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, and I’m giving this movie a 5 out of 10.

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8 thoughts on “Misc. Review: Young Frankenstein

  1. This debate will be a fun one, but as usual, a respectful one. Let me start by asking this: how many of the classic Frankenstein movies from Universal (the 30s ones) have you seen?

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      1. First, I would highly suggest them, if only to see the brilliance of Karloff and Lugosi.

        Second, I think it really adds to a lot of the humor in the film. It gives you insight into some of the nuances that may make a film funnier. Parodys are tough, but almost impossible if you haven’t seen the source material. Can you imagine watching Spaceballs without seeing Star Wars?

        Like I alluded to in the tweet, I always suggest the musical if you have a chance. It makes some of the slower moments in the movie move forward at a brisker pace.

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        1. I will if I get the chance.

          I can accept that argument to a fault, but I see it along the same lines of “You’d like this movie more if you read the book/read the comic, etc.”, and I just don’t think it’s a good enough argument. A movie is designed to stand out on its own.
          Now I can appreciate your argument more because in order to understand a satire, you have to have an idea of what it’s satirizing… and that’s fine. But I do understand Frankenstein because it’s been parodied, referenced, and mentioned constantly throughout my life; it’s not that I don’t understand the content material, I just don’t think they utilized their ability for humor as much as an exceptional movie could have.

          Yeah, you’re the third or fourth person to suggest the play/musical. I will definitely see it if I get the opportunity.

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          1. Thanks Steve it’s working now.

            I see your point. I read a lot so I always get torn on books turned movies.

            I would say that Frankenstein is a universal constant now. Everybody knows about him and his monster. But I think this movie was specifically addressing the Universal movies. They even used the same equipment from the 1931 version.

            I’m not saying it will take the movie to a 10, just might bump it to a six. I would like to highlight Igor (Mardy Feldman). I thought bbq e was the most exceptional of evwryone in the movie.

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            1. Well, if I see those movies, I will re-watch Young Frankenstein and see if I can appreciate it more. My father-in-law did tell me that they used the same equipment from that movie, and I definitely was impressed with that.

              And really? I wasn’t a fan of Igor at all. This is mainly to do with the script, because I think most of the jokes that Igor has are the most lazy and obvious. But I thought the part was cast well for the most part.

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              1. There are several reasons that you did not find this movie as enjoyable to the level as I or someone within 10 years my age of 62. First Mary Shelly’s Frankstien was a required reading in Literature Class in my high school, the original Frankstien movie was a very popular and was shown throughout the 50’s and 60’s as reruns. Your exposure to classic horror movies and your lack of life experiences in 50’s and 60’s is why the jokes had different meaning for you. What you and young adults your age have grown up with a more in your face type of sense of humor. I on the other hand grew up with Jerry Lewis, Red Skeleton, Abbot & Custello, Bob Hope, just to name a few, which gave us a more subtle and different expectation for what we viewed as humor. Well that is my nickels worth of opinion!

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I can accept that to a degree, but I actually do not enjoy in-your-face comedies;
                  Read my review on Bad Moms, Bridget Jones’s Baby, Keanu or any other recent comedy review. All in your face comedy, all of them I hated.

                  Young Frankenstein itself has quite a bit of in-your-face comedy, albeit executed better than modern day comedies, but still.

                  But yes, I can agree that my expectations are probably different than yours back in the day.

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