Hellboy (2004)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 4/2/04
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Special Effects: Rick Baker, Tippett Studios, Fantasy II
Cast: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt

Mike Mignola's "Hellboy" comic book comes to life with Ron Perlman in the lead. This is the role he was born to play, and he really doesn't even need the makeup for the part. Having never read the comic, I don't know how good the adaptation is, but it certainly feels overly juvenile. During World War II when Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were scouring the globe for religious artifacts, a transdimensional gate was opened by the reportedly dead Rasputin. Responding to Hitler's actions, President Roosevelt created a bureau for investigating paranormal activities, and the American military managed to destroy the gate before the gods of chaos could be awakened. But something came through the rift - a tiny child with red skin, horns, a tail, and a hand made of stone. Unbelievably, they don't kill him, and instead take him back to the states where he grows up to be Hellboy. His job is to keep America safe from mutants and monsters, but he's naturally misunderstood and persecuted. An old enemy from the past shows up to reveal Hellboy's true nature, and he and his friends are put through their paces in a barrage of digital effects.

A good looking film, but often cheezy and overly silly. Its comic book roots are immediately obvious, so you know that you're in for a lot of over-the-top action and craziness right up front. The wacky sensibilities and corny dialog will also make you cringe. On the plus side, the makeup and effects are excellent, Ron Perlman is great as Hellboy, and Selma Blair is unspeakably gorgeous. In an embarrassing snafu, all of the prints of the film that got released contained a huge editing flaw, where an entire sequence of events is missing. It's so severe that the theater even posted warnings and disclaimers about it. One minute, Hellboy, Liz, and John are fighting monsters and winning, and the next, they're all captured and chained by a couple of villains who came out of nowhere. Laughably inexcuseable, and hopefully they'll correct this for the DVD release.