NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, November 25, 2015, 4:00 AM
James McAvoy (right) and Daniel Radcliffe star as the doctor and his sidekick, Igor, in “Victor Frankenstein.”
This un-terrifying film tries to find an interesting twist on the classic Frankenstein tale, but horrifically fails. First, it basically just retells, cartoonishly, the whole “mad scientist re-animating a guy made of dead people’s parts” story. Second, the stuff that is supposed to be unique, like a nuanced portrait of Dr. Frankenstein’s sidekick Igor, played by Daniel Radcliffe, is as stiff as rigor mortis.
When a film is this bad — it depicts Igor seducing a debutante and portrays circus folk as evil jerks who enjoy abusing clowns — there is plenty of blame to go around, especially towards those who financed and produced it. They also paid professionals like director Paul McGuigan to make it and actors like James McAvoy, who seems to equate great acting with emitting slingshots of saliva while saying his biggest lines, to act in it.
But writers always complain they aren’t given proper credit for their scripts. Let’s give full credit here. Until this monstrous mess, it might have been possible not to begrudge writer Max Landis his Hollywood success. Because Max is the son of director John Landis (“Animal House,” “An American Werewolf in London”), one could assume it was his daddy’s fame that allowed Max to get his breaks. And there is evidence for that. Max earned his first writing credit at the age of 20 for a 2005 episode of the Showtime series “Masters of Horror” directed by his father. Poor little Hollywood princeling.
Nevertheless, some of Max’s work has been praiseworthy, including the screenplay for “Chronicle,” an underappreciated 2011 teen sci-fi chiller I thoroughly enjoyed.
But not this, no, not this.
In order to drive home the idea that “Victor Frankenstein” is really about the doctor and not his murderous creation, the script has Igor warn the doctor repeatedly that if he follows his dark plans, history will remember only the monster, not the scientist.
But in this film, the monster, who never speaks, lives for about seven screen minutes and spends that entire lifespan on a tiny rock in England, and nearly everyone who sees it dies.
At least someone involved in the movie has seen a superior take on the story, “Young Frankenstein.” Although Max Landis was born 11 years after its release, there is a joking allusion to Mel Brooks’ film when a character in the current mess mispronounces the doctor’s last name as FrankenstEEn. Unlike Gene Wilder’s character in “Young Frankenstein,” Frankenstein insists the classic movie pronunciation — which rhymes with Ben Stein — is right.
It’s not. Like everything else in this movie, it’s all wrong.