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The Wolfman

by David Foucher
EDGE Publisher
Friday Feb 12, 2010
The Wolfman

There's something delightfully campy about "The Wolfman" despite some rather obvious shortcomings. It's not just "inspired" by the 1941 Universal film - it's literally a throwback to the horror movies of yore. Director Joe Johnston washes out the color, assaults our senses with loud music and rippingly bad dialogue, and even - god love him - has the villagers mobbing their way through the woods with torches and pitchforks.

Oh, OK. There were no pitchforks, not really. But I'm betting they were thrown out just before the cameras rolled.

The plot is similar to the original: Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to his happily-named home of Blackmoor, England, to discover why his brother has left his fiancée (Emily Blunt) and gone plum missing. There he reunites with his father (Anthony Hopkins), gets bitten by a werewolf, turns into one himself, starts to go on killing sprees by the light of the full moon, and is hunted to death by an inspector (Hugo Weaving) and an angry mob of villagers.

Did I ruin it for you? Surely not. The joy of his film isn't to be found in the suspenseful plot, Danny Elfman's turgid music, or the hysterically banal script. Johnston's action sequences - which actually will get your pulse moving when the fur starts to fly - seem to pale over time, their impact fading away like the everpresent dark mists of Blackmoor. Even the performances of Del Toro and Blunt, while necessarily earnest, suffer underneath the brooding lighting and dank settings of Victorian England. No, it's the dual performances of Hopkins and Weaving - who alone seem to thrive amidst the B-picture sensibilities of the film by grotesquely chewing the scenery with panache - that make "The Wolfman" worth seeing.

When Hopkins first appears, wearing a tiger-skin robe, rattling around a disheveled, oversized mansion, his glib, rhythmic portrayal of Talbot's father punctuated by flashes of lightning, it's as if he just crawled menacingly out of a Hammer Horror film to reclaim some of the vim of moviemaking sans CGI. It seems odd that Hopkins would step into such an unfortunate project - particularly one that is hitting the megaplexes right in the middle of the mid-winter Hollywood hibernation. But in retrospect, I bet almost any A-list heavyweight would love to sink their teeth into (couldn't resist) an over-the-top lead in a B-movie with a big budget; it's just pure fun.

It seems Huge Weaving felt the same way; the alum of "The Matrix," "Lord of the Rings" and "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" has, in "The Wolfman," a chance to return to an outrageously frivolous role that's as fun to watch as it clearly was to portray. He's the perfect Scotland Yard detective, staring down Lawrence with the same penetrating gaze he uses later to put a mouthy waitress in her place; to him, mangled victims are just the inevitable byproducts of an blood-racing search for society's malformed psyches.

Were it not for these two performances, "The Wolfman" would have devolved into self-deprecating severity, a movie unaware that it is, in fact, a blithe recreation of a celluloid relic. Instead, it's cheeky entertainment at its tawdry best.

The Wolfman

Info

Runtime :: 102 mins
Release Date :: Feb 12, 2010
Language :: English
Country :: United States



David Foucher is the CEO of the EDGE Media Network and Pride Labs LLC, is a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association, and is accredited with the Online Society of Film Critics. David lives with his daughter in Dedham MA.


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