Cheap thrills offered by the cheesiest kind of horror movies are one of my guilty pleasures. I really adore films with stupid monsters and the sillier they are, the more I tend to leave metaphorical drool marks.
However, “The Wolfman” is so very silly that it becomes a pastiche of a pastiche. More than that, it seems to cobble together bits of “Sherlock Holmes” onto Mary Poppins’ London, pulling in a tad of “Hound of the Baskervilles” along the way. I was entertained, but not nearly as much as I hoped I’d be.
How quite so many A- list actors got dragged into this, I cannot imagine. Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Art Malik, Antony Sher, Hugo Weaving, Emily Blunt and Geraldine Chaplin make a starry and talented cast and – along with the cream of British theatre in supporting roles – are almost completely wasted. There is so much ham that Miss Piggy must be near.
The monsters are good. I would expect no less from Joe Johnston, who was first noted as Art Director on “Star Wars” and directed “Jumanji” which was charming, original and had some genuine terror. Yet even though two writers are credited, you feel that they were wasted too.
Plot? There is one, sort of. The prodigal son (Del Toro) comes home to “Blackmoor” for his brother’s funeral. Dad (Hopkins) is the centre of ham acting from the very beginning and suggests that “something is out there” (We watched the beginning, so we already know it’s a werewolf).
The outraged locals decide that the “thing out there” must be stopped, they go out in large groups, all the police are armed (in the 1890s?) and there are so many costume, set and accent anachronisms that you just give up on counting them and lean back to enjoy the ride. Or you try to.
Werewolf effects and makeup? Ten out of ten. Intelligent eye candy for boys and girls? Ten out of ten. Silly gypsy sub-plot? Eight out of ten. Rooftop chase across London? Great fun and nine out of ten, because it feels like similar scenes in “Sherlock” but the production schedule means they couldn’t have seen it first, so it can’t be copied.
It just doesn’t feel like any bit of it is real. Yet, judging by the audience in the Stratford Picture House, it’s aimed at teenage boys and not at me. They were all very amused and I guess it gives them a break from “Mafia Wars” on Facebook.
Frankly, there is nothing here for grown-ups, unless you are a Hopkins completist and have to see things he is in. The 1941 original is wonderful and I have seen it many times. It tries to say something about alienation and separation from society.
The cheap thrills on offer here are not for me. Although I am glad to have seen it as I know which DVD to buy my friends’ teenage sons for Christmas 2010. I guess that will save me more time than this cost me.