The Wolfman: Howls of Laughter?

Feb 23, 2010 by Douglas McBride

In 1941 they called the film of man turned animal, The Wolf Man. Shot in black and white, the film is still considered a classic of the horror genre today. The original Wolfman starred Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains, Eveyln Ankers, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles, Bela Legosi, and Maria Ouspenskaya.

Well, times have changed folks. That was then, this is now, and classic is definitely not the word for the 2010 version of the film.

So, here’s a caveat: If you can appreciate The Wolfman as a campy, over the top work of suspense, and an accidental comedy, you might actually enjoy it. Seeing old London re-imagined is sort of a kick, and you could make an argument that some of the film’s elements actually work fairly well.

The Wolfman

That being said, you’ll need to come expecting very little, armed with your most generous sense of humor. An appreciation for cheap thrill horror and a serious werewolf fetish wouldn’t hurt either, but you get the idea.

If it’s at all telling, The Wolfman did have a production budget of $150 million. In the world of big budget filmmaking, there are more than a few bad films, bad choices, and bad accents. Did we fail to mention big paychecks? Well, The Wolfman is a film that seems to have sunken it’s bloody fangs deep into all of the above, in the worst kind of way. Benicio Del Toro (Lawrence Talbot), who is an otherwise talented actor, serves up what might be one of his most embarrassing performances on film to date.

Del Toro has justifiably captivated audiences in the past. The actor’s work in The Usual Suspects, Traffic, and 21 Grams come to mind immediately, but his hard to mask accent does him no favors in this film.

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Some of Del Toro’s choices in Wolfman also seem uncharacteristically clumsy. Maybe he intended to maximize his clumsiness, so that his performance might dovetail smoothly with the noticeably clumsy efforts of the film’s Director Joe Johnston. In this particular case, that actually takes some doing. Johnston leaves his lead actor looking pretty foolish at times, but it takes two to tango, so Del Toro will have to take much of the blame for dialing in a clunker here.

The fact that the actor earned a Producer credit on Wolfman (and with it a larger take of the film’s gross) is not overly surprising, in light of the performance.

Even Sir Anthony Hopkins (Sir John Talbot) serves up a few moments of wolfishly, inadvertent comedy. So, what the hell is ‘wolfishly, inadvertent comedy?’ Truth be told, there may not be a legitimate answer to that very reasonable question. But, fear not, filmgoers. The closest thing to that legitimate answer will be coming soon to a theater near you, in the form of this film.

In a nutshell, The Wolfman is a halfhearted cheap thrill, and an accidental comedy, but a weak film overall. Putting too many words, and too much effort into lambasting a film that roasts itself so well, always seems like a waste of time and energy. So, we’ll leave this one for dead right here, and let any howls of protest come later. For now, enough said.

If you disagree with us, or if you really loved The Wolfman, we want to hear all about it. Likewise, if you agree with us, or if you hated the film, we’d like to hear your thoughts.

Either way, feel free to start a conversation below, or shoot us a comment at the bottom of the page. We appreciate your love and your anger in equal amounts, and we’ll get back to you with our thoughts.

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8 Responses to “The Wolfman: Howls of Laughter?”

  1. deepseadiver says:

    Wolfman is a joke. Benicio Del Toro obviously whored his incredible talents out for a huge chunk of change and I am not mad at him for doing so – I just hope he doesn’t think we’d actually like to sit through two hours of an over priced, under scripted howling bad time of a horror show. Sir Anthony is getting older and less edgy as all performers in any arena almost always do, so his choice to try and tackle a character in this ballooned budgeted film reel scrap pile is no surprise. I understand that most of any art form is not original and remake after remake is going to be subjected to us all as film goes until the day we die, but at least give us an honest effort – Hollywood! I’m sure in 2030 some jack-ass will be trying to give his generation his new and improved version of “Star Wars” or even worse a Brando-less “Godfather” trilogy. Anyhow, a side step away from that tangent, at the end of the day just because you assemble some of the best actors in the world and maybe even a decent supporting cast and director doesn’t mean it will translate from the page onto the big screen.

    Howling Mad,



  2. Tom Jones says:

    Don’t hold back in telling us what you really think, Doug. Loved this review, and how you can express so well in writing, what most can only think.

    BTW, your review of A Single Man was eloquent and showed your ability to understand the complexities of the human condition.


    Doug McBride Reply:

    Hey deepseadiver and Tom Jones,

    Thanks for the comments, and the compliments! I especially liked the part about me being eloquent! I’ll take a nice, juicy one any day of the week Tom, so thanks again.

    To deepseadiver: The day when some idiot remakes the Star Wars and/or Godfather Trilogies will be a sad day indeed. What’s scary is that someone probably will hatch one or both of those lame duck ideas eventually. Then, some tool of an executive will probably green light the project, in a pathetic effort to make dumpster trucks full of cash. I’ll be glad if I don’t have to live to see the day when it all goes down, but that goes without saying.

    All this talk of film remakes brings to mind the question of which film remakes were actually solid efforts. Any one out there have any films they’d like to nominate for that unique honor?

    Whatever your thoughts are on The Wolfman, or film remakes, we’d love to hear em’ so fire away!


  3. Captain Rick says:

    I just saw it today. Compared to the other slew of horror remakes lately, I’d say it fairs pretty well. I just think Benicio was trying to channel Lon Chaney and it came off as a bad impersonation. Sadly, it’s still the best horror film that’s been released in a while. Great set design.


    Doug McBride Reply:

    Thanks for the comment Captain Rick. I guess they don’t make them like they used to, huh? But as you pointed out, it’s not all bad. We love the comments, and yours was great, so please keep firing away with them!


  4. moviemaniac says:

    I liked the wolf-man. It looked amazing and I felt it was a very well acted and directed piece of horror/action cinema. Benicio, is a tremendous actor and artist. So what was so funny (howls of laughter?) about this film?


    Doug McBride Reply:

    Hey there moviemaniac. We love a good dissenting opinion around these parts, so first off, thanks for your comment.

    It’s not so much that The Wolfman screams laugh out loud comedy. The point here is that there are a few (or more than a few) moments in the film that could be interpreted as inadvertently funny. As in Ha! Hmm. Was that supposed to be funny?

    Accidental comedic moments are obviously not what the filmmakers were going for with this film, and that’s why they merit a mention here. There were quite a few folks snickering here and there in sections of my local theater. There were one or two moments that got solid group laughs also. When a suspense becomes an accidental comedy in certain key moments, you might be watching a film that strays wide of it’s intended mark.

    Without giving too much away to the folks who haven’t seen the film yet, the last scene with Benicio is a bit of a howler. From where I sat, it was played way too over the top, and came across as accidentally funny as a result, as did a few other moments scattered throughout the film.

    You’ll have judge for yourself of course, but if you disagree, we’d love to hear more from you. Maybe there are a few folks out there who completely agree with you. We’d love to hear from them, or anyone else who has thoughts on the film.

    So, let’s hear it folks. What’s your take on The Wolfman? Solid suspense, or maybe something else?


  5. dead-can-walk-too says:

    Wolfman blew chunks!!! I’d rather grow my beard for a year and then have to shave for 3 and a half hours.


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