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Review: 'Victor Frankenstein' better left for dead

Daniel Radcliffe as Igor and James McAvoy as the titular doctor are certainly game for more daring material than Max Landis’ screenplay provides.
Daniel Radcliffe as Igor and James McAvoy as the titular doctor are certainly game for more daring material than Max Landis’ screenplay provides.
Published Nov. 25, 2015

At this time of giving and being thankful for life's blessings, I give you the advice to stay far away from Victor Frankenstein. You can thank me later.

Victor Frankenstein is misshapen as the bad doctor's creature itself, straining without wit or viscera to be a devilish horror romp. The movie could use a body snatching or two, maybe a few villagers with torches, to better connect with Mary Shelley's myth. Something besides a raging chimpan-zombie for the gore crowd.

Paul McGuigan's movie is really about Igor but that title was taken by a bad animated movie. Actually, his name isn't really Igor but that's a short story Victor Frankenstein makes long. Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) begins as a nameless circus freak, kicked around by bully clowns, mooning over the trapeze girl Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay).

At night, the deformed man teaches himself the new science of anatomy, complete with helpful animated thought-diagrams of sinew, tissue and bone. What do you know? Dr. Vic (James McAvoy) has the same visions, and he's not shoveling dung in a circus. Come with me, he offers, and we'll build a monster together. Their escape makes them wanted men by Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott).

Victor hides Igor in an abandoned soap factory where he experiments in re-animating dead organs resembling deli slabs. The doctor also removes that pesky hump on Igor's back with a siphoning splash. A grateful Igor becomes a well-postured assistant for the good of medicine, growing wary of that glint in Victor's eyes.

McGuigan's movie goes pretty much where you think from there, less distastefully amusing than expected, in a cliche steampunk setting. There are misused ingredients here for a nicely Gothic bloodbath comedy, like Crimson Peak with a sense of humor. Radcliffe and McAvoy are certainly game for more daring material than Max Landis' screenplay provides.

Several people asked lately why anyone still makes Frankenstein movies. After seeing this one I don't have a good answer, only good advice.

You're welcome.

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.