Movie Poster
Van Helsing
Stephen Sommers
Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsdale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley
132 min.


Being Faramir and Wolverine's computer generated adventures in Eastern Europe.

Hard as I find it to recommend anthing about a movie in which a villain actually says, "Too bad, so sad," the film does make good use of its one great asset: Richard Roxburgh's righteously scenery-chewing performance as Dracula. And they do rock the Hollywood Romanian accents pretty relentlessly.

Writer-director (you know, like singer-songwriter) Stephen Sommers takes a stock man gets separated from his gun, man retrieves his gun, man gets separated from his gun, man worries about protecting his genitals from a tractor wheel, man retrieves his gun, man kills vampires story and saddles it with every single action-comedy cliche in the illustrious history of film. And he changes the gun to a pneumatically-loading fast-fire crossbow.

Purists have decried Sommers' defiling of the classic films upon which Van Helsing was based, but they fail to take into account the fact that the 1931 Frankenstein wasn't very good aside from Karloff as the monster. Bride is the one that's the classic. Besides, this monster is based more on the fruity book version. The well-read monster with the conflicted character motivations. But at least his brain glows.

The film begins with Van Helsing fighting Mr. Hyde, who sports a thick Irish accent and a computer generated plumber's crack. He spends the rest of the movie fighting werewolves who, in addition to the teeth, seem to have gained wolves' natural ability to climb walls, and Dracula's brides who are entirely worthless except for the occasional picturesque upside-down cleavage.

But Richard Roxburgh is really good. His performance is so far over the top that it achieves subtlety. A subtlety that is lacking from every other aspect of this movie. The one great failing of Van Helsing is that Dracula's death scene is given to the effects artists.

The other, minor failings are plentiful. They include, but are not limited to: David Wenham as the kung-fu-style bungling sidekick comic relief is exactly funny enough not to cancel out how irritating he is; the ending, in which Kate Beckinsale, her family's curse lifted, is allowed into heaven and her ethereal image smiles down from the clouds upon Hugh Jackman.

The film does have its minor graces, too, though: the anachronistic stretch fabric in Kate Beckinsale's pants; the vampire infants that explode like popping corn; well, that's really it.

Maybe next time he'll fight the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Pat Jackson