Review: The Wolfman

Would it be too clichéd to start with: More bark than bite?  The Wolfman is a showcase for makeup genius Rick Baker to show off what he can do, even if the movie fails horribly at doing the same.

Joe Johnston returns to directing after a six-year layoff (his last, Hidalgo, was pretty good) to bring us a retelling of the classic werewolf tale.  Unfortunately, cool hairy faces, previous Oscar winners and gory deaths does not a good film make.  Howl at that, Benicio.

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THE SETUP:
Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro, who I heard saved an hour of makeup because of how hairy he already was) returns to his family home after news of his brother’s disappearance.  Once it’s confirmed by his father (Anthony Hopkins) that the disappearance has turned to death, Lawrence decides to stay in town to discover the truth.  With news of a “monster” killing townspeople and a comely ex-girlfriend…or wife.  That wasn’t really explained (Emily Blunt).  It’s not long before Lawrence meets the monster and becomes one himself only to be hunted by a Scotland Yard inspector (Hugo Weaving).  Merriment and high-jinx ensues.

THE THOUGHTS:
I was excited to see this movie from the trailer (a Coming Attractions in this blog a few weeks back).  Benecio is usually pretty good.  Anthony Hopkins is just Anthony Hopkins and I liked the idea of going with the old timey werewolf a la Lon Chaney Jr.

My excitement faded when I noticed I was kind of falling asleep.

I’ll start with the positive.  The makeup and werewolf attacks were fantastic.  Rick Baker is a GOD when it comes to this kind of stuff…especially of the wolfy variety (he won the first ever Oscar for Makeup for An American Werewolf in London).  He hasn’t missed a step here.  The transformation scenes were disturbing and unbelievable.  Yeah yeah there was a little CGI in there but for the most part, WOW.  I also loved the fact they went with a more wolfMAN than wolfwolf which is very much in vein with the original black and white version.

The attack scenes were also really intense.  Also REALLY gory.  There’s a reason this one is Rated-R.  Throats slashed open, stomachs eviscerated, heads beheaded…it’s a buffet of gross.  I also liked the fact they kept the visual of the wolfman a secret for a while.  It’s always scarier when you can throw in your own imagination.

Now to the bad.  And there was a lot of bad.  First, I couldn’t remotely see any chemistry between Benecio and Blunt.  I have no idea why either one of them would be interested in the other…and if they were…HIS BROTHER JUST DIED! Geez, grieve a little first why don’t you.  The two characters weren’t compatible at all and it showed.  Hell, all the characters were pretty bland.  Even Sir Anthony Hopkins seemed to dial it in.  Second, I hate movies that have things jump out at you just to have things jump out at you.  The Wolfman does that a lot.  I get it.  I’m on my toes.  Now stop trying to make me jump and tell a decent story.  Lastly, you find yourself not feeling that sympathetic to the main character and neither does anyone else.  Here’s a man who is cursed to become savage and kill anything in front of him but when someone looks to find a cure, she’s told to “leave him be.”  The guy just killed 20+ innocent people. Should we really be screaming, “ah, it’s not his fault. Do unto others. Blah blah.”  I didn’t feel that bad for him nor his family issues.  The whole movie was more a visual appetizer with no literary meat for the main course (I must be hungry).

THE WOLFMAN Rating:
1 star – a renter. Pretty/Gruesome to look at as Rick Baker once again shows why he’s the best in the business. It’s really his movie. Benecio on the other hand has failed here as a leading man and no matter how many hours of makeup will change that.  Rent it if Zombieland is out.

Coming Attractions:

Leaves of Grass (release date: April 2, 2010) – Ed Norton does his best “Parent Trap” impression as an Ivy League twin vs. a red neck/moonshine twin.  I could go on but that’s worth admission right there.

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Randomly Recommended
The movies I’m recommending this week have a few things in common beyond the usual links to the weekly review.  Both were filmed in B.C. (hey, It’s the Olympics!  I’m jumping on the promotion bandwagon) and both start with “the” (ok, not as noteworthy).

The Pledge (2001) – Sean Penn directs Jack Nicholson in a story about a man that can’t let go of a crime he promised to solve.  It’s dark.  It’s creepy.  It’s an interesting look at obsession and what someone will do when they don’t know how to get over it.  Did I mention it also has Benecio Del Toro, Aaron Eckhart, Mickey Rourke, Helen Mirren and Sam Shepard in it?

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The Edge (1997) – This movie has stayed with me for a while and certainly one I recommend.  Anthony Hopkins and Alec (waaaaay pre-30 Rock) Baldwin are stuck in the wilderness and must survive on their own.  With secrets and large bears in their way, this is a great thriller.

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 Review: The Wolfman
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Comments

  1. A lot of bad + buffet of gross = me watching something else.

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