Film Review: LISA FRANKENSTEIN (2024): Kathryn Newton is a Hoot Thanks to Diablo Cody’s Witty Script but the Film Lacks Any Indication of Normalcy

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Cole Sprouse Kathryn Newton Lisa Frankenstein
Lisa Frankenstein Review

Lisa Frankenstein (2024) Film Review, a movie directed by Zelda Williams, written by Diablo Cody and starring Kathryn Newton, Cole Sprouse, Liza Soberano, Carla Gugino, Joe Chrest, Jenna Davis, Trina LaFargue, Paola Andino, Joshua Montes, Joey Harris, Henry Eikenberry, Jennifer Pierce Mathus, Luke Sexton, Ayla Miller, Jailyn Rae and Bryce Romero.

The overall premise of Lisa Frankenstein, directed by Zelda Williams, reminds me of a lame 1993 summer comedy called My Boyfriend’s Back, only Williams’s film is much better. Don’t get your hopes up too high, though, because the new movie, which was written by Diablo Cody, is the type of film that just constantly flings jokes at its audience until something sticks. And, occasionally, the laughs do ensue but there are also many “WTF” moments here as well which lessen the overall quality of Lisa Frankenstein.

Kathryn Newton stars in the new picture as the Lisa referred to in the film’s title. Lisa’s mom was killed by an axe murderer so she comes to live with a wicked stepmom, Janet (Carla Gugino) who is as evil as they come. How is evil defined in this particular movie? Well, Janet wants to send Lisa off to a mental ward even though Lisa genuinely appears to be somewhat normal.

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Lisa’s new sister, Taffy, is played by the bright up-and-comer Liza Soberano. Taffy cracks zingy one-liners such as when she brings up a 1980’s McDonald’s character called the Hamburglar when Lisa describes that said character in a lie Lisa tells. Lisa Frankenstein is ultimately too smart for its own good, though. It’s set in 1989 and keeps throwing out old pop culture references until you want to scream  up at the screen and let the filmmakers know that you get it. It’s the 1980’s but do we need a track list of all the popular songs from the period? Admittedly, it was nice to hear “The Promise” at the start of Williams’s film which was featured 20 years ago in the comedy, Napoleon Dynamite. But, still.

The movie’s plot kicks in when a walking corpse (Cole Sprouse) turns up smelling bad and causing trouble. He accidentally (I think) puts a worm in Janet’s cereal which leads her to blame Lisa who Janet then decides she wants to put away in a mental institution. Somehow, through a series of events, Janet ends up dead and the movie grows increasingly more bizarre as it continues. Lisa welcomes in the corpse to her home, gives him a shower and puts him in her tanning machine. Don’t have a cow, though, because Lisa likes the rotting corpse and grows fond of him, determined to help him get new body parts so he can function properly again.

The first thing Lisa does is get the corpse some hands when they bump off a male student who unjustly attempted to get into Lisa’s pants. The corpse can play the piano now! Diablo Cody has structured a funny script here. However, it’s not grounded in much of a reality. Lisa and the corpse get away with murder for a while and, given the small town setting, that ends up being weird. Plus, Lisa’s fellow family members don’t check up on Janet for days and then learn she never checked into her hotel while supposedly away on business. I know there were no cell phones back then but waiting days to check in with a loved one is a bit of a stretch.

Lisa Frankenstein doesn’t really do the “prom” thing as I was hoping for. This movie could have used some good boogying by the stars to 80’s music. The film clearly missed that opportunity. The director is Robin Williams’s daughter. She was clearly inspired. There are cute scenes like when the movie pays homage to the 1902 classic, “A Trip to the Moon.” If Zelda Williams went to film school, she certainly did her homework. There are plenty of motifs in the new picture and throwbacks to other movies alongside the occasionally clever pop culture references.

However, if the movie is worth watching (and I’m not sure that it is), it’s because of Kathryn Newton. She is incredibly charismatic and her line delivery is usually priceless. She doesn’t create a lot of chemistry with the corpse but there’s enough charming interaction between them to want to see the couple get together. Sprouse is an acceptable corpse too. Gugino is perfectly cast as the wicked stepmother and Soberano has some scene-stealing sections here and there as her cheerleader character steals Lisa’s hunk of a guy crush right out from underneath her. But, the ending is a bummer. It’s almost unforgivably lame. It’s like the audience will wait for the punchline, but it never really comes. That’s probably the punchline, unfortunately. But regarding the ending, the only thing I had to say was, “WTF?”

Still, Zelda Williams has quite a few sharp skills as a filmmaker. Although Williams tries to make the movie grounded and feel as if it was actually made in the 1980’s, it wasn’t. There is no bridge to the modern world that would make the events that transpire in Lisa Frankenstein of more relevance. I see why Williams wanted to make the film. It’s a clever, at times, take on life and death when it’s at its best. Her dad would be proud of the work she’s done on the new film because of its sincere (and also bizarre) nature. However, more was needed to make the movie recommended viewing.

Rating: 6/10

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