Victor Frankenstein is Ridiculously Campy and Unintentionally Comedic
Directed by: Paul McGuigan
Written by Max Landis
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Charles Dance
Running time 110 minutes
Rated PG-13 for macabre images, violence and a sequence of destruction
Igor Strausman (Daniel Radcliffe) spent the first 18 (or so) years of his life as a nameless hunchback in a circus, where he was not only the clown but also the physician. When a young and brilliant medical student Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) visited the circus, he discovered the brilliant and talented hunchback when they saved the life of acrobat Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay) who had fallen from her trapeze. Taking the young hunchback back to his home after a harrowing escape in which one of the other circus performers unfortunately perished, Frankenstein proceeded to correct the hunchback’s hump and misaligned spine. Victor also bestowed upon his new roommate and assistant his former roommates name, Igor Strausman. Together the two brilliant men began to push the boundaries of medical science, intent to rescue humanity from the temporary malady known as death. But when things go too far, it is up to Igor to rescue his friend from madness and a monstrous creation.
Victor Frankenstein is ridiculously campy, so much so that it is highly enjoyable, in spite of the fact that logically it should be abysmal. The film is billed as Horror/Drama/Sci-Fi, but it plays like a comedy, a very campy comedy. I would also suspect that James McAvoy had a large part to play in this; he played it as if it was a matter of life or death to act as hard as humanly possible at every possible moment. So much scenery was devoured by this single actor that an entire crew of set builders was needed to keep the film well supplied. Radcliffe by comparison played the strait man, the main protagonist in this version of the story; he played his part incredibly well, by refusing to rise to the level of McAvoy’s scenery mastication.
There were a great many moments in this film I was reminded of the eternal classic Young Frankenstein, in fact I believe some dialogue may have been repurposed. Only screenwriter Max Landis would be able to say if this was intentional, or not, but I like to think it was deliberate. The reason I want to think it was deliberately comedic in this way is that doing that would be borderline brilliant, and would mean the film is incredibly successful. If it was not intentional, at all, then perhaps that makes this one of the most unintentionally funny films of the year.
Aside from the bromantic atmosphere, and the hamtastic acting there is a great deal to praise about this film. I quite enjoyed the new perspective on the origin story of the Igor/Victor relationship, painting Victor as the anti-social misfit, and Igor as the brilliant and sophisticated gentleman is the twist the story needed to spark my interest. The keenly eyed art design, costuming and effects were more than enough to keep me in my seat, but once you add two actors that secrete charisma like Radcliffe and McAvoy I was sold. I could not tell you to gather your best friends, cast aside any idea that is anything but a campy comedy and get to the theatre fast enough, for what might be the best bad movie of the year.