I'm no math whiz (actually, I kind of am), but when a movie costs $125 to $150 million to make, and only makes $70 million in theaters, that means it lost money. A lot of money. And I'm no movie buff (OK, I definitely am), but when a movie gets bumped back from November 2008 to February 2010, that's usually cause for concern. Put the two together, and you have what is caused an epic disaster.
Thankfully, The Wolfman, one of many Universal Studio flops this year, isn't the cluster it appears to be - though given the cast, which consists of Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving and Anthony Hopkins, it isn't exactly a masterpiece, either.
From director Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III and October Sky), The Wolfman is set in Victorian times. Stage actor Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) travels home amidst a series of strange and brutal murders only to be bitten by a mysterious beast. He soon becomes a werewolf, cursed by the full moon. Chaos and carnage ensue.
The Wolfman looks and feels like a vintage horror film, which may explain why it struggled to bite into audiences (no, wait, that was the two-year delay), but its old school atmosphere actually aids the movie. The Wolfman is a fun, easy to watch monster movie that pays homage to the films of old.
On the flip side, the movie isn't exactly scary. In fact, it isn't scary at all. In Johnston's efforts to make his movie big and grand and beautiful and epic, he forgot that what he is making, more or less, is a horror movie. He's got the gore down - The Wolfman, especially the extended version available on DVD, is full of some incredibly gory sequences - but the scares are nowhere to be found. The lack of this crucial element means that as acceptable as the movie is, it isn't able to reach the level Johnston wanted the film to achieve; it works, but it doesn't amaze.
The actors involved are generally decent, but all have been better in other films. Blunt isn't given much to do, which is a shame; Del Toro is perfectly fine, but doesn't impress like we're used to; and Hopkins is more cheesy than intimidating, having recycled past performances for this fatty paycheck. Weaving is also given a fairly thankless role.
The Wolfman, which comes to DVD next Tuesday, is a victim of expectations, or lack thereof. It is a perfectly suitable film, but horror fans - those people who won't be turned off by the absurdly satisfying gore - will be disappointed by the lack of authentic scares.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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