MOVIES | Joe Johnston’s “The Wolfman” is a real dog


The Wolfman, playing now at Twin Cities movie houses, has two selling points going for it strong as sulfuric acid. Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, Things We Left In The Fire) starring in the title role, and the fact that the flick is based on the original horror classic. For good measure, there’s Oscar-winner and industry icon Anthony Hopkins in the supporting lead. If there’s any such thing as a can’t-miss call, this is it—but the smart money comes up short. Neither Del Toro nor Hopkins have been linked to a lousy flick, until now. The Wolfman stinks on hot ice.

All overkill without the slightest substance, it’s the handiwork of hack director Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) with skilled screenwriters Andrew Kevin Walker (Sleepy Hollow) and David Self (The Haunting), who got roped into letting Johnston and the producers—including Del Toro—put their names on this travesty. Curt Siodmak wrote the 1941 screenplay, and if he’s not rolling in the grave, it’s only because there isn’t enough room in the coffin.

From the outset, it’s clear the idea here is to play on preconceived hype. You get the spookiness of the original, stately grace meeting exotic ambience to ostensibly generate suspenseful, flesh-crawling terror. The lordly Talbot clan sees far-flung, to-the-manor-born, son Sir Lawrence return home and innocently succumb to a gypsy curse by which he suffers wretched circumstance beyond reckoning, transforming, when the moon waxes full, into a rampaging werewolf.

Johnston took this concept and rendered it stillborn with inert exposition that occupied fully half the film before any action occurred—at which time, even Del Toro’s expert acting can’t save things. For that matter, Anthony Hopkins clearly wasn’t given enough time to fully rehearse, telephoning it in through the first half before actually acting in the second half. Emily Blunt as the swooning love interest and Hugo Weaving as the wizened sleuth trailing the beast both acquit themselves. The whole cast combined, though, cannot pull this one out of the tank—nor can makeup wizard Rick Baker, who does an incredible job. The Wolfman, ultimately, is a dog. With fleas.