Review: Dear Mr. Burton

Written and directed by Maj Jukic, Tim Malloy spends most of his utterly miserable life in his own made-up worlds full of horrific monsters and grotesque stories while avoiding anything remotely cute or pleasant, he is struck by the one thing the hates – love. Narrated by Brian Blessed and starring: Joe Smith, Maia Lincoln, Jodie Bennet and Heloise Spring.

You could create an insanely long list of how many influences it feels went into making this short film but to begin with, the choice of story is somewhere between Edgar Allan Poe, R. L. Stine and (mostly for the rhyming) Dr. Seuss. It has an energy that’s fun and light-hearted while still bringing through a touch of darkness or macabre. It’s not an easy thing to do, typically brought to life by filmmakers like Tim Burton (the story’s primary inspiration) and Henry Selick, but Jukic manages to do it just as well. The story is remarkably well written just to achieve the fact that the constant rhyming is actually a delightful experience, it keeps a wonderful pace.

The direction pairs extremely well, the visual feels sharp and fresh, emanating creativity with its rhythm. The nod to silent film is particularly enjoyable, with a great Cabin in the Woods reference, whether it’s intentional or not. It has a certain Laika-esque charm to it, through its youthful energy and a family appropriate dark sense of humour. There’s something about dark edged teen stories that pair so perfectly with seaside settings, all the sunshine and open air keeps things light and breezy as the story dips its toes into the ghoulish. It harks back to A Series of Unfortunate Events with how well it plays around with darker tones while never leaving the family realm.

You can never go wrong with using the booming, impressive and impactful voice of Brian Blessed. He has such a fantastic presence, without even needing to be physically present. He brings an almost ghost story vibe to the film and it’s fairly infectious. The rest of the actors may appear physically but without dialogue, their entire performances are based on body language and facial cues, and they all do well. Smith easily gets across the classic teen angst while Lincoln is the typical sweet young girl that’s maybe not as sweet as you think below the surface. The combination of the three working together is entertaining and satisfying to watch.

Dear Mr. Burton is a fun, teen adventure that thoroughly captures all the enjoyable oddities that Tim Burton has to offer. It has the perfect edge of darkness to blend with its teen story of angst and feeling misunderstood. The balance of Blessed’s narration with Smith and Lincoln’s acting works harmoniously to create an infectious energy that you get lovingly carried along with, like a classic ghost story. It’s imaginative and creative but also pays homage to many different styles and storytellers from Poe to Paranorman.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10

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