Burton returns to a theme he has touched upon before, that Americana can be downright creepy. This is the classic Frankenstein story, but the villain here is not the mad scientist trying to be God. Instead we have a boy who loves his dog. The trouble is stirred up when a science fair taps into the competitive nature of the suburbanite kids and they recklessly race into irresponsible experiments that they do not understand.
Of course, the real enemy—as is always the case in these stories—is the mob. Long before they become the inevitable torch-bearing variety, they are the narrow minded, scared mass of humanity lashing out at those who are different. The general attitude that prevailed in the history of the nation’s birth was one of tolerance and freedom to believe the way one wishes, but the very early people coming to America were fleeing intolerance with an aim at creating their own variety of it. That attitude tends to rear its head again and again, whether it is Christians fearing non-Christians, Atheists hating believers, or everyone hating people of certain exotic origins.
In this film, the silliness of this attitude is exposed in the town hall meeting called to fire the local science teacher, a gentleman of Czech origin. He delivers a speech to defend his position in his less than perfect English:
“Ladies and gentlemen. I think the confusion here is that you are all very ignorant. Is that right word, ignorant? I mean stupid, primitive, unenlightened. You do not understand science, so you are afraid of it. Like a dog is afraid of thunder or balloons. To you, science is magic and witchcraft because you have such small minds. I cannot make your heads bigger, but your children's heads; I can take them and crack them open. This is what I try to do, to get at their brains!”