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Lisa Frankenstein Review

February 13, 2024 | Posted by Rob Stewart
LISA FRANKENSTEIN Image Credit: Michele K. Short/Focus Features
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Lisa Frankenstein Review  

I remain the whitest person you know, don’t worry.

After a two-for at the local AMC theater where I saw Lisa Frankenstein and Argylle back-to-back, I was absolutely starving. Turns out that going through two feature length movies without eating is just more than a fatty like I can bear mid-day.

Driving home at a little after 10pm, I was on the hunt for some fast food because I wasn’t sure my stomach could take the torture of having to go home and cook my own meal like a schmuck. But with most places being closed or actively closing, I turned to the last place I knew was open: Popeye’s.

(Which was my first mistake because Popeye’s is sandwiched between a McDonald’s which was surprisingly still open and a Taco Bell which is notorious for staying open late)

((Two weeks ago, I was driving home at 9:15pm and that same McDonald’s was closed. Work your hours out, Hoffman Street McDonald’s!))

See, I had been hearing that Popeye’s serves wings now, among them a garlic parmesan flavor, which is always my favorite kind of wing. It tastes great, and it typically has no heat! Winner!

Now, I’m always a little wary of Popeye’s in general because I think their BASIC FRIED CHICKEN is sometimes a little too hot for me. But… garlic parm wings! So I decided to risk it.

TURNS OUT that that was a predictably bad decision, and Popeye’s garlic parmesan wings are definitely too spicy for my whitebread ass.

Some day I hope to become famous enough to get invited onto Hot Ones, so I can be the first interviewee to just break down on the first wing.

ANYWAY, prior to my utter and complete sadness and disappointment in myself at not being able to enjoy wings like a normal human being, I saw Lisa Frankenstein. The movie, starring Kathryn Newton as Lisa and Cole Sprouse as the undead, unnamed boy she reanimates, is about a girl whose mother was recently murdered. She and her father have moved in with her father’s new wife and step-daughter, but Lisa thinks everyone’s attempts to move on are bit too fast for her.

Additionally, she is an unpopular loser with bad hair and make-up because that makes her relatable and sympathetic to an audience, I’m told.

Regardless, she makes a wish while visiting an unkempt local cemetery to be able to be with a young man who died in the early 1800’s forever. During a high school rager where her drink gets spiked with PCP, a thunderstorm… just randomly makes her wish come true? In the form of the dead boy crawling out of his grave and coming to be with her.

Lisa has to hide her new friend in her closet and avoid the machinations of her evil step mother (played by Carla Gugino), who wants to send her away to a psychiatric facility. As the movie goes on, Lisa works to repair the boy’s body and restore him to human form… while also forming a bond with him.


+ The movie has just a frightfully abhorrent first half–more on that in a second–but it does manage to salvage itself with a stronger back end. The story tightens up, the humor gets better, and the mood gets darker. It’s all a vast improvement over the first fifty minutes or so.

Cole Sprouse’s role as the undead young man grows in the back half and gets more engaging, which is a big part of the improvement, too. What we get of him early are mostly gross-out gags, but as he becomes more complete, he gets a lot more to do.

All it takes to start transforming the film is a few murders–who would have thought? And the shift from goofy-but-unfunny to more edgy and worthwhile is as in-your-face as Lisa’s own change in personality as the flick develops.

+ Kathryn Newton is totally game across the entire runtime; even when the film is at its worst, you can tell she is giving it everything she has. She has proven to be quite the talented young actress in outings like Freaky and Paranormal Activity 4 (among many others), and she brings those chops to Lisa Frankenstein, although the movie doesn’t always deserve them.

I have already touched on the movie’s weak first half, and… whoof. There is a large stretch of this one where this is simply not a good flick at all. The story is unfocused and all over the place, the humor does not work at all, and everything just drags down in a bog of terrible writing (both plot-wise and in the dialogue).

Additionally, during the early chunk of the film, director Zelda Williams’ feverish desire to ape Tim Burton is at its absolute worst. From the zany neighborhood shots to the way scenes are framed, everything here screams that it was cribbed from Burton’s homework. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by others or doing homages to them, but Williams feels more like she is ripping off Burton wholesale than adding her own flourishes to his own recipe.

As noted above, the movie thankfully settles down and finds its groove, but by the time I had realized I started having fun with it, I’d already determined I didn’t think it was very good. A decent last fifty minutes just has too much of an uphill climb fighting off the doldrums of the first fifty. Thought admittedly, I would usually rather see a movie that starts weak and finishes strong than vice versa.

We find out early on that the tragedy to Lisa’s backstory is that a killer broke into her old house and killed her mother right in front of her. By the time Lisa called 911 and the police arrived, her mother was dead and the killer was gone.

Wow, right?!

Too bad, this is ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT the rest of the movie. The killer never returns. Lisa’s mother never returns, and since we are dealing with the reanimated dead, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that might happen. Lisa wishes the dead boy back to life, but never thinks to try the same for her own mom.

It’s all just a weirdly intense backstory to give a character and then do nothing with.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
An utter bomb of a first half drags this movie down substantially, which is a shame because when it gets rolling, it actually becomes a daring and entertaining bit of cinema. If it had a bit more polish, this could have been a treasure.

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Lisa Frankenstein, Rob Stewart