"The Wolfman" Movie Review (2010)

2/19/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

“The Wolfman”

Directed by Joe Johnston, written by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self, 91 minutes, rated R.

By Christopher Smith

The new Benicio Del Toro movie, “Hirsute and Hatin’ It” (okay, “The Wolfman”), is so ripe with the stink of fouled fromage, it should have taken place in France instead of Victorian England. But here we are, wet and slumming it, and while the set decoration is excellent, the same can’t be said for the film itself.

If you follow movie news, you know this beauty has been delayed and tweaked for months by its studio, Universal, which allowed its 1941 classic film of the same name (sort of--it was called “The Wolf Man” then) to be bastardized by director Joe Johnston, the man responsible for such crowd-pleasures as “Jumanji” and the forever-memorable “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”

Johnston’s remake was supposed to howl in theaters last year. The irony? It became a howler in theaters this year. Sure, that’s a cliché and a bad joke, but it’s also a community service. If that line didn’t take you down, you should know that it has nothing on the several cringe-inducing moments in “The Wolfman.”

Just for the hell of it, let’s first point our fingers at screenwriters Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self. They are, after all, the people who saddled audiences with the film’s trite, boring script, and who failed to strike a balance between a serious horror movie and one tinged with elements of camp. While that was handled with finesse in John Landis’ terrific 1981 cult movie, “An American Werewolf in London,” here the two collide and then collapse in their strained effort to come together.

About the story. It’s been changed. For instance, instead of being an astronomy student in California, as Lon Chaney Jr. was in the original, we now have Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot, a Shakespearean actor in New York circa 1891 who returns to England when word comes that his brother has gone missing and then is found murdered. And by murdered, we’re talking torn apart. By what? Lycenthropy! Determined to find his brother’s killer, Lawrence takes to the woods and starts his dumb search. Naturally, he has a nasty brush with the werewolf who killed his brother, and he’s bitten. Cue the moon.

Larry’s questionable father, Sir John (Anthony Hopkins, employing every accent in his deep bag of tricks, not the least of which are elements of the character from which he apparently never can escape, Hannibal Lecter), is a sorry replacement for Claude Rains, who had the capacity to elicit sympathy. Hopkins doesn’t--at least not here, where he’s featured as a cold caricature with a feasting heart, in which is tucked a secret that sucker-punches the movie. It won’t be revealed here, but what were they thinking?

Providing a bodice and a trembling bottom lip is Emily Blunt, who should have returned to her livelier role in “The Young Victoria.” Here, Blunt is Lawrence’s dead brother’s former intended. Who wants to bet she takes a moonshine to Lawrence? Also in the movie is Hugo Weaving, who plays a detective from Scotland Yard.

Now, about the gore. Here’s a tip--don’t eat before watching the movie because here’s what’s on the menu--severed heads, ropes of entrails, kidneys ripped free from messy midsections, and the transformation of Lawrence into the Wolfman himself. The movie actually excels here, offering its best scene as Lawrence is questioned about his current state of being only to go bananas for bloodshed while screaming “I will kill all of you!” He’s not joking. The scene has what much of the movie lacks--tight action, nice editing, and some genuine chills as Lawrence gets down to the gutting.

Too much gutting, actually. “The Wolfman” is filled with so much over-the-top gore, you have to wonder whether Johnston knows how to build suspense at all. You want to take his hand, pat it, and say, “Less is more, Joe.” But no. His heavy-handed approach harms a movie that should have been ensconced in Lawrence’s confusion and self-loathing, not blood for the sake of blood. It’s a choice that costs the movie plenty, beginning with its soul.

Still, in the end, at my screening at least, the best part of the show had nothing to do with what was onscreen. Instead, somewhere in the theater, one inspired audience member let out a “boo” midway through that lasted for about 10 seconds and sounded amusingly like a werewolf howling, complete with a pitch that increased to the heavens. Whoever did it, bravo.

Grade: D+

View our preview of "The Wolfman" below:

View the trailer for "The Wolfman" below. What are your thoughts of the movie?

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  1. tneo said...

    loved the review. i was excited to see it because it seemed like a movie that had tons of potential. oh well

  2. @graywolfpack said...

    Bummer. I actually am going to go see this today with my wife, oldest son and his wife. Now I think the girls are going to split off and see Valentines day instead. Hopefully I will still like it ok. I tend to have different expectations when I go see a movie. I'm looking to be entertained. I let you know my opinion here later on.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Writting from Venezuela, greetings!
    Absolutely bad film.
    The review was way better done than the film, really; though it was actually merciful. They did not use many good neurons in the making of it. Del Toro and Hopkins aren't even there. The writers an director are baaad at their job.

  4. @graywolfpack said...

    ok, as I said earlier I would recomment after going to go see the film. Saw it on saturday. First off let me say again that I am not a film critic, I am just a regular joe that goes to a movie to be entertained. So here it goes, I totally disagree about the film. We loved it. If your looking for a literary masterpiece, well this ain't it, but if your looking for an entertaining monster slaughters the innocent, make you jump when they say boo, cringe at how bad things go for the angry mob kind of movie, this should fit the bill. I thought it was fun and gave me just what I was looking for. Just my opinion.

  5. Admin said...

    Glad you like it, Gray! There are no wrong opinions here--thanks for sharing yours.


  6. baba44713 said...

    Completely agree with the review.

    Saw this last night and was so severely underwhelmed I couldn't even master up the energy to get angry at my friend who talked me into seeing it. You sign up Hopkins, Del Toro and Blunt and end up with this dreck? Preposterous.

    There's one redeeming feature though - the movie at least lets you know right away how bad your movie-going experience will be. From the atrocious opening scene to the horrible, horrible pacing in the first 15 minutes (is anyone really surprised almost 20 minutes have been cut from the first half of the movie? thought so), I don't think there was a single person in the audience who held hopes the movie will actually become watchable somewhere down the line.

    I *am* going to rent it on DVD, though. Not to see the missing 20 minutes of the movie, mind you, but in hopes that special features will include Anthony Hopkins explaining how drunk they had to get him to agree on, well... you know what I'm talking about if you saw the movie. Why, Sir Anthony, why??

  7. Anita said...

    I'm on strike. I refuse to watch any more remakes that change the original story; it's hardly ever an improvement. Especially movies based on books, I'm talking about you, 2010 Alice In Wonderland! To replace Lewis Carroll's words with the words of the writer of the Garbage Pail Kids TV show makes me worry about Hollywood. I'll skip The Wolfman, and watch The Wolf Man again. I thought Lon Chaney Jr., as Larry Talbot, was charming! Nothing about this movie seems charming.