Film Review—The Wolfman

by Leonard Maltin
February 12, 2010 5:00 AM
8 Comments
  • |

The good news is, despite long production delays and rumors of disaster, the new remake of The Wolfman isn’t bad…not bad at all. Handsome production design by Rick Heinrichs and great makeup effects by Rick Baker (who also makes a brief appearance on camera) are among its strongest assets. There are some real scares, and a couple of knockout showpiece scenes.

The bad news is, Benicio Del Toro, as the doomed Lawrence Talbot, hasn’t got much of a character to play. His backstory has been reduced to a lightning-quick flashback and a couple of lines of (dubious) exposition, so his plight—as an innocent man who’s transformed into a werewolf—doesn’t carry much emotional weight for us in the audience. (Why does he speak with an American accent when his family is British? We get an answer, but it isn’t very satisfying.)...

This being the 21st century, Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self’s update of the 1941 Curt Siodmak screenplay isn’t content to have one victim in the Talbot family. Talbot’s father, played by Anthony Hopkins, has more than a few loose screws, lives alone in his eerie castle near the moors (but for one strangely loyal servant, a sikh played by Art Malik), and harbors many dark family secrets.
Emily Blunt is perfectly fine as the fiancée of Larry Talbot’s brother, though this isn’t much of a showcase for her talents either. Hugo Weaving is well-cast as a Scotland Yard inspector who’s hot on the trail of the wolfman, and Geraldine Chaplin does a good job in the role of the dour gypsy immortalized by Maria Ouspenskaya in the classic Universal monster movie.

As directed by Joe Johnston, the new Wolfman (one word instead of two, unlike the original) gets so much right it’s a shame it just misses the mark. The scary scenes are well handled, with fleeting glimpses of modern-day gore, but the Big Finale, which I won’t give away, is a washout. Without a real character to play, Del Toro can only do so much, and we come away with no real feeling for Larry Talbot. It’s here that a direct comparison with Lon Chaney, Jr. is inevitable—and unfortunate, as Chaney’s performance remains definitive. I would still encourage anyone, especially horror-movie buffs, to see the film, even with its faults.

Trivia note: as a compulsive credit reader I was surprised to see a notation for an “assistant to Mr. Von Sydow” when Max von Sydow doesn’t appear in the finished film. Apparently his part was cut; he played the man who gave the distinctive silver-headed cane (an homage to the famous prop from 1941) to Lawrence Talbot.

  • |

More: Film Reviews

You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

8 Comments

  • Lionus | September 24, 2011 7:44 AMReply

    Can there be anything in a movie whose story-line is firmly placed in the 19th Century that can even remotely be interesting to an audience living in the 21st Century? No explosions, no car chases, no heavy-breathed suggestions of impending sex. Where's the hook?

    Show the original Chaney "Wolf Man" to an under-25 audience (who are not movie buffs) and it will garner catcalls. The makers of "The Wolfman" had to make a decsion as to who their movie was going to targeted at. An audience who was looking for a Xerox of the 1941 version which could not possilby affect them as that film affected that 1941 audience, or another "American Werewolf in WhereEver" from the Hollywood mass production assembly line.

    Nice homage to a classic, but there should never have been any expectations of a box office hit.

  • Sameer Chowdhury | January 17, 2011 6:44 AMReply

    Comparisn with the Lon Chaney is unavoidable and while The Wolfman plays to its type contemporarily, this contemporary handling in itself is the reason for its weaknesses. While the performances are good (there's a bunch of heavywheight talent around), Del Toro is'nt given, as Maltin states it, much to chew on (though he does what he can with it).
    The Wolfman's credit though is to introduce modern audiences to the Chaney classic which will put a shame to this well put together film which just does'nt quite hit the mark, mostlyy as you tighten on into the second half of the film. But its still just-about-fun enough for an escapist evening. 2 and a half out of four stars.

  • mikael | September 9, 2010 7:37 AMReply

    I just watched this movie and I also noticed that the music was a copy of Coppola's Dracula. I was even more surprised to see at the end credits that it was Danny Elfman's work, wich I am a big fan of... Let's take it as a tribute. The whole movie is made to honor "classics" (and Coppola's masterpiece is one even if it's from the 90's!) and does its job well enough...

  • o.costa | July 8, 2010 11:13 AMReply

    I am not a "compulsive credit reader", but I usualty read the credit's cast, and I was eager to know if the man on the train who gives "the distinctive silver-headed cane" to Lawrence Talbot in "Warewolf" was played either by Christopher Plummer or by Max Von Sydow (I often confound them).
    It surprised me to realize that neither appears on the cast. Not even in IMDB! This movie review was the only place where I got my question answered, however, another one arose: why is the version I watched different than the version reviewed? I wonder how many movies I watch in Brazil (region 4) are different than the same movies released abroad. Or is it just the DVD version that is different from the theatre's?
    Would you be able to enlighten me? Does Mr. Von Sydow appear in the region 1 DVD version?
    Soory to disturb with silly questions...
    For what its worth, I didn't quite like the film, except for Hopkins, the production design and Danny Elfman's (I am a great fan of his) music (even though I believe he "plagiarized" - maybe an excessively strong word, but I am not an english speaker to know better - the extaordinary soundtrack from Coppola's "Bram Stocker's Dracula" - I am an even greater fan of this film and, by the way, the new BluRay version is unbelievably better).

  • Patrick MacGregor | June 10, 2010 5:57 AMReply

    I tend to agree with this review. while there certainly is a lot going for this picture, a lack of certain character/story elements keeps this from being great. However i must note that Max Von Sydow does appear in the unrated director's cut now on dvd. while it may be a small part, he deserves every second that he grabs from us.

  • Cliff Robertson Proprietor of www.MonsterMenagerie | March 11, 2010 4:13 AMReply

    I saw The Wolfman a second time last night and loved it. I didn't see the faults that you saw. Because of all the reported re-working I expected it to be choppy -it wasn't. All good monster fun! This was a re-make that honored the original in every way.

  • JJackson | February 21, 2010 10:57 AMReply

    Couldn't agree more, stay home, rent the original or read the book. This Legend of Wolfboy is pretty good if you're into wolves books and all that. An interesting idea at least. Reading a novel free online, beats a $20 movie. http://LegendOfWolfboy.com/

  • ralch | February 13, 2010 6:52 AMReply

    This movie has compelling performances by Anthony Hopkins and Hugo Weaving, and extraordinary production design. Everything else is lifeless and lacking momentum. Another by-the-numbers Hollywood product.

Email Updates

Latest Tweets

Follow us

Most "Liked"

  • From the Beginning - An Orphan Black ...
  • Fading Gigolo
  • Transcendence
  • A Sharper Focus On Hollywood And WW ...
  • A Shaky Matter


leonardmaltin