I'll say it up front: I hadn't anticipated a movie this much since INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Unfortunately, more often than not, the reality doesn't live up to the dream. THE WOLFMAN, twice postponed (a red flag right there), opened Friday, and considering it was an R-rated horror movie opening on the no. 1 date weekend of the year, $30 mil at the box office wasn't too bad. But I digress. I liked some of it; not enough to give it a big rave, but I think horror fans will be able to enjoy it.
This movie was championed by Benicio Del Toro; he starred in it, stuck by it when the first director dropped out and the release date was pushed back, even got a producer's credit for his efforts. And he turned out to be one of the best things in the movie. Del Toro does "tortured soul" very well, and he even bears a passing resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr, although I might be pushing that a bit. I liked what he brought to the tragic character of Lawrence Talbot, prodigal son returned just in time to take on the most iconic of all horror film curses. I liked the British actress Emily Blunt as Gwen Conliffe, the love interest. The two had a nice chemistry together. I was less enamored of Anthony Hopkins, chewing the scenery in the Claude Rains role as Del Toro' s father, Sir John. He was short, squat, looked like Louis Pasteur, and opened the door on a plot point that really sent the movie off the rails.
Which is a shame, because for a while there I really enjoyed myself. The look of THE WOLFMAN was spectacular; the production designer deserves some kind of award for the film. (Even though I knew much of what I was seeing, especially the long range shots of the mansion, was pure CGI.)
And speaking of CGI -- the transformation scenes (what you were allowed to see, anyway) were less than impressive. Rick Baker's legendary expertise was limited to close-up head shots of the creature; second-choice director Joe Johnston decided to forego a time-consuming transformation process a la Baker's masterpiece, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. He chose instead to let the computers run wild, and once again, we're presented with a gallery of faked CGI numbers that truly underwhelm. Let's face it; when you see the Wolfman leaping across city rooftops on all fours like a hungry husky, you kinda know you're not watching flesh and blood.
I'll give the film a qualified thumb's up for a good show from Del Toro, Blunt, and Baker. It's worth about 7 out of 10 stars. But purists of the 1941 film -- prepare to scream foul when that little plot point I mentioned earlier rears its ugly head. You'll want to take screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (SE7EN) and kick him in the nards. Because, after all, the wolfman has nards. Remember?