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  • Tyler Harlow

Lisa Frankenstein

Starring: Kathryn Newton, Cole Sprouse, Liza Soberano, Henry Eikenberry, Carla Gugino, Joe Chrest

Director: Zelda Williams

Loner Lisa (Newton) is having trouble fitting in at her new school despite her new stepsister Taffy's (Soberano) best efforts. Struggling to get over her mother's gruesome murder and trying get used to her new life with her vile stepmother (Gugino) isn't helping matters. A local cemetery is Lisa's only place of peace, and she finds herself drawn to one of the headstones there of a young Victorian man. After a troubling night at a party, Lisa wishes she were the person buried there and accidentally brings the dead person (Sprouse) to life. While she is initially horrified, they eventually form a close bond with the creature helping Lisa with her problems and Lisa helping the creature get the body parts he is missing.

I honestly don't know where to begin with this movie except to say that the potential was there for not just a fun movie but a potential cult classic. It has an Oscar-winning screenwriter in Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer's Body, Young Adult) who is known for their witty dialogue and clever takes on genre films. It is also the feature directorial debut of Robin Williams' daughter Zelda. It also features a very well-known literary property in its title and is ready for a modern take. It still could possibly reach that cult status but unfortunately the film squanders a lot of the aforementioned potential.

The cast is actually quite good, despite under-utilizing Carla Gugino. Kathryn Newton is perfect as Lisa, She fits well into the horror-comedy genre (she all but steals the show in the very entertaining body swap horror comedy Freaky) and effortlessly brings her charisma to Lisa. The issues with her character don't fall on her shoulders. Likewise, Cole Sprouse is incredible. He doesn't speak for the majority of the film (save for the last scene) and instead has to rely on facial expressions and grunts. He is able to get a surprising amount of character across through doing this. Honestly the rest of the film lets them both down tremendously. I do hope this is a break out film for Liza Soberano. She is incredibly likable as Lisa's stepsister and really gives the character a sincerity that could have just been a throw away role. Outside of the two leads, she keeps the film watchable.

Now to the not so good. First and foremost, despite being billed as a horror-comedy, it's neither. In fact, I don't think I laughed out loud once. It says something when the best part of the movie is the opening credits that explain what happened to Sprouse's character before he died. There are a couple clever moments but the movie itself just forgets to have fun with its insane premise. In fact, the movie comes to end when it was just starting to get interesting. A lot of this can be attributed to Cody's script, which feels like it was written back when she wrote Juno and a lot of the jokes or attempts to emulate teen speak fall flat.

I mentioned that there were issues with Lisa's character and that is due to the fact that her motivations seem to change with every scene. This gives the movie a weird tone that ultimately has it confused on what type of movie it wants to be. I also found it weird that Lisa's mom was murdered and the movie never actually reveals who was behind it or makes it a part of the plot. Instead, it focuses on Lisa's transformation thanks to her new friend and her pursuit of a guy at school. It all culminates in a "twist" that anyone should see coming from a mile away.

I really wanted to like this more than I did. The cast is great and keeps the film afloat despite its tonal whiplash and lack of genuine comedy. Maybe it will find its audience somewhere down the line like the criminally misunderstood Jennifer's Body has.

Grade: C-


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