Hellboy II: The Golden Army
That kitten-loving, flame-retardant, kick-ass anti-hero is back--bigger, badder and redder than ever. Hellboy fans will be in heaven; everyone else will be in you guessed it.
With a huge fan-base fueled by the original Mike Mignola comic books and the DVD of the semi-hit 2004 film, anticipation runs high for Universal's all-out sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army--especially in light of director and ultimate fanboy Guillermo Del Toro's Oscar winning masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth. But beware, this new Hellboy considerably ramps up the body count, triples the creatures and steps up the volume. As you may recall Red, aka Hellboy (Ron Perlman), was born in 1955, the apparent result of a unique mating ritual between the Nazis and the Devil. As years went by, he escaped his grim pedigree by becoming a reluctant cigar-chomping force for good. Hellboy II opens with a flashback in which his nominal father-figure Professor Broom (John Hurt) reads him a Christmas Eve bedtime story about the creation of the Golden Army, something SO evil, it had to be deep-sixed in a deal The Crown cut with the human race. Cut to a half century later, and this bedtime info comes in handy as Red is now an employee of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense where he works with pyrotechnic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) and fish-man Abe Sapien (Doug Jones). Things heat up when he faces off with the evil Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), who is looking to take over, um, the world. This all leads to lots of confrontation and eventually Ireland--home of the Golden Army and site of the inevitable battle to once again make the world a safer place.
Whatever success Hellboy--and now it's sequel has--is at least partially due to Perlman's dry, funny interpretation of the role. This is a butt-ugly, comic book hero with a rich sense of humor and a deep love for kittens and cigars. Perlman plays it big and wry for all its worth. Best (non-CGI) sequence in the film has the drunken Red teaming up with bluer-than-blue Abe Sapien for an abysmal but high-spirited rendition of Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You"--a karaoke singer's dream. Of course, Red's main gig is mayhem--creating it and ending it--which Perlman tackles with great aplomb. Blair returns in style as the fiery (literally) girlfriend, who may have some blessed news. Also back is the aforementioned wonderful Doug Jones as Abe (this time handling his own vocals) and Jeffrey Tambor, perfectly cast as their flustered boss. Goss is evil-personified as the bad boy Prince, although he sounds like one of those dubbed actors straight out of a cheapie '50s sword and sandal epic.
Del Toro, whose imagination for all things fantastical, seems to love spreading new monsters all over his own unique cinematic fantasy lands. Although the multitude of visuals almost become an assault--and even tiring after a while--they are technically, at least, a breathtaking achievement. His "cast of creatures" include the ominous Angel of death and Nuada's army of helpers (a gross ape-like lieutenant and singular cockroaches among them). They are fun but so outrageous they don't approach the truly haunting alternate world he created in Pan's Labyrinth. Del Toro's command of the camera is equally impressive and the battle/fight scenes are staged for the full-on visceral intended effect. It's an ambitious, if a bit over-cooked, Hellboy sequel. Despite its flaws, Del Toro disciples will almost certainly be delighted with what he has managed to get on screen but converts may be few and far between. And what fun the director will have as he heads into Lord of the Rings territory by taking on The Hobbit.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.