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Starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and John Hurt
Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro, story by del Toro and Peter Briggs
Based upon the Dark Horse Comic created by Mike Mignola
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

IN SHORT: Over-adapted fantasy action story. [Rated PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence and Frightening Images. 120 minutes]

At their heart, the story form is a very simple thing. There is a hero and a villain. Both have allies and both want, or want to defend something. When those stories enter the realm of fantastic monsters, every single one of 'em shares roots in concepts created by H.P. Lovecraft. While Hellboy is not set in the Cthulu Universe, its bad guys are just as disgusting as their names are hyphenated. The hero of this story would have been one of those disgusting hyphenates, save for the dumb luck of being sucked through a dimensional portal by Nazis, and then being rescued by American soldiers, in the latter days of WWII.

Long time readers of this site know that Cranky is into comics, which is where Mike Mignola's Hellboy first saw the light of day. They also know that rule one of this site is not to compare to Source Material which, in this case, is easy. We've never read Hellboy and were as in the dark as anybody else. The film delivers awe inspiring special effects as it tries to walk that fine line between fantasy horror and adult humor. Ron Perlman, under a ton of prosthetic makeup, pulls off the latter part with ease. del Toro's script adaptation bites off much more than it can chew. It runs far longer than is palatable for the simple reason that it doesn't make its bad guys "bad enough" (or memorable enough for that matter) to make any one cheer once the battle is decided.

As far as this story goes, there are Seven Gods of Chaos who have been waiting millennia for some dumb earthling to open the dimensional gates which have imprisoned them. The Hellboy Universe is one where Hitler died in 1958, at the end of something called the Occult Wars, and the legendary Russian called Rasputin (Karel Roden) survived being chopped into bite sized pieces before the Russian Revolution. It is Rasputin, with a pair of Nazi allies [the masked freak Kroenen (Ladislav Beran) has had his eye lids and lips removed, preferring to wear a full face shield in their place; blonde bombshell Ilsa is Rasputin's lover] who bring the baby Hellboy to this dimensional plane in the closing days of the War. Rescued and raised by a Professor called Bloom (John Hurt), the being is at the forefront of the enforcement activities of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). Basically, Hellboy fights monsters outside of the public eye and keeps publications like the World Weekly News tabloid in business. When Ilsa and Rasputin manage to free an intermediary monster called Samael, events are set in motion that will bring Hellboy, and other super powered employees of the BPRD [Doug Jones as the water breathing "Abe Sapien" and Selma Blair as the pyrokinetic love interest Liz Sherman] into conflict with self-resurrecting monsters and, eventually, the Big Seven.

Had the adaptation managed to shave half an hour off the running time, Hellboy might have been flat out winner. It fails because, just as with many adaptations of door-stop thick novels, there is too much stuff pulled from the original gumming up the works. With fantasy action movies, there's a very simple way to tell if the project succeeds. The audience should roar when Good triumphs over Evil. Our preview theater was packed to the gills, with long lines waiting outside the door for standing room only seats. On the inside, mild applause came with the closing credits.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Hellboy, he would have paid . . .


Released in a week packed with average "dateflicks" of interest to either gender, this one is for the boys.

And don't write to tell us it is David Hyde Pierce under the Abe Sapien getup. It's just his voice, a la James Earl Jones as Darth Vader.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.