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The Wolfman

a film by Joe Johnston

When I first heard that they were remaking The Wolfman (and why not - they remake everything else!) one thing came to mind immediately. One person actually. That one person - that one thing - was Benicio del Toro. You could not pick a more suitable actor to play the titular werebeast than if you were to dig up Lon Chaney Jr. and glue some fake fur on him. After all, the actor did make his screen debut playing Duke the dog-faced boy in Big Top Pee Wee so it is already in his cinematic blood. I thought to myself (and out loud too I'm sure) that the film could not, would not work without the rather feral Del Toro in the lead role. Lo and behold, they listened to me (for I am sure it was me they heard loudest) and cast the aforementioned actor in the role of good ole Larry Talbot, the man who howls at the moon. Unfortunately, upon seeing the finished project (directed by Joe Johnston, the man who gave us the underpraised The Rocketeer and the overpraised Jumanji), I had to concede that even with Del Toro howling it up in the lead, this film does not work. It does not work at all. Not at all. And what a shame that is.

Turning from camera tricks and good old-fashioned make-up, to the inevitable CGI-created werewolf (state of the art at the time - and the first Oscar winner for Make-up - An American Werewolf in London is still fuzzy head and shoulders above the cheap CGI incorporated here) Joe Johnston's The Wolfman is a shining example of everything Hollywood does wrong in this blockbuster age of media-savvy franchise builders and supposed critic-proof megaplex fodder. Full of a ridiculous amount of hirsute hamminess throughout (Del Toro's silly mock-seriousness is topped only be Anthony Hopkins in his most ham-fisted role since his ludicrous bear-fighting Yosemite Sam character in the equally ludicrous Legends of the Fall!) Johnston's full moon reboot takes all the deeply rooted psychological delving that is at the very core of such a legendary creature of lore (a psychology that drove the narrative of the classic Universal film this remake so wishes it were) and replaces it with slick CGI and a ubiquitous amping up of the action to where only a canine such as Mr. Talbot himself can even hear its high-pitched squeal. The new moon cannot come soon enough for this movie. [02/27/10]

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