Monday, February 15, 2010

This 'Wolfman' lacks bite

"The Wolfman"
"Two stars"

By Gary Buiso

“The Wolfman” is a mixed breed of a remake, blending old school with new, and succeeding at neither.

The reimagining of the classic 1941 film ups the gore quotient, but offers a bare-bones story that muzzles a cast that spends much of its time trudging through one foggy set to the next.

Benicio Del Toro plays exiled Englishman Lawrence Talbot, who returns to his home village of Blackmoor after the untimely demise of his brother. Talbot sets about to learn what evil may have befallen his kin, only to become embroiled in the drama himself.

Things get hairy when Talbot decides to begin his investigation at a Gypsy encampment — on a night when a mysterious creature happens to be on the loose. He suffers an unfortunate bite to the neck, eventually unleashing his inner beast.

There’s father-son drama between Talbot and his dad, Sir John (Anthony Hopkins), a second act in an insane asylum, and unrequited love between the junior Talbot and his brother’s fiancee Gwen (Emily Blunt). The story also tweaks how the curse is transmitted, blaming a feral child for the whole mess.

But director Joe Johnston (“Jurassic Park III”) does little to improve the story, which, despite the reboot, seems musty.

A gloomy Del Toro is miscast, exhibiting little post-bite change at all, save for the hair and fangs. Instead of werewolf saliva, it’s as if the monster injected a bit of Valium into the actor.

Hopkins adds as much ham as one would expect. Only Hugo Weaving, playing a Scotland Yard detective, shines, relishing each scene, and offering a glimpse of what could have been had “The Wolfman” followed a clear path.

The film employs the talents of makeup master Rick Baker, who helped reinvent the creature in 1981 with “An American Werewolf in London,” which earned him an Academy Award.

Three decades later, the monster is walking on two legs again, but “The Wolfman” hasn’t really evolved.

“The Wolfman.” Rated R for bloody horror violence and gore. 102 minutes. With Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, and Hugo Weaving.


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