Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Wolfman (***1/2)

The Wolfman. 102 mins. R. Directed by Joe Johnston. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self. Starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, and Hugo Weaving.

I have to admit, I was not expecting much from this latest remake of the Universal horror classic. Forget about the horror on screen; from the sound of it, the real horror lay behind the scenes, in getting this production off the ground. From release delays, to director switches, to script rewrites, The Wolfman has been plagued by negativity and bad press for a while now, and how nice to finally see the finished product and find that director Joe Johnston and his collaborators actually pull it off. This Wolfman is no classic, but it's a bloody good time at the movies. Despite its period setting, the movie is anything but a stately drag. Benicio Del Toro (who also produced) stars as Lawrence Talbot, an American actor who returns home to attend the funeral of his brother, who's been killed by some mysterious creature. Soon, Lawrence himself is bit by the wolf, and he turns into the Wolfman whenever the moon is full. Emily Blunt is his love interest, Hugo Weaving is the dogged Scotland Yard inspector, and Anthony Hopkins is the father, who is a little too sympathetic to Lawrence's predicament. I have to credit the editors, including the great Walter Murch, who shaped this movie into a working whole, if only just barely. I'm also pleased to give Johnston a pat on the back. I'm a big fan of Johnston's The Rocketeer, and he's having a great time here, honoring the Universal horror classics and paying homage to them, while also shooting the wolf attacks with a rip-roaring, blood-spurting frenzy that is thoroughly modern. The Wolfman design by Rick Baker and transformation special effects are top notch. Those alone are worth the price of admission. And composer Danny Elfman keeps things aurally interesting and exciting throughout. The Wolfman may not be perfect, but it's fun and awfully cool at times, especially whenever the moon is full and the Wolfman is out and about doing his thing.

- John


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