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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Frankenweenie

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Animated character Edgar is seen in the movie "Frankenweenie."
Director Tim Burton's gothic comedy "Frankenweenie" (Disney) is a skillful 3-D animated spoof of horror conventions built around the heart-warming relationship between a boy and his dog.

This black-and-white, stop-motion cartoon—an expanded version of Burton's 1984 live-action short of the same title—might prove too scary for small fry. But it will delight their older siblings and amuse parents as well.

After his beloved pet Sparky is killed in an accident, socially isolated but scientifically gifted Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan) uses stock monster-movie methods to bring the pooch back to life.

Despite his subsequent efforts to conceal his breakthrough from his parents (voices of Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short) and from his peers—voiced, among others, by Atticus Shaffer and James Hiroyuki Liao—Victor's secret gets out. And when his schoolmates try to emulate his feat, the results are temporarily disastrous.

Said classmates constitute an odd assortment of entertainingly eerie figures, including pint-sized versions of characters long ago made famous by Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. Another familiar genre persona, the Weird Girl (also voiced by O'Hara), becomes the vehicle for the only material in the picture that some might consider objectionable.

The Weird Girl believes that her cat, Mr. Whiskers, is given to prophetic dreams, and that the subject of each dream can be identified by the fact that Mr. Whiskers' droppings afterward form the first initial of that person's name. The Weird Girl relates all this—visual aid included—to indicate to Victor that something dramatic is about to happen to him.

Victor's interest in experimentation is sparked by his Vincent Price-like science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (voice of Martin Landau). Though a subplot involves Mr. Rzykruski's persecution at the hands of ignorant townsfolk, there's no direct connection drawn between their fear of him and their adherence to any form of supernatural belief, religious or otherwise. And while Mr. Rzykruski praises the value of science at some length, he never does so to the disparagement of faith.

The light-hearted tone of John August's screenplay, moreover, together with the less-than- scientifically plausible events on which so much of the plot turns, make it doubtful that any serious point is being made—apart, perhaps, from a general endorsement of learning in the broadest sense.

The film contains mild scatological humor and some science-fiction hokum. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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