Misc. Review: Young Frankenstein

There is no winning for me on this.

 

There’s a part of me that understands all the hype around Mel Brooks and his movies; to my recollection, the ones that I watched in high school were all pretty funny.

But aside from not wanting to piss off people who hold Mel Brooks to a god-like level in the universe of cinema, I have no reason to see “Young Frankenstein” as an exceptional movie. When I was done watching it for the first time last night with my family, all I could say is that the movie was just all right.

 

Now, if you want to hear my explanation for this statement, read forward and feel free to critique it, and I’ll gladly have a civil argument with you. However, I’m afraid that most people will just look at the above paragraphs and exit this review because they don’t like their movies being challenged. That’s your prerogative if you choose to do so, but if you’re wondering why movies continue to get worse throughout the years, the reasoning behind that is because of attitudes like yours.

 

There’s enough in this movie to call Young Frankenstein watchable; my argument is not to say that it sucks, but that it’s rather unspectacular.

 

What I do like about this movie is that it has enough self-restraint to not tear itself apart with a constant stream of idiocy. Most modern day comedies I see these days lack this trait and thus their jokes get excruciating and tiresome. Young Frankenstein does try to pace out their humor in a way that doesn’t devalue the good jokes that they have.

There’s a lot of gags that I find really funny; I thought Frankenstein using the dead hand as his own hand in the wagon scene was hilarious. I thought Frankenstein and Igor insisting that their names be pronounced untraditionally was funny (at first). I thought that the sexual innuendos were so understated that I could appreciate picking up on them on my own. I though the police inspector’s fake, multipurpose hand was a funny gag (at first). I thought some of the play-on-words jokes were chuckle-worthy.

 

I also thought that Gene Wilder and everyone else did fine. Nobody plays a downright hilarious character, and nobody plays anybody extremely intricate in detail either.

 

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What I found rather irritating about the movie is that a large amount of the scenes feel separate from the rest of the movie. It was almost as if this movie was a bunch of individual sketches that are lightly stringed together by what could marginally constitute as a plot.

 

You may be thinking, “But Steve, this is a comedy. The most important part of a comedy is the humor, not the story!” And not only would I say that you’re wrong, but if that’s really you’re argument, then I’ll also point out that while about half of this humor works rather well, the other half of the humor was just as obvious and lazy as any other modern day comedy that I’ve seen.

 

I try not to accuse a movie of something without providing examples, so allow me to provide two.

 

1. At one point in the movie, Frankenstein fails to bring his creature back to life, and his assistants tell him not to freak out, and he says something to the effect of, “No, I’m a scientist, and I will handle my failures with silent dignity and grace.”

… And instantly in my head, I thought, “Yep, he’s definitely not going to handle it with dignity and grace.” Because I’ve seen this kind of gag a million times in movies made before and after this one. Fortunately, they wait a couple of beats before they throw out this tired joke, so I actually did laugh slightly at Wilder’s meltdown.

… and then Igor commentates something like, “Yeah, dignity and grace indeed” as he roles his eyes… you know just in case nobody understood why this obvious joke was a joke. There’s moments like this all throughout the movie where I feel like the humor was extremely obvious or overstated, and just because the movie is old and made by Mel Brooks, I do not feel compelled to give this movie extra credit.

 

2. When Frankenstein and Igor go to retrieve the body in the graveyard, I was under the assumption that the prop gate that they used, that obviously looks like it’s lockable, would have been locked. I thought they would use this opportunity for Frankenstein and Igor to humorously try to open the door but utterly fail to do so until they find a humorously obvious way to open the door.

Instead, the movie completely misses this opportunity and they just open the gate without any effort. So if there was no joke in this entire scene, then this part of the movie just served as exposition. But they could have easily placed some sort of joke in this scene, so I can’t help but wonder why there was a level of laziness like this in certain scenes.

You might say that just because they didn’t put a joke in a scene where I think there should have been, doesn’t make it a bad scene… and you’re right, it doesn’t make it a bad scene… but it also doesn’t make an exceptional comedy scene either, and everybody thinks that this comedy is exceptional.

 

3. Hell, here’s a third example. So when Frankenstein and his clan catch the monster and keeps him in a locked room, Frankenstein tells his assistants that he’s going to go in there with the monster and try to befriend. He then tells them to not open the door under any circumstances whatsoever, even if he begs them to open the door.

… And instantly in my head, I thought… well, the same thing that everyone else thought. What I didn’t realize was just how quickly Frankenstein asks to be let out of the room. They didn’t even build it up like they did with Wilder melting down at his failure.

 

 

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There’s also a handful of jokes that I didn’t understand. I was told that part of that is because I am not as in-tune with a lot of pop culture back when this movie was released… I can see this is a somewhat valid argument, but it’s not enough to justify all the jokes that I DID get, but didn’t find them very funny.

And besides, I believe that good movies can stand the test of time. If they can’t stand the test of time, then they were only good movies for those generations.

 

Like the song that Frankenstein at the monster sing and tap dance too. I was unaware of what song they were singing, but I understood the joke anyway: the monster is singing parts of a popular song, but since he can’t speak, he yells them out incoherently, and therefore, comically. The first time they did it deserved maybe a light chuckle… the other times they did it, I felt that they were just hammering a joke into the ground.

 

 

The plot in this movie is all sorts of conveniences and nonsense. All the characters are fairly straightforward and un-compelling. Again, you may argue that “It’s supposed to be about the humor, because it’s a comedy.”

Okay, well I didn’t think the movie was very funny either, so if somebody doesn’t find the movie very funny, then I guess this movie doesn’t have anything else to offer.

 

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I’m sorry guys, it’s not like I enjoy abandoning the bandwagon, but I simply don’t understand why people still think Young Frankenstein is a great movie unless they’re watching it with nostalgia goggles.

I admit that this movie far surpasses any comedy that I’ve seen this year… but considering I give all comedies a 3 or lower, I don’t consider that an accomplishment. Aside from a good, but unexceptional performance from Gene Wilder, and aside from a large amount of jokes that truly land, there isn’t much that makes this movie stick out. The story is a decent satire, but it’s far from exceptional or hilarious; the quality of the humor is inconsistent throughout the movie; and the characters are far from memorable. Sharpen your pitch-forks and your mechanical arms all you want, but that won’t change my opinion.

5 out of 10