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Philly2Philly Movie Review: The Wolfman

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The Wolfman  was essentially one of those campy monster figures from the 1930's that has now become iconic. The half man, half beast figure has been recreated (The Howling) and parodied (Teen Wolf!!) throughout time. Now, over 70 years later, Universal has decided to resurrect the The Wolfman article photo: http://monsterscifishow.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/wolfman-2009.jpgstory. However, why now? And is this a justifiable update to such a dated monster?

The story starts with a thunderous score (exceptional Danny Elfman) that rarely let's up energy for the remaining two hour running time. The film opens to a feast for the eyes. Dark washed up greys, smog and sprawling Blackmoor locales drench the screen. Lawrence (Benicio Del Toro) is seen riding through a carriage, returning home for the funeral of his brother, who has been unexpectedly murdered. Ripped to shreds by what some say was a beast, others say a truly psychotic man, Lawrence vows to uncover the truth before returning back to London.

Upon arriving at the estate, Lawrence befriends his estranged father Sir John (Anthony Hopkins) and brother's widow Gwen (Emily Blunt), both grieving over the tragedy. During his stay, he is also haunted by memories of his childhood and that of his mother's suicide, which he witnessed. Also, during this time he is witness to a brutal werewolf attack on a nearby village, one that he doesn't escape without being bitten.

As Werewolf lore goes, once the beast has marked someone with its bite, there is no cure. Slowly, Lawrence changes into a monster, only to be fully transformed by a full moon. Meanwhile, Gwen, who has fallen in love with him, decides there must be a way to change his fate from the curse and sets out on a quest for answers before Lawrence loses himself inside the beast for good.

The original Wolfman still remains somewhat of a classic in the horror genre. I doubt this update will be remembered ten years from now. It's an entirely topical experience, lacking in depth, tragedy, and scope. The script offers very few surprises. Hack director Joe Johnston's (Jumanji, Jurassic Park 3) input ensures a more commercially accessible film than most, but he fails to bring any flair to the story. Imagine what someone like Tim Burton  could have done with this!

The acting is fine, but with such great talent gone to waste, someone should be arrested. (It's I hate Joe Johnston day, so why not him) Del Toro is acceptable as the brooding, cold actor turned wolfman, although he does play with the part a bit too flat. Emily Blunt is good, but the screenplay gives her very little purpose in the long run. Finally, Hopkins gets to chew some scenery as the deranged father figure, a role that we've seen him play too many times before.

The Wolfman is a stunningly average production, despite the decent special effects and beautiful scenery. For sheer bloody, limb crushing entertainment, sure, it more or less delivers on occasion. However, the story is cliché, the dialogue is terrible, and the experience generally unimaginative. It's like a ride in Universal Studios—passable and occasionally thrilling, but forgotten by the end of the night.

You can contact Jim Teti at itetmij@gmail.com