Laremy Legel July 11, 2008
The film starts with a young Hellboy in the 1950s. It’s a mildly cute, visually interesting scene that sets up the initial premise while attempting to establish a broad and pointless comedic tone. Sure, Hellboy’s mouth doesn’t really move well with the dialogue, but you guess that it’s iffy CGI or poor make-up. No big deal. Then the rest of the movie happens. Walking out of the theater, disoriented and miffed, you realize that the whole opening scene was a harbinger of the bad news to come. Visually interesting, somewhat boring, with merciless and brutal “comedy” mixed in every few minutes. Oh, Hellboy II, why were you so bad to us?
I don’t know who would have gotten this far on the Internets without knowing the bare-bones plot of this film, but I’ll play your little game anyway: Hellboy II: The Golden Army is the story of Hellboy and a team of FBI paranormal detectives tasked with hunting down an evil Elf before he unleashes the mythical and mechanical Golden Army upon a helpless world. The Lead Elf is mad at the humans (presumably over not getting Lord of the Rings royalties) and thus feels compelled to destroy humankind. We’ve all been there. There’s a girl/love interest on Hellboy’s side (Selma Blair) and he has a quasi-worthless sidekick named Abe. Jeffrey Tambor rounds out the human cast as the ineffectual boss of the team.
Abe — or rather what Abe represents — is one of the main problems with the story. He seems to have no superpower of use in a fight, and his main goal seems to be to stumble over dialogue and be effeminate. This would be fine in a large ensemble cast, but as Hellboy’s chief support he’s painfully pointless. He reminded me a lot of R2-D2, but if every scene only had Han and R2. His tired act gets stale about midway through the film.
The closest relative to this movie in terms of pedigree is the 2005 version of The Honeymooners. As with that one, the comedy here is so vanilla that it hurts. We’re evidently supposed to laugh hysterically when Hellboy shouts “Now you’ve pissed me off!” or “Lucy, I’m home!” (clip) But I don’t know who laughs at that sort of thing. Imbeciles? I realize comedy is in the eye of the beholder, but for a generation raised on Seinfeld, Friends, or heck, even Martin, the gags here are all so telegraphed that it’s hard not to be miserable. It’s all rounded off with Pink Panther-style music that’s offensive to anyone who believes that the art of the punchline has evolved.
So I hated this. You might not. Remember, as we clarified with Hancock and Iron Man, it’s OKAY if you LOVE this movie. Nothing would make me happier. In fact, list in the comments how awesome it is so that both sides get a voice. Or maybe read this guy, as Hellboy II clearly changed his life for the better.
My one positive note would be that the visuals ARE solid and Del Toro again puts a noticeable stamp on his work. My problem wasn’t the look of the film or the concepts it presented — and the ending of the film was actually sort of interesting too. My main issue was how often this movie slipped into vintage “wocka-wocka” and represented Hellboy as a giant red idiot. In the end I found myself pulling for the bad guy — because at least he was interesting.
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