A teen love story for the ages based on the magnificent work of Mary Shelley, Lisa Frankenstein sadly falls short on many levels. Categorized as a comedy/horror/romance, it barely scrapes the surface of any of the genres. It offers a decent cast and a modern twist on classic but can't live up to its predecessor. While it might find an audience with a tween/teen following, it won't be remembered for very long as most who see it will want to forget they did soon after walking out of the theater.
Lisa's (Kathryn Newton; Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) mom was stabbed to death during a home invasion while Lisa hid in the closet and called 911. Not long after, Lisa's dad got remarried and Lisa moved to a new town for her senior year of high school, where she didn't fit in. Still traumatized by her mom's death, Lisa hid in her room or the decrepit cemetery and barely spoke. She was particularly fascinated by the tombstone of a young man named Frankenstein.
Newton is an up-and-coming actress who has played a wide variety of characters and manages to do a terrific job in pretty much all of them. Lisa, however good, is rather reminiscent of some of Newton's previous roles, especially the transformation she makes in the movie Freaky. Cole Sprouse of Riverdale fame portrays the corpse of Frankenstein who suddenly comes back to life. While he does a solid job as the Zombie-like man, his grunting and pointing are not necessarily the type of work that is Oscar-worthy. Supporting cast members Carla Gugino (San Andreas) and Liza Soberano (Alone/Together) play their parts perfectly if stereotypically.
Making her feature film directorial debut, Zelda Williams- yes, the daughter of the late actor/comedian - may be the best choice to have taken on this quirky, high school tale. She grosses the audience out with random bug droppings and bloody murders while she offers up some snickering snorts with sexual references. I would be curious to see what she would do with a drama in her hands.
Academy Award-winning writer Diablo Cody (Juno) brings her offbeat sense of humor to this story and infuses it with equal measures of absurdity and teenage angst. While this movie isn't as impactful as some of her previous work, it does have a little bit of a Jennifer's Body feel to it.
Costume designer Meagan McLaughlin (10 Cloverfield Lane), Set Decorator Andrew W. Bofinger (Killer of the Flower Moon), and music coordinator Isabella Summers (Little Fires Everywhere) do a terrific job of transporting the audience back to the 1980s. Summers especially picked an eclectic array of songs to set the mood, including an early version of REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling", and "The Promise" by When in Rome.
Lisa Frankenstein is an idea with a lot of potential and it honestly could have been a complete comedy, a teen romance, or, more unlikely, a full-fledged horror. However, smashing all three together turned into one big, jumbled mess that didn't work. While other Diablo Cody works have more successfully meshed, this one didn't.
Newton does her best, Sprouse will attract a certain teen/tween audience, Cody has a reputation for good writing and people will be curious to see how Williams fares but even with all that going for it, Lisa Frankenstein doesn't seem to deliver. If anything, it seems like it could be a spoof, but it doesn't do that well either.
Sometimes a movie looks good on paper but, for various reasons, never comes together properly and ends up being a flop. Welcome to the world, Lisa Frankenstein.