The Wolfman
dir Joe Johnston
scr Andrew Kevin Walker; David Self
prd Sean Daniel, Benicio Del Toro, Scott Stuber, Rick Yorn
with Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, Geraldine Chaplin, Antony Sher, Art Malik, Michael Cronin, Roger Frost, David Sterne, Lorraine Hilton, Jordan Coulson
release UK/US 12.Feb.10
10/UK Universal 1h41
The Wolfman
The animal within: Del Toro and Blunt

hopkins weaving chaplin
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The Wolfman This B-movie made on an epic budget is so over-the-top that the earlier you start giggling the better. Even though it's played dead straight, it's an old-style monster romp that couldn't be any more camp if it tried.

American-raised actor Lawrence (Del Toro) returns to his family manor on an English moor, where his wild-haired father Sir John (Hopkins) lives with his Sikh servant (Malik). Lawrence discovers that his brother has just been killed in the woods by a vicious creature, which later wounds him as well, turning him into a werewolf. And on the first full moon, he finds himself on the hunt as well as chased by a Scotland Yard detective (Weaving). But maybe a gypsy woman (Chaplin) and his brother's ex-fiancee (Blunt) hold the key to his salvation.

There's definitely the sense that this film has been tampered with along the way, as reshoots are clearly visible here and there, and the choppy story editing leaves no sign that gifted writers like Walker and Self were involved. The dialog is merely daft cliches strung together almost completely separate from the plot, which is a by-the-books schlocker. And the hyped-up gothic production design nearly overwhelms us with fog, shadows and dust-infused shafts of strategically placed light.

In other words, there's barely a moment of subtlety anywhere, although Blunt and Del Toro try to give their characters a hint of thoughtfulness when they can. Hopkins has a ball with his mad-eyed character, who has a strong whiff of Hannibal Lecter about him. Meanwhile, Weaving is amusing as the arrogant, eyebrow-arching detective, and Sher is hilarious as a slithery psychiatist who's clearly doomed to die a horrible death from the moment we meet him.

Fortunately, there's a sense that the filmmakers were actually going for broke with the silliness, as witnessed in the classic-style make-up design and some gleefully preposterous action scenes. The problem is that they never seem sure what they're trying to achieve: it's never remotely scary, despite constant red herrings and loud soundtrack jolts, and it's never overtly comical, even though it would be difficult to make a spoof that was any goofier than this.

cert 15 themes, strong violence, grisliness 8.Feb.10

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