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Victor Frankenstein’ poorly updates a familiar story

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Victor Frankenstein
Jeffrey M. Anderson

Two and a half stars

Victor Frankenstein Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay. Directed by Paul McGuigan. Rated PG-13. Now playing.

James McAvoy gives a brightly manic performance as the title character in Victor Frankenstein, his fevered speeches sending out flecks of spittle and fog, as if his body temperature were always elevated. He’s like a kooky pal that you’d follow just about anywhere. And that’s what Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) does, understandably, after Victor rescues him—a nameless hunchbacked clown—from the circus and makes him an assistant. Radcliffe uses his soulful eyes well, conveying a touching compassion and gratitude that can only come from knowing misery. If the movie had been about the two of them, a character-study chamber piece with splashes of humor, it would have been terrific.

But writer Max Landis (American Ultra) takes it too far, adding too much: a romance for Igor with an injured acrobat (Jessica Brown Findlay), a doggedly pursuing Scotland Yard inspector (Andrew Scott) and a snooty, malevolent benefactor (Freddie Fox). Director Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin) seems to agree; when the movie turns its focus from the two leads, he distractedly noodles around with different shots of glass and reflections and refractions, and lazily chops together the obligatory action and chase scenes. Still, it’s better than last year’s I, Frankenstein.

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