Young Frankenstein

I first saw this classic comedy when I was a kid, although I am not quite sure exactly how old I was. What I am sure of is that I was not interested at all in watching it. If not for my father forcing me to watch it, it would probably have been many years before I would have seen it. My opinions have changed greatly since then and I have very fond feelings for this film now. This movie is easily seated among the best comedies of all time and I can’t help but wonder if spoof type comedies would be as popular without this movie leading the way. As Gene Wilder just recently passed away it seemed a fitting time to sit down to re-watch Young Frankenstein and see how many apologies it deserves. Needless to say this review will contain significant spoilers but if you haven’t seen this movie over the past 42 years, then it is long overdue for you to watch it before reading on.

The plot follows Frederick Frankenstein (played terrifically by Gene Wilder) who is a respected doctor, researcher, and lecturer. Frederick works very hard to distinguish himself from his infamous grandfather, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the mad scientist from Transylvania. He does not like to be associated with his grandfather’s research and even changed how his name was pronounced (Fronk-en-steen). When he learns that his grandfather has passed away and he stands to inherit the family castle, he travels to Transylvania in order to inspect his inheritance and maybe learn a thing or two about his grandfather’s work. Once there he meets his new hump backed servant Igor (masterfully played by Marty Feldman), who comically says his name is pronounced like Eye-gore in response to being told Frankenstein is pronounced Fronkensteen. He then meets his other servant Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman) and his lab assistant Inga (the beautiful Teri Garr) who is fun and flirty and the complete opposite of his boring fiancee (Madeline Kahn). It seems the longer Frederick stays in the castle, the more he can feel a connection with his grandfather. With help from Inga, he discovers Victor’s secret lab and personal library with all his research on reanimation. As he spends time reading through all Victor’s notes and books, Frederick starts to think he can continue his grandfather’s research and even reanimate a dead body! They come up with a plan to steal the gigantic body of a recently executed criminal and implant the brain of a renowned scientist to create a being with great physical strength and superb mental ability. Igor is sent to steal the brain but ends up stealing an abnormal brain that ends up being used in the monster (Peter Boyle). Frederick does succeed in reanimating his corpse, but soon realizes something is not quite right. Igor admits to using a brain from someone named “Abby Normal” which infuriates Frederick. Meanwhile the local townspeople have grown weary of having a Frankenstein back in the castle, since the last one was a mad scientist, and they want him gone. They send Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars) to visit Frederick and make sure another Frankenstein monster is not going to happen. During this meeting the monster escapes. Here they hilariously spoof scenes from the original Frankenstein movie with the monster’s interactions with a young girl and then a blind man (cameo by Gene Hackman). Eventually, Frederick and his team recapture the monster and plan a show to reveal his scientific success. It is a hilarious song and dance routine that leaves you laughing no matter how many times you see it. The monster manages to escape again, this time kidnapping Frederick’s visiting fiancee and having his way with her. She does not seem to mind much since the monster is very well endowed and she is superficial. The townspeople become the stereotypical mob with pitchforks and torches and Frederick is forced to take drastic action to save his creation by transferring some of his intellect into his monster. The procedure is a success as the monster is now able to rationalize with the angry mob. Frederick also received some endowment of his own from the monster in the transfer process that made his new wife Inga very happy. His former fiancee is also happily married to the now intellectual monster and everyone enjoys a happy ending.

I have already talked about several of the strengths in this film. The writing by Brooks and Wilder is outstanding with constant jokes flying left and right the entire movie. From subtle humor like Igor’s hump switching sides periodically, to some tasteful sexual humor (what knockers!), and plenty of physical humor gags to balance it all out. The actors all do a phenomenal job of being silly without being over the top all the time. Even the way the film is shot in black and white to appear older than it is was a wonderful directing decision. I also think the scenes that pay homage to the original movie through spoof are a very nice touch.

I don’t really have many negatives for this movie. I did feel that the fiancee was a pretty weak and boring character for how hilarious everyone else was. The only other character that had noticeable flaws in my eyes was Inspector Kemp. He had too many gags involving his prosthetic arm. Even with all the sexual jokes, the scene in which the monster takes advantage of Frederick’s fiancee seems out of place with the good natured feel of the whole film.  I would say the film seems to drag a little too long, despite only having 106 minute run time.

As I said before, this movie is a classic comedy and one of the best comedies of all time. It offers plenty of laughs each time you see it and it is also a refreshing throwback to a time when people were not as concerned with political correctness. I enthusiastically give this movie only 1 Apology in between fits of laughter. Leave a comment with your favorite scene from this movie or another Wilder movie you like!

Rest easy Mr. Wilder and thank you for so many years of entertainment.

-Movie Apologist

Sausage Party (Spoiler Free)

I was pretty excited to see this movie after first noticing the previews. It fits into a genre that doesn’t often have many options for us grown up movie goers, since mostly kid and family friendly films dominate the box office. When viewing the uncensored preview for this movie it was easy to see what we were getting ourselves into: foul language, crude humor, sexual innuendos, and animated food violence.

