- nuthin', waddya you doin'?
The movie begins with a sickeningly cute Hellboy (as a boy) brushing his teeth, excited for his bedtime story. And the story is? Yep, the saga of the Golden Army, and told in wooden puppet form, it looks pretty cool. Cut to: the present-the bedtime story is now a reality. An evil prince has to assemble three scattered pieces of a golden crown to raise the evil Golden Army from its dormancy to unleash Hell on earth...here's where Hellboy excels. He likes to kick monster butt.
Hellboy resides in a paranormal research center that is actually the home of a bunch of human oddities that would fare well in a freak sideshow. Oh, and they fight crime. Everyone's back, including sidekick fish-boy Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), but without David Hyde-Pierce's voice. Stepping into the webs-flipper-gills, Jones brings some credibility. Hellboy's girlfriend, Liz the Fire-Girl (Selma Blair) returns as does their totally lame love story. Manning (Jeffery Tambor) is once again the head of the government funded super-freak hideaway.
Perlman is a perfect Hellboy-a diverse actor that hardly anyone knows, remaining even more incognito with all that red makeup and Samurai hairdo. Blair is always good, but hasn't much to do here, but whine and act supportive.
Director Guillermo Del Toro uses the film to extend his vision of the Pan's Labyrinth city. There are tooth fairies, little gremlin-like things with piranha teeth and bat wings, a legless troll and attached cart, crawling with sand crabs, a wormy troll-eating kitties (seen only through special glasses), a spiny monster with a ball and chain for a hand, a fortune-teller with a cathedral for a head, an eyeball-winged Angel of Death (resembling high-tech Harryhausen) and a Forest monster looking like an Earthday version of the creature in Cloverfield. And there's more in the troll market with psychedelic beasts of all shapes and sizes crawling out of the woodwork. The top-notch creatures assembled from Del Toro's imagination never give the feeling of overt high-tech showboating. It's as though he infused the LSD-laden Fillmore/Avalon ballroom posters from the 60s with the Greco-Roman and Renaissance period, adding a dash of Godzilla for extra flair. He's also big on gears and mechanical gizmos with all their precision. The skillfully choreographed fight scenes amidst grinding cogwheels were proficiently violent and well staged. Even the fact that there was hardly any blood didn't bug me.
The music was well chosen; the use of Eels' "Beautiful Freak" was cool if not exactly original. But the winning scene when Abe and Hellboy drown their girl troubles with Tecate and sing to Barry Manilow is absolutely hilarious.
Hellboy II has its moments of hokey cornball crap, and was sometimes too big for its own good especially near the end. It gets to be an overload, but this is a small price to pay for artistic comic book extravaganza. This movie has so much eye candy there's no possible way one can get bored. Del Toro's superb and extreme artistic vision actually really is good for all ages. It also keeps a positive message left over from Pan's: "in death there is beauty."
There's plenty of twisted beauty in Hellboy II. It's a campy romp with monster clobbering, a trite love story and a bevy of repugnant/warped creatures that can conjure up a dangerous acid flashback within seconds...or so I'm told.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army ★★★✩✩
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Jeffery Tambor, Doug Jones. Director: Guillermo Del Toro