LISA FRANKENSTEIN Amuses, But Its More Excessive Elements Tend to Grate

Zelda Williams makes her feature film directorial debut with a movie that delivers some fun but feels a bit forced regarding its dark humor. As I experienced this movie, I smiled often and laughed heartily at one joke. However, the movie’s tendency to resort to over-the-top antics doesn’t always work and sometimes irritated me. Nevertheless, the performance of lead actor Kathryn Newton kept me invested until the end.

Newton stars as Lisa Swallows, a socially awkward teenager in the 1980s who recently lost her beloved mother and is forced to follow her surviving father, Dale (Joe Chrest), as he starts a new life for them with his second wife, Janet (Carla Gugino) and her daughter Taffy (Liza Soberano). While Taffy tries to help stepsister Lisa adjust to her new surroundings and new school, Lisa still finds herself out of place and an outcast. When a tremendous lightning storm revives a deceased person from the cemetery where Lisa likes to hang out, she discovers a new friend (Cole Sprouse) of sorts but makes some bizarre and disturbing choices in the following days.

With a script by Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer’s Body), Zelda Williams delivers a primarily fun movie with some dark humor that channels the early days of Tim Burton. However, something about the presentation of these events and scenarios comes across as heavy-handed, particularly when it comes to dark humor. This movie is a solid first feature for Williams, but one that would’ve benefitted from more subtlety and a lighter touch.

Regardless of this movie’s issues, I still found the performance of lead actor Kathryn Newton quite good in a way that elevates the film’s shortcomings. I was also pleased with the physical performance of Cole Sprouse, who is perfect as the “Creature” revived from his grave, befriending and helping Lisa. I was astonished that I was not too fond of the performance of Carla Gugino who portrays Lisa’s stepmother Janet.

Gugino goes too hamfisted with her turn as a wicked stepmother, and this performance hindered my enjoyment of the movie. On the other hand, I certainly enjoyed the acting of Liza Soberano, who is as funny and entertaining as Lisa’s stepsister, Taffy. She nails her role as the popular girl in school and one who wishes that everyone was just a typical teen like she is.

Lisa Frankenstein is now playing in theaters and is an enjoyable movie. However, I recommend spending less than full-priced tickets to see it. It would be an okay film to enjoy in the comfort of one’s home when it is available that way.

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