I watched this movie after having seen it dozens of time in my life, but not in the last 7 or 8 years. Upon watching it, I felt that it had lost some of its magic. It just wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. Gene Wilder is hysterical, we’ve got a great cameo from Gene Hackman, a plethora of corny puns, and some hyperbolic (albeit fantastic) German accents. For a few hours after the movie I was ambiguously disappointed and could not understand why; it was not as though I had ever mistaken the movie to be a dark and accurate telling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, so what was missing all of the sudden?
It finally dawned on me, watching Young Frankenstein reminds me of acting out Shakespeare in high school (mind you, I’m referring to English class rather than Theatre); The goal is not necessarily accuracy: the teacher says: “Read Hamlet, get a group together, and act it out in your own terms.” What the class ends up watching is certainly not Hamlet, but a misshapen, hilarious, parody of Hamlet that mostly uses Shakespeare’s masterpiece as a venue for a hyperbolic adventure. A project like that is not meant to mirror Hamlet; it’s meant to make you read the story and understand it to the point of being able to make fun of it and enjoy it. The experience of acting it out with your friends becomes the point, while Hamlet becomes background noise. Let it.
The movie is quirky. It does not intend to tell the story of Frankenstein, but rather use the story as a platform to tell its own story. Once I realized that, the movie completely regained its magic.
This movie definitely requires a strong ‘suspense of disbelief’ to even begin to enjoy. I highly recommend watching this movie with a bottle of wine. It’s silly. Let it be silly. Don’t pay attention to the fact that the setting makes no sense or that there is no definitive time frame (there are 18th century castes, 1970’s hairstyles, 1950’s clothing… and then 18th century German attire….). Or, as a matter of fact, pay attention to it; it’s really effing funny.
Top Reasons to Watch:
- You’ll get to see Gene Wilder yell a lot
- There are amazing quotable moments
- The movie does not pretend to be something that it’s not.
P.S. This is not the type of movie you want to sit down with your friend who “never watches old movies” to introduce them to new possibilities. That would be the equivalent of introducing someone to horror movies by having them watch The Exorcist. You will scare them away. Also, they will never give you carte blanche to pick a movie again.
Bonus picture for obvious reasons: