Van Helsing: Movie, DVD & Blu-ray Review (2009)

10/27/2009 Posted by Admin

Movie, DVD, Blu-ray review

"Van Helsing"

(Originally published 2004)

The spectacle "Van Helsing" is loosely based on Bram Stoker’s famed, stake-wielding character from his 1897 novel, "Dracula." It’s not for the faint of heart, though it is perfectly suited for the hard of hearing.

The decibel level on this CGI powerhouse from Stephen Sommers ("The Mummy," "The Mummy Returns") is jacked so high, there’s the sense that the filmmakers wanted everyone to join in the fun—those in the theater next to you, those in the next state, and perhaps even Stoker himself, who has been dead for nearly 100 years, but who has no doubt heard every word of this movie from his London grave.

The film, which Sommers based on his own script, follows last year’s "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" in that it gathers together several well-known monsters and villains from the past, and allows them to go at each other’s undead throats for the better half of two hours.

The difference between the films? As chaotic and as overblown as "Van Helsing" is, it never wants for energy, it doesn’t take itself seriously, and as a whole, it’s rather fun--elements the overbearing "Gentlemen" lacked.

The movie stars Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing, who has had something of an extreme makeover since Anthony Hopkins played him in 1992’s "Dracula." Indeed, the only thing sagging on this Van Helsing is the brim of his hat. Otherwise, he’s buff and young, a swarthy tough who finds himself multi-tasking for the Vatican.

Van Helsing has been charged to kill Count Dracula, who is played by Richard Roxburgh in the sort of buckles-and-brocade attire favored by Michael Jackson during his "Bad" period. Drac’s drag is unsettling, yes, but what’s more unsettling is that in order to kill the count, Van Helsing will first need to go through Frankenstein’s Monster (Shuler Hensley), who turns out to be an intellectual softy, and the Wolf Man (Will Kemp), whose bite apparently holds the key to killing Dracula. Who knew?

Tossed into the mix is Kate Beckinsale’s Anna Valerious, who sounds like an invasive species of plant and who behaves like one.

She’s a hot piece of work, sporting Lara Croft’s body and double her attitude, and she undulates onscreen in ways that would make the folks at a red light district blush. Her tart, rolling Romanian accent gives the film the necessary jolt of camp it needs, but then so do the three shrieking, winged vamps (Josie Maran, Elena Anaya, Silvia Colloca) who take to the skies to do Dracula’s dirty work.

In a blood-thirsty, dead-three-centuries sort of way, they’re perfectly charming if a bit high strung and unmannered, which proves fitting for this $150 million blockbuster that embraces the same qualities.

Grade: B

View the trailer here:

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