AWFJ Women On Film – “The Wolfman” – Susan Granger reviews

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One of the greatest horror classics was “The Wolf Man” (1941), in which Lon Chaney Jr. (son of the silent film icon Lon Chaney) played a hulking, mythological creature known as the lycanthrope or werewolf. So it’s understandable why actor/producer Benicio del Toro (“Traffic,” “Che”) was eager to pay homage in a gothic remake. Set in 1891, he plays Lawrence Talbot, a British nobleman/Shakespearean actor who returns home to Blackmoor, arriving at the decaying Victorian estate belonging to his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins), at the request of his missing brother’s distraught fiancée, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt).

When his brother’s body is found, brutally mutilated on the misty moors, the superstitious townsfolk are terrified. And Lawrence learns first-hand about an ancient curse that turns men into wolves when the moon is full. Horrified, he all-too-gradually realizes his gruesome, demonic destiny, as does Aberline (Hugo Weaving), a suspicious Scotland Yard inspector, and Malvena (Geraldine Chaplin), an old Gypsy woman. What an identity crisis!

Adapted from Curt Siodmak’s original script by Andrew Kevin Walker (“Se7en,” “Sleepy Hollow”), then totally re-written with ludicrous, clichéd lines of dialogue by David Self (“Road to Perdition,” “Thirteen Days”) it’s unfortunately unfocused, conflicted and bizarrely edited. Apparently, after the original director, Mark Romanek, inexplicably departed and Joe Johnson (“Jumanji,” “Jurassic Park 3”) took over, much of the darkly troubled father/son drama was compromised in favor of agonizing, nightmarish insane-asylum sequences and heavy-handed CGI special effects. Not that there’s anything wrong with make-up wizard Rick Baker’s shaggy monsters, although they do somewhat resemble Chewbacca, the Wookie from “Star Wars.” But the result is a defanged hybrid that loses its effectiveness, despite the enthusiastic histrionics put forth by Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt’s subtlety and ever-brooding Benicio Del Toro, who, mystifyingly, is the only actor who speaks without a British accent. Apparently, Lawrence spent time with an aunt in America. Whatever.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Wolfman” is a snarling, savage yet ultimately silly 6. Where are those silver bullets when you need them?

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.