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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Alex Reviews "Lisa Frankenstein"

Humans yearn to be accepted. Many want to be loved while others just want to feel like they belong. For most of us, it was finding healthy outlets like bands, sports, or theater. We always find our people in one form or another. Lisa, our titular protagonist for Lisa Frankenstein, has the same problems most experienced in high school; when we had no idea where we fit or who we wanted to be. Constantly battling with who she is, let alone any friends she can trust outside of her own thoughts. In her case, that special someone comes along to give her the confidence to be herself, however her Prince Charming is missing some body parts and has been dead for about 150 years.


While there is a lot of stylistic creativity to Lisa Frankenstein, it is obvious at times that this is Zelda Williams directorial debut. Between odd shots, cuts, and framing, it makes me curious how this would be executed by a more seasoned hand. Despite that, I am unsure that I would want anybody to oversee it due to her unique view suiting the material incredibly well a vast majority of the time. The best example of this may be the intentional design matching the 1980s period of the story. To a modern audience, this might come across as a lower quality presentation, but it added a level of nostalgia and grounded delivery that has a distinct charm.


Williams vision pairs well with the raw writing style of Diablo Cody (Juno) that gives us an interestingly balanced narrative that has wildly insane moments within a very realistic baseline for human behavior. Very genuine statements that are not used in typical film but are lines that I am sure I have heard in mundane conversation occurring within moments of an undead “creature” destroying something or someone. It is very clever in creating a natural world without making the unnatural events break that world.


The real magic of Lisa Frankenstein comes from the leads: Kathryn Newton (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) and Cole Sprouse (Riverdale). Their chemistry pops off screen while both deliver impressive yet staggeringly (no pun intended) different performances. Fun fact: Sprouse’s first movie role was as a kid who wanted to be called Frankenstein and here we are 25 years later where he plays Lisa’s monster.


Kathryn Newton will be an actor we watch years from now winning an Oscar and we will reference this movie as an example of “everybody has to start somewhere” the way we see Tom Hanks in The Burbs or Charlize Theron in Children of the Corn 3. Newton is amazingly talented and gives Lisa amazing range from her first appearance throughout the film without ever making it feel like too much of a stretch from docile introvert to commanding alpha. Her portrayal is spectacular, and I do not believe ANY other performer could replicate it, let alone top it.


While Newton is our leading figure and voice throughout the story, Cole Sprouse carries more than his share in pure physical acting. His gradual character development is wonderful to witness. The mannerisms, posture, and delivery for the character bring an additional level of life to the creature as he develops in lockstep with the story.


Rounding out the solid performances are Liza Soberano, Carla Gugino, and Joe Chrest. Soberano fits the popular girl stereotype while having minimal characteristics of the traditional stereotype. Not an easy execution for anyone, but she is impossible not to enjoy and empathize with in this film. Carla Gugino should just have “catalyst” at the top of her resume. No matter what she appears in, she crushes the role and gets the movie ramping up to the story’s conflict. As for Joe Chrest, I am not entirely sure if he is acting or if he really is an oblivious dad transported from the eighties. Between this and Stranger Things, he gets the part, or you will have an actor trying to be him.


No, it is not likely that Lisa Frankenstein will win any major awards and I am sure there will be a contingent who complain about the movie for what it is and what it is not. The real question you should have is, “Is it worth my time?” The resounding answer is “Absolutely!” It has surprised me and made me laugh harder than any movie so far in 2024. This is more impressive when you consider how it straddles genres, contains a solid soundtrack, and hits you with genuine horror moments that appear alongside the humor. It would fit seamlessly as a Halloween picture, but surprisingly nails the same beats as a Rom-Com. Make sure you get there early enough to enjoy the brilliant Tim Burton-esque opening that tells a better story than many films do.

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