tidy, but it's also both hilarious and freaky. And like the whole film, so infused with wit and heart that it can't help but win us over.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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