The best thing about the hyped-up blockbuster Van Helsing is saying the lead character's name out loud.
It's how TV actor Dana Elcar used to say "McGyver!"
"Van Helsing!" is yelled with a mixture of awe and outrage, and directed at chesty downunderite Hugh Jackman, who used to be Wolverine in X-Men and now is Van Helsing. Echoes of "Van Helsing!" ring throughout the three-hour, $200 million, special effects gag-a-rama in the same way producers hope the sound of cash registers will ching all summer long.
Onscreen, these involuntary spasms are caused by the title character's night job: monster killer. It's the 1870's -- the Age of Monsters -- and someone has to kill them. Armed with a Jules Verne-via-Wild, Wild West array of weapons, and a very snappy hat, Van Helsing sets about this grim task with the help of a secret Vatican cabal bent on destroying evil -- much like Donald Rumsfeld ("Rumsfeld!") runs the anti-terrorist cabal out of the Pentagon today.
And what a campaign it is. Evil, it seems, is everywhere. But the heart of evil, the downtown of bad, the ground zero of wicked, is Transylvania where Dracula lives. And if Van Helsing wants to stop him, find out why he's been born to this career, and win the hand of chesty Transylvanian Kate Beckinsale, that's where he, and his hat, must go.
The surprise for this oft-named monster stomper however is that someone has changed all the rules. Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and his brides pick off the locals, sure, but this Dracula is thinking globally. He wants children, and has figured out a strange way to do it: by using another local, Frankenstein's monster, as a kind of battery to bring to life a plethora of vampire egg sacks he and his brides have, I guess, laid, and which are hanging from the rafters of his castle. This disco party host Dracula also gets help from Frankenstein's former D-Girl, Igor, and whatever Werewolf is in the neighborhood. See, it's sort of an All-Star monster team, like the Yankees, the best fear can buy. And now it's up to "Van Helsing!" to set up a local Planned Parenthood.
Oh yeah and Kate Beckinsale is in here somewhere, too, playing the part of "The Girl" but with enough high kicks to give her a sturdy resolve all her own. See, she wants Dracula dead because he killed her brudda -- or at least turned him into a Werewolf, which is the next worst thing. But she and the townspeople she represents as sort of Queen of the Unwashed, need help. They need, say it with me:
What unfolds is a lot of action sequences, a lot of special effects, and a lot of noise. The story is slight, the brides are bosomy and there's comic relief from a monk (David Wenham) sent along as a 19th Century Q to Jackman's Bond. But mostly it's busy and loud. It is the kind of loud that smacks of filmmaker insecurity, moments, for instance, when Kate is sneaking around the old castle at night and turns to run into someone accompanied by a soundtrack sting so thunderous it's laughable. But everything is loud. Every swoop of flying vampire, every rattle of gattling gun, every stomp of every foot, all of it signifying -- not much.
In the end of all this hugger-mugger, Hugh saves the day and all is right with the world again and, as one would expect, we are set up for the sequel. With the huge opening this movie is planning on getting, and with the millions of 13-year-old boys out there who like Dracula's brides's boobs, I assume they will get their wish. But tomorrow every boy, in every town will be shouting a new name for movie terror: