Hellboy (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The academy doesn't generally award Oscars to people who play monsters in comic book movies, but if ever one man deserved such an award, it is Ron Perlman. Although he has never been awarded by the American academy, he has won several Emmys for his work in Beauty and the Beast, and was nominated by the French Academy as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Quest for Fire.

I don't think there has ever been anyone quite like him, a man capable of bringing true humanity and natural expression to people trapped inside distorted and deformed bodies. Good acting is not easy even when you can use your own face, but it's damned hard to do through latex, and Perlman is the master. This guy will leave you crying in The City of Lost Children, and will absolutely dazzle you with his tour-de-force performance in The Name of the Rose, in which he plays a toothless, feeble-minded hunchback who speaks a melange of languages, yet makes the character seem as sympathetic and normal and casual as your next door neighbor. After you watch that movie, you will swear that the part was played by a real hunchback, or at least by a man no taller than 4', yet Perlman is 6'3" or more.

The plot of Hellboy is completely ridiculous, even by comic book standards (Rasputin + Nazis + an infinitely self-replicating hell-hound + an H.P. Lovecraft demon hoping to cross through the gate from another dimension). The minor characters are not particularly interesting, except for a few fleeting moments from the sarcastic deadpan specialist Jeffrey Tambor as an FBI big-wig. The action scenes are OK, but some of the scene transitions are confusing. Granted, the set design is colorful and imaginative, but do you watch a movie for set design? No. You need something involving. Perlman, as the title character, provides it.



DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by director Guillermo del Toro and co-executive producer Mike Mignola

  • Commentary by Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, and Jeffrey Tambor

  • Theatrical trailer(s), TV spot(s)

  • All-new DVD comics: eight branching DVD comics by Mike Mignola

  • "Hellboy: The Seeds of Creation": a 2.5-hour documentary

  • "Right Hand of Doom: Set Visits": behind-the-scenes branching feature

  • "From the Den" Hellboy recommends... Gerald McBoing Boing animated shorts

  • Feature-length storyboard track

  • Video introduction by Selma Blair

  • Four computer-generated animated scene breakdowns

  • Five Board-a-Matics: side-by-side comparison of scenes with animated storyboards

  • Animatics

  • Three deleted scenes with optional commentary by Guillermo del Toro

  • Character bios written by the director

  • Maquette 3-D character sculptures video gallery

  • Poster explorations

  • DVD-ROM: director's notebook, printable original screenplay, script supervisor's book

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

Perlman single-handedly makes Hellboy worth watching. As a demon rescued from hell and raised by a kindly professor to be a friend of man, he is simultaneously swaggering and insecure, heroic and casual, cynical and idealistic. Although Perlman is in his 50s and getting a bit old to be an action hero who spends all day in a heavy costume and make-up, his performance, in every nuance of emotion, with every punch line, and throughout the action scenes, is just note perfect. In fact, after seeing him here, I wished they had cast him instead of Michael Chiklis to play Ben Grimm in The Fantastic Four, because it seemed to me that he was exactly how I imagined The Thing.

The bottom line is that Hellboy is a surprisingly good watch, despite a plot which is kind of a cross between the most outrageous aspects of  Raiders of the Lost Ark and Men in Black 2. Whenever the thing gets too silly, Perlman shows up and puts it right back on course. With two fully-loaded disks of features (one of the documentaries is longer than the film!), the DVD is an excellent addition to your collection.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: more than three stars. James Berardinelli 3/4, Roger Ebert 3.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. A surprisingly solid performer ($60 million), which immediately set the sequel in motion. Budget: $66 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. Very entertaining comic book movie, thanks to Mr Perlman. DVD recommended.

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