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“The Wolfman” finally limps into theaters this weekend following extensive rescheduling, re-shooting and re-editing, and all that tinkering has taken its toll.
What might have been a ripe reimagining of the 1941 Lon Chaney original instead emerges as an all-too-apparent salvage effort — a jury-rigged Frankenstein’s monster of a patchwork lacking any cohesive tone or singular artistic vision.
Not bad enough to be considered a camp, guilty pleasure, it’s more of a dull, defanged dirge with the reliably intriguing Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins turning in oddly disaffected performances.
Given the film’s rabid fanboy following, it could still enjoy a respectable opening weekend, but the curiously anemic end product ultimately won’t be able to break Universal’s prevailing boxoffice curse.
Director Joe Johnston, who came on board after a last-minute departure by Mark Romanek (“One Hour Photo”), certainly knows his way around otherworldly fantasy, having helmed the likes of “Jumanji” and “Jurassic Park III.”
But at least not in its present cut-to-the-bone form does it manage to forge its own distinct path.
Instead, the visual cues and the script — by Andrew Kevin Walker (“Seven”) and David Self (“Road to Perdition”) — seem to constantly waver between wanting to pay homage to the Curt Siodmak-penned original and doing something daringly unique and different without successfully landing on a workable angle.
Again, with all that re-cutting (veteran editor Walter Murch was brought in to rework Dennis Virkler’s first pass), it’s hard to assess the actual depth of the performances, but what’s left onscreen lacks the customary reflection the likes of a Del Toro and Hopkins bring to their roles.
As Lawrence Talbot, who returns to the Blackmoor family fold after years abroad in the U.S., Del Toro, who was among those spearheading the project, has the internalized brooding down cold, but those nocturnal transformations never seem to elicit much of a reaction, remorseful or otherwise. And a third act father-son lycanthropic throwdown falls short of delivering the visceral goods.
Behind the scenes, Danny Elfman’s reinstated score works awfully hard to inject excitement, and creature effects whiz Rick Baker shows he has learned a few nifty new tricks since setting the bar with “An American Werewolf in London,” but, like all those zippy visual effects, they ultimately fail to bring “Wolfman” to life.
Opens: Friday, Feb. 12 (Universal)
Rated R, 102 minutes
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