OF THE OLD-SCHOOL Universal monster flicks, 1941's The Wolf Man was an atmospheric masterpiece, with Lon Chaney as Larry Talbot, an everyman stricken by the ravaging animalistic curse of lycanthropy and victim to his all-consuming urges. These days we have the remake The Wolfman with Benicio Del Toro as the wolfy Lawrence Talbot, a mumbling nancy who's home from an acting gig to reconcile with his father. Umm dude, it's Larry, not Lawrence... stop trying so hard. In fact, Wolfman, why don't you stop trying so hard too. It's just sad.
Desperately intending to evoke the feel and nostalgia of the horror classic, director Joe Johnston's Wolfman is set in the English countryside of the late 19th century. Lawrence (Del Toro) returns home to his family's rural estate after the brutal death of his brother to see his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins—how he could've fathered Del Toro is quite the unexplained mystery). Increasingly enamored with his dead brother's fiancée, Gwen (Emily Blunt), Lawrence promises to find his brother's killer--and promptly gets embroiled in the townsfolk's tales of rampaging werewolves. That's when a crazed monster bites him, the moon starts to mess his shit up, and the woods get all gothic.
First off, The Wolfman is about as fun to watch as that attention-hungry, paste-eating kid you pitied in kindergarten. Chockfull of showy, heavy-handed sound effects and overbearing scare tactics, it falls flat in the suspense and fright departments, gravely mistaking bombast for atmosphere.
Add in the dreary star turn by Del Toro, who just might be a hair more likeable and less wooden in his non-speaking, werewolf form. He lacks the repressed everyman demeanor that makes for an ideal dual-natured werewolf—with none of the barely restrained anger waiting to explode in animal form. Top it all off with some questionable costume choices—I'm sorry, but Del Toro looks like an overgrown Eddie Munster—and The Wolfman's re-imagining lacks any sort of imagination at all.