Written by: Kit Bowen, Special to CC2K
This Wolfman redo certainly won't be the classic its 1941 predecessor was, but it serves its purpose – that is, if you like a somewhat dull, Gothic story that only gets exciting once the guy grows hair and big teeth.
You think Lon Chaney Jr. would have given Benicio Del Toro some credit for taking on the iconic role and giving as much depth to the character as he possibly can? Probably. Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, a stage actor living in America, who returns to his ancestral home in England when he learns his brother has gone missing. So, off he goes, returning to discover his father (Anthony Hopkins) has gone slightly looney tunes in his long absence – and that his brother has been found torn apart by some beast. Ah, but then there's the lovely and bereaved Gwen (Emily Blunt), the brother's fiance, who implores Lawrence to find out exactly what happened. So, off he goes, into the gypsy camp in the woods, on a night with a full moon, to ask a few questions (because gypsies know all about curses and the such), only to be attacked by some kind of wolf-like animal, and thus scarred for life, if you know what I mean. It's get pretty hairy after that.
Del Toro really does try his best to aptly convey the proper amount of anguish and complexity to a role that basically boils down to him becoming an angry, overgrown furball, who seriously likes to rip off the limps and heads of most of his victims. Saying this film is gory would be putting it mildly — major amounts of blood and entrails, which is understandable, given the fact we are dealing with wild animals. As for the other actors, Hopkins seems to be channeling his crazy old man from Legends of the Fall, playing it typically over the top, while The Matrix's Hugo Weaving, as a detective from Scotland Yard, has some of the better lines, even if he delivers them very deliberately. I honestly thought at one point he was going to say, “Mr. An-der-son.” And Ms. Blunt also tries hard to add gravitas to the proceedings with her pleading eyes and heaving breasts. She definitely fits the Victorian period to a tee.
The Wolfman's real asset, of course, is in the special effects, which director Joe Johnston (Hildago, Jurassic Park III) uses to its full capacity, and the action, which there isn't quite enough of. The transformation from man to wolf looks painful, natch – the fingers bending at weird angles, the face contorting. But as I watched this, I couldn't help thinking about An American Werewolf in London, which in my opinion is still one of the better werewolves movies out there. It's obvious Johnston feels the same way since he seems to be paying homage to the John Landis' classic, from the Wolfman's carnage-filled race through the London streets, to the horrifying dreams Lawrence experiences after he's been bitten. Sadly, though, The Wolfman is devoid of any sex or pop songs with the word “moon” in them.
Unfortunately, The Wolfman doesn't quite live up to its potential but does provide a few moments of jumps and starts – and a whole lotta blood and guts. Let's just say, this isn't the hunky wolf pack from New Moon, heavens no.
Kit Bowen is an entertainment journalist and movie critic. She was formerly the Managing Editor for Hollywood.com and currently blogs for her site TheMovieKit.com.