Benicio Del Toro sleepwalks through this dull update of "The Wolfman." (Universal)
Benicio Del Toro pulls off a nifty trick in "The Wolfman": He makes turning into a werewolf look as dull as doing your taxes.
The deeply brooding Oscar-winner proves all wrong for the lead role in this update of the Lon Chaney-starring classic monster movie. He sleepwalks through the role of Lawrence Talbot so much that by the time he becomes a werewolf, midway through the film, you expect him to yawn at the moon, not howl at it.
When he is a wolf, the film's pulse quickens -- or at least the volume rises. Sudden, gory bursts of violence fill the screen with beheadings, dismemberings and general werewolf-on-man violence, at least giving gore-hounds something to shout about. But the long stretches in between prove deadly; and Del Toro is so blank that comparatively Taylor Lautner's performance as the werewolf in "New Moon" looks like a richly layered character study.
It's 1890s England and Talbot (Del Toro) returns home after the death of his brother, who has been mauled by some sort of creature of the night. Talbot has a strained relationship with his father, played by Anthony Hopkins, who spends an inordinate amount of time talking about and staring at full moons (hint, hint!). Meanwhile, his brother's fiancÚ (Emily Blunt) mopes around wearing black.
Hopkins is the only one who has any fun; at least hams it up in a loose, scene-chewing performance. Midway through, Hugo Weaving is brought in as a detective on the werewolf's case, but has nothing to do but look dazed. Audiences will relate.
Director Joe Johnston ("Jumanji") has created a handsome-looking film that is marred by a serious identity crisis. It can't decide whether it's a prestige picture or a gore-filled romp, and it ends up a half-hearted mishmash of the two.
"The Wolfman" is a howler all right, just not the right kind.