Five Things I Loved About “The Wolfman.”

Okay, the movie doesn’t work.  It has zero character development and the plot – which is actually quite good – seems to have wound up largely on the cutting room floor.  But you have to understand, when I was a mite, the Universal Studio monsters were all in all to me.  That kid in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot with the Aurora monster models on his shelves – that was me.  And just as in comic books – which I also loved – there were two major stars, Superman and Batman, and then one cool and off-beat runner-up in Spiderman, so with the Universal monsters, there were Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula – and then Wolf Man.

Wolf Man was cool because unlike Dracula or Frankenstein’s monster, he wasn’t evil or angry or brutish or out for revenge.  He was a great guy who didn’t want to be a monster at all.  He was just cursed with a ravening beast within.  What little boy can’t identify with that?  What male humanoid, for that matter?

So every time I saw a trailer for this weekend’s Wolfman remake, a Chris Matthews style thrill ran up my leg.  (Until I realized it actually was Chris Matthews.  The guy will not leave me alone.)  And even though I could see the film itself wasn’t really working, I enjoyed every minute of it and there were some things about it I actually loved.  Five, to be exact.  And here they are:

1. Brio over Irony.  Director Joe Johnston didn’t take the easy path of making fun of his subject or holding himself above it.  He went for it.  You want gothic settings?  I’ll show you gothic settings!  You want a full moon?  Look at this baby!  It was the real deal all the way and if the characters and plot had been there, the thing would’ve been a visual masterpiece.

2. Anthony Hopkins.  The guy could make a full-blooded character out of a matchstick and a piece of twine and that’s pretty much what he does here.  How you hire an actor like that and give him, essentially, one scene to act in, I don’t know.  But it’s a great scene and, as always, when Hopkins is having fun, we’re having fun.

3. The big insane asylum scene.  The marvelous and underused Antony Sher delivers a delightful and ultimately literal evisceration of the analytical approach to life.  Hilarious in a macabre way without taking you out of the movie.

4. Hugo Weaving as the Scotland Yard guy.  I love it when an actor gets what he’s supposed to do and does it to the max.  Weaving plays the part for real but gets into the whole gothic enthusiasm of it at the same time.  He captures the tone of the movie perfectly.

5. The scenery.  It’s meant to be terrific to look at and it is terrific to look at.  The woods, the mansion, the sepulcher, London and London Bridge.  I may buy the DVD just to see them all again.  Cool beans.

Oh, and also there’s the fact that Benicio Del Toro looks exactly like Lon Chaney Jr. in the original:  overfed and lachrymose, not to mention completely unable to do an upper class accent.

Ah well.  I wish it had been as good as the trailer, but a good time was had by me.

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  • hollywoodron

    this guy adores Che, so i’m pretty annoyed. i’ll wait till its a dust bin dvd before i watch it.

  • Frankie Are

    Andrew, I too loved my monsters when I was a tyke (a great old word). I remember putting my Wolfman model together and getting a buzz from that (since outlawed) glue. Do kids still make model monsters? Anyway, your enthusiasm has made me want to see this remake only for the reasons you outlined. If any one of them is inaccurate then you have a major wedgie coming to you. You’ve been warned.

  • naturalfake

    You’re right on the button with your reasons.

    But, you missed one-

    (very mild spoilers)

    The savagery of the attacks. And a particularly nice build up with the opening scene and then the brief glimpse in the morgue to the slaughter in the gypsy camp.

    You got a real feeling for why the werewolf was so feared.

    Good horror movies know when to let the crazy loose and this one did.

    Not perfect, not as great as it could have been, but a fun time? Absolutely.

  • Larry

    Haven’t seen it yet – but you intrigue me. I always had a soft spot for Lon Chaney Jr.’s Larry Talbot. Such an awareness of his own inner horror. Plus the guys’ name was Larry! (Hey, these things are important when you’re six)
    Laughed aloud when you mentioned Hugo Weaving. The man is incredible. What can you say about a guy who’s voice work raises the overall class of a movie like “Babe”?



  • JohnVS

    I’ve been holding off on this one. Like you, I had all the models (don’t forget King Kong and the Creature from the Black Lagoon). I hate to see a good thing ruined. But I think you’ve convinced me to see it on purely nostalgic grounds.

  • Christian Toto

    I would toss in ‘the effects,’ a nice hodgepodge of old school makeup and CGI magic.

    Not sure why you hire an actress as beguiling as Emily Blunt and not bother to introduce a love story into the narrative.

    And while del Toro shares Chaney’s haunted eyes he delivers a terribly bland performance.

  • mike baron

    I wish I were as enthusiastic. I did think Benicio was an excellent choice for Talbot, but then he never really captured my enthusiasm. Bottom line, it wasn’t scary. I can’t remember the last really scary movie that came out. High hopes for Shutter Island.

  • SFontana

    I’ve just watched the movie in a near town. Boring, so boring. I can’t say anything good about it, even though I love the Victorian aesthetic and I love lightweight flicks. I don’t even agree with the points Andrew writes about, and Andrew is always right!!! Bad direction work -for elegant Victorian horror scenes you watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula-, bad interpretation work (del Toro offers time after time the same expression, come on Benicio, where’s the inner drive?, you’re a nice guy who has just lost his brother, loves his girl and is becoming a monster!!!), no tension, no nice music, smug dialogues…

    Ok, I accept the last 30 minutes or so are ok.

    [PD: Sorry for my English.]