There are many strengths within Sausage Party. The cast is one of the main selling points with very solid comedy minds coming together: Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Selma Hayek, Edward Norton, Paul Rudd, Bill Hader, Nick Kroll, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and Kristen Wiig make up the majority of the characters with some playing multiple roles. I really got a kick out of the voice acting and despite being an animated film, it was easy to appreciate the talent on display. In addition to the strong voices, there is some surprising humor packed into this party. I was not expecting to see many, if any, intelligent jokes during the 89 minute run time but I was proven wrong. There are plethora of jokes and jabs thrown into this script that some people may miss but they fit right in and help balance out the vulgarity of the rest of the movie. Obviously there is plenty of juvenile, dirty, sexual, “toilet humor” if you will, but even the majority of that is delivered well and I found myself laughing with the rest of the crowd. Anytime you give Seth Rogen the green light on an R rated movie about talking food, you should know there will be plenty of lowbrow comedy. Another thing I was not sure of heading into the showing was the plot. I really didn’t think they could write enough story to last for an entire movie. Once again, I was suprised by Rogen and company. I don’t want to spoil too much for those who have not seen the movie. The story follows Frank the sausage (Seth Rogen) and Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig) on their lives within the grocery store where they live and the desire of all the food to reach “the great beyond” with the “gods” (humans). I won’t divulge any more information about the adventure but it was unanticipated with how well the story kept me interested.

While I was impressed with the various strengths, this movie does have several weaknesses and they are glaring. There is an opening musical number which starts out strong and funny but seemed to carry on too long and I began to lose hope in the movie as a whole. Even though majority of the humor is strong, there are plenty of parts that try too hard to be funny through shock value. These scenes push past the boundary of joyful tomfoolery and into vulgar buffoonery. Again I do not want to spoil anything but when you see the movie maybe you will understand. If you happen to disagree, leave a comment with your thoughts and discuss! With all the strengths in the story line, the ending was among the weak points. I thought the movie was going to end with an acceptable movie ending but the writers had other ideas it seems and the movie extended for several minutes that didn’t add any value.

Overall this movie presents a mixed bag. It has laughable moments mixed in with some cringe worthy moments. It has a fairly solid story that sometimes gets a little wayward. If your desire is to have a relatively quick (well under 2 hours) laugh with minimal thinking involved then Sausage Party may be for you. If you are easily offended then you probably aren’t interested anyway and should stay away. Sausage Party had some potential to distinguish itself as a higher quality juvenile humor animated film but didn’t quite deliver on all fronts. I will give it 5 Apologies but the filmmakers offer none of their own.

Leave your thoughts on the movie below!

-Movie Apologist

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

I can remember seeing this movie in theaters and now it’s celebrating a 10 year anniversary, seems like a fitting time to write a review about it. This review may contain spoilers. I know not everyone is a Will Ferrell fan, but this movie is definitely one of his best efforts. The first scene sets the tone and lets you know what kind of movie you are about to watch. It is about a Nascar driver, Ricky Bobby and his rise, fall, and then rise again in the sport.

Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is a fantastic character. He is big, bold, brash, and hilariously stupid. His exchanges and interactions with his best friend and teammate Cal Naughton Jr (John C. Reilly) make up some of the best parts of the movie. One of my favorite scenes is after Cal moves into Ricky’s home and Ricky is living with his mom. Ricky is upset that Cal has betrayed their friendship by stealing his wife and home, but Cal still wants to be friends. Cal calls Ricky and is asking him how to have the stereo on at the same time as he’s watching tv, Ricky asks him why and Cal says “I like to party”. It cracks me up every time. Ricky keeps trying to end the phone call since he’s mad at Cal, Cal keeps extending the conversation. Ricky just exclaims “why am I still talking to you man?!” It is such a relatable situation, friends mad at each other and yet still sucked into conversation. We can laugh at that. What tops the hilarity of this scene is the level of dumb in the question Cal uses to initiate the conversation.

Another classic scene is when Ricky crashes his car and believes he is on fire. He strips down to just his underwear and helmet comically fast and is running around as he would if he were actually on fire. Cal leaves his car and rushes to “save” his him from the invisible fire. The ridiculousness in this whole scene leaves the commentators in the movie, as well as the viewers of the movie, to just sit back in awe and laugh. The film is saturated with scenes such as this, dramatic and comedic interpretations of Nascar culture and lifestyle, openly mocking the stereotypes.

Beyond just Ferrell and Reilly there are a number of high quality characters each played very well by the actors and actresses. Specifically, I enjoyed the contributions from Jane Lynch and Gary Cole as Ricky’s parents. They did not have the biggest roles but the scripts and humor fit the tone. Sasha Baron Cohen plays the main antagonist Jean Girard, a Formula One racer who was hired to beat Ricky. Sasha is known to play wild and crazy characters in his other movies and was appropriately cast for this unique character. He dialed back his usual intensity so as not to over shadow the main character. Overall it is a very enjoyable and funny movie, however it is definitely not what you would call a “smart comedy”. This is stupid humor but it will put a smile on your face over and over again.

Talladega Nights earns itself a very solid rating of  2 Apologies.