Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I just wanted my dog back.

Of all the perfectly clever things comedian George Carlin ever uttered, one thing has always stayed with me. When discussing the dogs he had and lost over the years, Carlin boiled it down to a simple truth. He talks about the moment that we all decide to buy an animal, and the unspoken agreement that comes along with the decision. It's going to end badly. You're purchasing a small tragedy.

I've lost three dogs over the course of my lifetime, and it has completely devastated me each time. My current pup, Dodger, is seven. He has officially reached senior status.

That 'From the director of Alice in Wonderland' bit is a joke, right?
The second movie in our snow-day double header was Tim Burton's Frankenweenie. This was supposed to be something we could watch as a family, but surprising no one, I was left alone for the bulk of it. My son Matty, convinced this movie was terrifying, actually went to sleep instead, a move basically unheard of for a three year old boy. My wife, lover of both dogs and sleep, thought she was game, but blamed her inability to stay conscious on the movie being all black and white. So, while two-thirds of my house bailed on it, I'm going to go ahead and recommend it. Consider the whole flick a small triumph.

A remake/extended version of an earlier short, Frankenweenie tells the touching story of a boy who brings his deceased dog back to life, in an effort to spend more time together. The aptly named Sparky, is/was a great dog, and was the best friend young Victor ever had. But when his pup meets an unfortunate fate (the same as my second dog, Koko) Victor is crushed. But being the bright kid that he is, Victor figures out how to reanimate Sparky. Despite my son's fear, there's nothing inherently scary about any of this, except for the townspeople's narrow views on science, of course. This is old-school Burton, mixing cute and clever, with a dash of creepy for good measure. It's also surprisingly Depp-free.

Also Depp-free, is the latest installment of the Yays and Boos. Not sure when they'll see him again, as they're vowing to not see The Lone Ranger. A principled pair, those two.

If you are not charmed by this sequence, you are a heartless jerk.
  • Man, did I love the beginning. I could die a happy man if my son ever sat me down to a film he made starring our dog.
  • Not sure exactly where to classify this one, but based on sheer weirdness, I'm going to throw a Yay to Mr. Whiskers and his prognosticating dookie. 
  • Weird science-science-science! Damn, did Victor have a pretty sweet laboratory. It was so stocked, I half expected Dee Dee to come skipping through it (anyone?).
  • Not only is Sparky a pretty badass dog, but he's also overwhelmingly adorable. Seriously.
  • While the voice acting is solid all around, I got the biggest kick out of whoever played the Japanese kid, Toshiaki.
  • Speaking of awesome characters, sweet Jesus did I love the Fire Marshall. Three seconds of pure awesome.
  • All the school bits were frickin' stellar. And even though I'm an English teacher (a bad one, clearly), I loved how pro-science the whole movie was. One of my top ten people alive, Martin Landau, is so awesome as Mr. Rzykruski. I think the confusion here is you are all ignorant. These are the words I will say whenever I quit my job.
  • The movie becomes a little unhinged in the chaotic finale, but I liked the tip of the cap to old monster movies with the climactic invasion of New Holland. Sea Monkey Army was sweet, but I loved the Colossus bit. Reminded me of Bambi Meets Godzilla, which for whatever reason my Dad finds hysterical.
  • And finally, though I think it's way too much for little ones, I was devastated by the ending. It was fitting and everything, but it was also so sad. F--k you, Mr. Whiskers.
Everything about this kid is creepy. Ugh. Especially his spaghetti fingers.
  • Mr. Burgemiester! Sure he's the typical big-mouthed rabble-rouser that all Burton flicks feature, but I really hated him. Dude, give Victor a break.
  • Edgar, the kid pictured to the right, is a real douche. Not only the fact that he can't keep a frickin' secret, but he's also a real weirdo. If my son brings home a 'friend' like this, I'm actually going to fight the kid.
  • Now, I mentioned Mr. Whiskers, but what the shit is up with his owner? I get both the heebies and the jeebies just thinking about her face.
  • I think my wife, had she been awake, would have died at the pacifier bit. Gross.
  • And finally, no Helena Bonham Carter? What-what-what? Depp and Burton need a break, but my sweet Marla? This would have been the second best thing that happened to her since grade school.
Well, as I sit here typing this, my dog is curled up to my left, snug in his little olive green bed. He looks so peaceful there, nose all buried in his blanket. And as happy as this makes me, I can hear George Carlin's routine in the back of my mind.

Shit. And since I don't live near a Micmac burial ground, that option's out. Hmm.

Wonder where can I get a Bunsen burner? Oh, and I'll also need some beakers, a weather vane, some chains and uh, someone who knows anything about science.


  1. Awesome post! I have been kind of underwhelmed by the prospect of seeing this movie, partly because -- as a confirmed "dog person" -- the premise creeps me out, *LOL* But it sounds worth a go, especially since we're always looking for family movies. But seriously, what's Burton doing working without Helena Bonham-Carter?

    1. It's very cute, just pretty sad, too.

      As a fellow dog person, while watching this, I couldn't help but to dredge up all the old feelings I had losing my pups. But, it's also a fitting tribute to the love a kid and his dog can share.

      Check it out, and let me know what you think.

  2. Great post! I still haven't seen this, I was devesated whent he dog I had for 15 year passed away. I love Burton, and I really do want to watch it, I'm just such a wuss about doggy death. Seriously, I cried in Homeward Bound when the dog fell through a hole. He didn't even die!

    1. Okay, Brittani - that was kind of funny. I don't really remember Homeward Bound, but if falling in a hole got you, you might be crushed with this one.

      So...did you ever see Marley & Me?

      I couldn't even look at the screen. Like, at all. I just stared at the ceiling, trying to go to my happy place.

  3. So sorry about Koko!

    I'm really glad you liked this movie, I agree with the 'small tragedy' thing but that's petty much everything in life - nothing lasts forever and maybe that's why happiness is so precious, because we know love/friendship/our small companions's time with us will meet end one day.

    I was a mess during watching this one - literally every time Sparky was sad or frightened I kept crying.

    Loved Fight Club and Dexter Laboraty references - that show was so cool! Why did ending make you sad? I was so relieved they managed to bring him back.

    1. Thanks, I was going to elaborate about that day, but opted to try to keep things away from the 'Top 5 grueling moments of my life' in this post. Probably a good thing, right?

      Totally agree with you. What cracks me up is every time my dog does something maddening me, I think I paid good money for this vomit on the couch!. The inevitable end, which will render me inconsolable, will be another of those moments. Times 900.

      I imagined that from your posts that this movie would wreck you, too.

      I thought for a second, that he was gone again. And even when he wasn't, it was too late. I was too far gone.

      What a wuss.

  4. It's a sweet little film that doesn't try too hard, but still shows that Burton has what it takes to kick more ass in films nowadays. Good review man.

    1. Yeah, it's definitely good to see Burton delivering the goods again. Maybe his last few haven't been so good/terrible, but it's own fault, as the bar is pretty high.

      Thanks, Dan.