There are two movies I can always count on to put me in the proper spooked-out, gleefully morose mood I crave. They are both seriously flawed yet provide the comfiest old fashioned creep quilt you’d ever want to bask beneath. BRAM STOKER’s DRACULA(1992) is lush and sweeping, though famously marred by dingbat acting and TIM BURTONS SLEEPY HOLLOW(1999) is brisk and haunting, though convoluted and scarred by numerous doofus moments. Well, I’m happy as hell to add THE WOLFMAN to my short list of beautiful losers; it is a relentlessly gorgeous visual stun-athon that hits the ground running but ends up stumbling and falling on its face like a damsel in knotted woods. The good news is that this wolf’s room emptying flatulence takes place so late in the party that you can only shake your head and chuckle at it as you push it out the door.
Does anyone else think that BENICIO DEL TORRO resembles DEAN STOCKWELL mixed with BRAD PITT’s way hotter brother? There is inspired casting everywhere you look here folks and although ANTHONY HOPKINS is a ham and cheese hot pocket, that’s what he’s paid for. I know that I’m a sucker for all things pasty and raven haired, but EMILY BLUNT and her ice shard eyes are almost too much for me to bare. I’ve had a mild case of stalker love for her ever since WIND CHILL but now I think it’s time to start cutting out letters from magazines and assembling a message for her eyes only. Man oh man this movie with its lantern lit caravans, leather bound libraries, silver canes and whiskey drinks, gnarled branches and autumnal fervor is just plain ravishing. I seriously just wanted to walk into the screen and stay there forever; y’all know what you can do with your iPads and GA-GA’s (No offense, fame monster!)
So how’s the story (or the wolf’s tale?) well for the most part great. It all pretty nicely moves up to an incredible peak at a mental institution where our pal Larry gets the FRANCES FARMER treatment. In fact, the psychological spine of this flick is sort of a reverse FRANCES that replaces mommy issues with daddy ones. Maybe a subtler approach would have worked better here (we are basically dunked into an icy bath of HOPKINS’ Freudian faux-pas) but it’s an undeniable super blast watching the inevitable head shredding of numerous head shrinkers.
Now I don’t want to get too spoiley here but things do go downhill eventually. The films climax borders on cartoon ridiculous and the father /son conflict becomes a tiresome diversion from what’s really interesting about THE WOLFMAN, the subjugation of our animal impulses. The final battle we are shown doesn’t even visually mesh properly with the rest of the picture. Whereas before we were shown awesome half-man/half-wolf hybrids suddenly there are fuzzy super hero creatures bouncing around. Any CGI subtly you may have been hoping for is (literally at one point) thrown out the window.
I bet you dollars to dog biscuits that this BATTLE OF THE GARGANTUANS looking ending (I’m not exaggerating by the way) was part of the film’s notorious reshoots. The only thing that scares me more than the idea that Hollywood thinks audiences are so dumb that they need this type of crap to enjoy a film is the idea that Hollywood may be right. THE WOLFMAN was doing quite fine without the adolescent action figure shit and a more somber conclusion was called for.
The fact that THE WOLFMAN revealed its desperation and lap dog subservience in the end does not spoil the fact that me and the old boy had an excellent run. I’m sure that future viewings will smooth my distaste for the third act but I’m sending out a prayer for an alternate director’s cut of some sort anyway. THE WOLFMAN is mostly just too goth-glorious to miss, my eyeballs are still writing home about it as we speak. It’s sad though that certain people could not trust the tale enough to allow it to take its natural course. As usual, somebody somewhere confused setting the beast free with pulling in the reigns.