2004-04-23 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

‘Hellboy’ – Hot Date

Leave it to Jesus to push "Hellboy" from the highest spot on the hit list. Yet, in its seventh week of release, "The Passion of The Christ" is king of  the box office, having made $354.8 million. Of course, Easter week may have had something to do with it. Still, "Hellboy" is a helluva movie in its own "Batman" way. In the age of "X-Men," super crime-fighter Hellboy more than holds his own in the comic book pantheon. Played by Ron Perlman, this spawn of Satan is sympathetic with lots of heart and soul beneath his red leathery skin. He even files down his ram horns to appear less conspicuous among the mortals.

And, he’s in love. His soul mate is pyro-kinetic Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), who literally heats up when Hellboy is around. Which is fine because fire is no problem for a guy who spent his early days in Hades. It makes for some very hot dates. Directed by cinema-comix craftsman Guillermo del Toro, "Hellboy" is a perfectly-balanced superhero stew. In a "Raider of the Lost Ark" flashback opening, resurrected Rasputin ((Karel Roden) and his mistress she-wolf Ilsa (Bridget Hodson) are working with Hitler’s special black-magic squad to create of portal to Hell. However, a young paranormal expert Dr. Broom (later to be played by John Hurt) is on to them and brings a group of Allied soldiers to upset things. When the fighting starts, the portal is already in place and through it comes a little red devilish creature sporting horns, a forked tail and a huge right hand. One of Satan’s sons, Hellboy is what Hitler wants, except Dr. Broom attracts him with a Baby Ruth bar.

Cut to the present. Hellboy is all grown and living under the watchful eye of an aging Dr. Bloom, whom he calls Dad. The be-muscled demon is sad and lonely having to be holed up in a government asylum of sorts, "The Bureau for Paranormal Research." He has one other freakish friend at the bureau, fishman psychic Abe Spien (Doug Jones, body/David Hyde Pierce, voice), who looks like the Creature From the Black Lagoon swimming in his giant fish tank. Hellboy longs for love and Liz, but must be content to smoke his short cigars. The only time the freaks are released is when crime needs a quick comeuppance. And this happens at the reappearance of Rasputin and company, which includes a Darth Vador-type character in a Nazi SS uniform named Kronen (Ladislav Beran). The villains unleash Alienesque, relentlessly reproductive monsters called Sammaels. While Rasputin and his minions are Hellboy’s main adversaries, the forlorn hero from Hell has a real rival in shy secret agent, John Myers (Rupert Evans), who has the hots (literally) for Liz.

Despite "Hellboy’s" rousing, though predictable action scenes, the movie is saved from obscurity by Perlman’s performance. As he did as the Beast in TV’s "Beauty and the Beast," he gives depth, character and wit to what could have been a  not-so incredible Hulk.

Nonetheless, he’s no match for Jesus.

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