The Wolfman was a rather harrowing experience for me. You see, I went to a theater that's part of a mall, and being in a mall, you'd think it's extremely normal for people to buy things and carry them into the movies. I mean, it's pretty hard to ask people to ditch all the stuff they purchase just to see a film, right?
So, I was rather puzzled when I show up for my screening of Joe Johnston's new creature feature with a five-dollar slushie drink from the Japanese place in the food court and I'm told I can't bring it in, because they're not allowed to let in outside drinks. I mean, it's a mall food court that's right next to the theater, doesn't that count? It was like purchasing a water for an inflated price within the airport terminal, only to be told I can't bring it on the plane. I mean, it's not like my slushy is going to blow up the theater!
No, I had to ditch it. I even begged a manager, and told him that it cost a pretty penny and I couldn't chug it because I'd get brain freeze. The heartless bastard didn't care. "Rules are rules," he said. I asked if he'd reimburse me for the drink. He said no. Then I demanded that if I threw it out, he must offer me a free "replacement" from the concession stand. He agreed to my terms. 10 minutes later, I had a large blue raspberry ICEE® drink in my hand, which I'm sure was valued at well over $5, and was finally on my way into the theater...The ICEE was a huge letdown compared to the Japanese boutique strawberry slushy with rainbow jelly I had purchased earlier, and I was still angry that I had to throw such a fine beverage in the trash, not just because I wanted to taste its sweet, fruit juice based deliciousness throughout what I was sure to be a crappy film, but because this theater's management were a bunch of wasteful jerks. Kids are starving in Africa and they make me throw away my slushy? We should be more thankful for what we have than to force people to waste money and resources by having them destroy their tasty foreign beverages before entering the theater. That's why poor people hate America! If I wasn't an annual pass holder, I'd never go back to the theater.
Anyway, I sit down and immediately notice that the theater seats are extremely close together. Now, I admit I have been putting on a few pounds lately, but I'm not crazy, and the cup holders were clearly brand new, which made me realize that the cheap-asses who run the joint just managed to cram a few more people into each row by making me sit uncomfortably close to the stranger next to me. People in this country are getting fatter by the minute and they decide to make the seats smaller? Insanity! Needless to say, I was feeling a little claustrophobic as I sat through my millionth viewing of the Iron Man 2 trailer, and just about every other trailer that's out there right now.
30 minutes later and the movie actually starts, so I pull out the package of sour straws that I managed to sneak by the Nazis who run the joint. I had sacrificed an amazing slushy for these sour straws, they better be worth it! They weren't. I put the first straw in my mouth and realized that they were horribly stale. Yes, candy can get stale. Instead of tart, pliable strawberry goodness, I got tart, stiff cardboard. The Horror.
Oh yeah, you want to know about the movie. Well, in a nutshell, it sucked.
Just kidding. No, the movie really did suck, and you came here for a review, so listen up. The film starts out on a lame note and just gets worse from there. In fact, the very first scare is a fake-out and when the real ones start rolling in, they're almost completely ineffective. I laughed out loud when the title of the film exploded onto the screen in the form of a bleeding tombstone and thought "Gee, maybe this will be one of those So-Bad-They're-Good movies!" and was ready to take the ride.
If I had to equate The Wolfman to a ride I've been on, it would probably have to be the Teacups. Now, some of you may like riding the Teacups, and that's fine, but that doesn't make it a good ride. This sure as shit wasn't Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (God rest its soul). Much like the Teacups, the film just kinda recycles the same old stuff for about 100 minutes and then ingloriously wraps it all up, leving you a little dizzy. The film's a total paycheck for everyone involved- from writer Andrew Kevin Walker through to composer Danny Elfman. In between, the most interesting thing we get is Hugo Weaving grumbling in a pub while reading a newspaper. Literally.
Producer Benicio Del Toro is hopelessly miscast as a British-born American who has come home to investigate the disappearance of his brother, whom he hasn't seen in decades. He arrives at his palatial former residence only to find that it has fallen into disrepair, and that his wily old dad, played with little relish by Anthony Hopkins, is still a crusty jerk.
After visiting some gypsies, Del Toro is bitten by the mysterious monster that's been lurking in the woods, and who supposedly killed his brother. As per the classic tale, Del Toro's character transforms into the titular Wolfman and the townspeople grab their torches and pitchforks. Now, the modern twist Johnston has added to the mix is that Hopkins apparently killed Del Toro's mum when he was a kid, Del Toro saw it and was sent to a looney bin in London to be cured. I won't spoil anything for you, but I'll say that it's the crux of the film's plot, and could have been an interesting story, had anyone along the line realized that they were just pissing on a classic and stopped to say "hey, we're f@*#ing up the Wolfman, stop!"
Unfortunately, Joe Johnston is the master of squandering potential, to the point where even Anthony Hopkins phones in his performance. The special effects look like digital poo smeared on celluloid, and when the they are done practically, they're cartoonish at best. I mean, was this really meant to be a serious film when one of the most memorable kills the Wolfman makes is an Evil Dead-like swatting off of a villagers head? Yes, the Wolfman is so strong he can literally knock your head off of your shoulders! Add in some craptacular lines, some really incongruous motives from a few characters, and a dash of bad acting, and you've got yourself what should be a nasty little b-movie. Sadly, the Wolfman fails to entertain as even schlock. Even Danny Elfman's score is an uninspired rip-off of themes used in Bram Stoker's Dracula.
I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on Johnston, as he was brought in last-minute after the original director, Mark Romanek, wussed out. It's tough to pick up the pieces and make something good, especially when you only have 3 weeks to prepare for it. I mean, Stanley Kubrick made Spartacus in... oh wait, it's not that impossible.
There are some good things about the movie. For instance, it's well shot, even though the night scenes are a little over-lit in my opinion, but it all has a nice Gothic English feeling to it. Same goes to the production design, even though none of it felt particularly fresh, more like imitations of things we've seen in other movies- I swear the classroom in the London asylum was in another film recently. The film's crowning achievement? About 2 seconds of Emily Blunt's side-boob, but that still has been floating around the net for a while now, so there's really no point in seeing the movie if that's what you're after. (Look for it in our Wolfman pictures gallery!)
The sad fact is that nothing in The Wolfman evokes any kind of reaction, and everyone involved seems to be to blame. It's all sort of just there. If you're looking for scares, you won't get 'em. If you're looking for strong performances, they're nowhere to be found. And if you're looking to be entertained, it ain't gonna happen. Case-in-point: the most horrifying part of my film-going experience of The Wolfman was when the movie theater staff made me prematurely dispose of my slushy.
In the words of Anthony Hopkins' character in the film, "You've done terrible things, Joe Johnston, terrible things!" We desperately wanted you to redeem yourself for Jurassic Park III, but you've only managed to dig a deeper ditch. That Captain America movie is looking a lot less interesting now...
I give it one star for the struggle of being made.
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