Frankenweenie 3.0 stars

Director Tim Burton returns to a short film he made at the very beginning of his career. If the move signals a certain failure to advance creatively, it also marks a return to the realm of the heartfelt, which is where he does his best work. So yes, you'll see a lot of familiar Burton elements: black and white (Ed Wood), a mad scientist in the midst of cookie-cutter surburbia (Edward Scissorhands), life-after-death (Beetlejuice), and even a Johnny-Deppish mien for the protagonist, a boy named Victor Frankenstein. And yes, as his name suggests, the original short is based on someone else's idea. But even so, it's alive — inspired, even. We may wag our fingers at Dr. Frankenstein's mad quest to cheat death in Shelley's masterpiece, but who could condemn a heartbroken boy's desire to recover his beloved dog? Young Victor does science for love, and happily, old Burton is here doing movie-making for the same reason. (An exchange between Victor and his science teacher may even serve as a mea culpa for some of Burton's late-career missteps.) Of course, in stretching a short to feature length, Burton is forced to take an homage to one classic monster movie and turn it into an homage to a whole bunch of classic monster movies, with occasionally ungainly results. Still, he manages to keep a spirit of mildly creepy fun throughout, and he even comes within a tail's twitch of a magnificent ending. 2012.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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