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‘Lisa Frankenstein’ captures spirit of teenage rom-coms

Chemistry between leads create film’s most memorable moments

“Lisa Frankenstein” accurately and comically captures the dramatics of being a teenager.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“Lisa Frankenstein” accurately and comically captures the dramatics of being a teenager. Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Aside from being about a cobbled-together, half-dead creature, “Lisa Frankenstein” has very little to do with Mary Shelley’s classic novel. The film, released on Valentine’s Day, more closely resembles a classic rom-com — as soon as it starts, you know how it’ll end. 

Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton) is somewhat of an outcast. Her stepsister Taffy (Liza Soberano) is courteous to her, but that’s about it. Lisa has a crush on the editor of the school’s paper, who she describes as “cerebral,” but freaks out every time they speak to each other. She frequents the local graveyard and talks to the gravestones, a habit that everyone recognizes as fairly odd. After attending a terrible party, Lisa “tells” her favorite dead person (Cole Sprouse) that she wishes she were with him. He then comes back to life.

The movie’s predictability doesn’t make it any less interesting to watch. Director Zelda Williams fully leans into the history of teenage romantic comedies. Reminiscent of classics like “Heathers” and “Pretty in Pink,” the plot moves steadily with no unexpected twists. The ridiculous whispered rumors — for example, that an ax murderer killed Lisa’s mom — makeover montages and recognizable songs make the film fun and easy to enjoy.

Williams is dedicated to the easily identifiable aesthetic of the 1980s. Crimped hair, bright lipstick and dates references, which, while evocative of teenage rom-coms golden age, also seems to pander to an older audience that most likely won’t watch the film. Dry humor and honest character writing help bring the movie back to modernity, but at times, the ’80s references and jokes overpower the comfortable plot that rom-com viewers want to see.


The real highlight of “Lisa Frankenstein” is the chemistry between its actors. It’s hard to deliver a meaningful performance when covered in “dead” makeup and forced to walk without bending your knees, but Sprouse pulls it off. Unable to form words until the end, Sprouse spends the movie groaning, pointing and somehow playing the piano — all of which is amusing and heartwarming to watch. Newton plays Lisa as a ball of pent-up energy, serving as the perfect opposite to Sprouse’s quiet yet emotional “Creature.” The moments when they are alone together, telling stories only with looks, gestures and dances, are what make the film memorable. The playfulness these two share spans throughout the entire cast, helping “Lisa Frankenstein” still feel unique underneath its familiar tropes and stereotypes. 

Most importantly, “Lisa Frankenstein” accurately and comically captures the dramatics of being a teenager. Every moment is a question of life or death — sometimes literally in this case — and these intense emotions come through spectacularly. In an otherwise standard rom-com, witty writing and spirited acting ensure that “Lisa Frankenstein” delivers on well-developed fun and warmth, if nothing else.


Gabriella Wrighten

Gabriella is a junior from Los Angeles, concentrating in English, Modern Culture and Media, and Literary Arts. If she’s not at the movies, you can find her coaching the Dodgers from her dorm, plotting her future Big Brother win, or perfecting her chocolate chip cookie recipe.

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