MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Lisa Frankenstein’ a tone deaf mashup

Published 3:56 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Sometimes a movie swings for the fences and misses, but you can’t help but admire the effort.

That is not the case with “Lisa Frankenstein,” the new film written by Diablo Cody and directed by Zelda Williams – Robin Williams’ daughter. This is a film that tries to be too many things at once and fails to find one that remotely works.

It’s part homage to 80s teen rom-coms, part horror, part whimsical Tim Burton and all painful to experience.

Kathryn Newton stars as Lisa, a teenager starting her senior year at a new school. Lisa has trouble fitting in, still suffering from the tragedy of seeing her mother murdered by a homicidal maniac who is still on the run.

Her father is now married to an overbearing woman named Janet (Carla Gugino), with Janet’s daughter Taffy (Liza Soberano) the only person who seems to be interested in Lisa’s well-being.

Lisa likes to spend her time in the nearby cemetery, drawn to one particular tombstone. When a series of freak occurrences brings the body in that grave to life, the creature (Cole Sprouse) arrives at Lisa’s home with romantic feelings for the person who brought him back to life.

The premise for “Frankenstein” is fine, one that could probably work with more focus. But Cody’s script is constantly moving all over the place – trying to play for laughs even while elements of a horror film that are anything but funny are happening at the same time.

The cutesy tone is a distinct clash to some rather uncomfortable moments that include some themes that really push the boundaries of the film’s PG-13 rating. Williams clearly is trying to make this a film that looks and feels like a Burton film, but the style never meshes with the – at times – downright disturbing substance.

Newton has proven to be a good choice for horror-comedies, specifically the little-seen “Freaky” released in late 2020, but it’s hard to root for her character when it is written in a way that makes the character hard to like.

It’s just one of a parade of characters who are unlikable. Only Sprouse’s creature escapes with any kind of redeemable qualities, and even his character does some rather unscrupulous things.

While watching “Lisa Frankenstein,” I kept thinking about the 1993 film “My Boyfriend’s Back,” an attempt at a teen horror comedy that is widely regarded as one of the worst films of all time. Ultimately, “Frankenstein” isn’t quite as bad as that disaster, but it’s pretty close. Certainly not the kind of company you want your film to be in.

Here’s hoping films in 2024 don’t get much worse than “Lisa Frankenstein.” If they do, we are in for a really bad year at the movies.

— Grade: F. Reviewed by Micheal Compton, Bowling Green Daily News.