July 17, 2008

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Hellboy II: The Golden Army (PG-13)
Hellboy, that U.S.-govern­ment-working-for demon with the sanded-down horns, must make peace with (and/or prepare to wage war with) the dark fairy tale world of elves, trolls and the like in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, a fun and delightful-to-look-at comic book romp.

Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his gal Liz (Selma Blair) are together and in lurve but not quite at ease with each other domestically yet — he doesn’t like her touching his things, she doesn’t like his things. (Except for the demon and his flame-starting girlfriend part, who doesn’t know a couple exactly like that?) Liz isn’t sure if this whole living-with-a-demon-and-his-jillions-of-cats thing is going to work out.

But the turmoil of their relationship will have to get in line behind the possible declaration of war on humanity by the fantasy realm. Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), the angry troublemaker of the world of elves, goblins and some really unpleasant little creatures called “tooth fairies” (so not going to leave money under your pillow), has decided that humans have trampled on his people’s rights enough. He wants to reawaken an army of giant unkillable golden warriors to wipe out the humans. His sister, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton), isn’t so keen on war and tries to hide from her brother one of the pieces of the crown required for a ruler to control this robot-like army.

Enter Hellboy and his team of paranormal investigators — particularly, enter Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), who is smitten by the equally bookworm-ish Princess Nuala. Abe is desperate to find a way to keep Nuala safe while Hellboy is still struggling with his semi-outcast status and Liz with a personal issue of her own. And all of the team members are a bit apprehensive about their new boss — the hazy cloud of somethingplasm that is Johann Krauss (voice of Seth McFarlane).

There are funny moments in Hellboy II, on balance more than in most superhero movies. But for me what really make this movie are its visuals. Director Guillermo del Toro is really good at creeping you out. I must admit, it took Pan’s Labyrinth a day or two of sitting with me before I really started to like it (and I think I like it even more now than when I reviewed it) in large part because of how disturbing, how beautiful but horrifying the visuals where. Here, big-teethed fairies, a king with tree branch horn-type things on his head, giant golden monsters, wrinkly trolls and more turn every scene into a horror tableau. I wanted to slow down the movie to take in every creepy, awful-looking thing. The moods of the sweet lug Hellboy and the shy nerd Abe make for fun stuff — particularly when, commiserating about women, they begin to drunkenly sing a cheesy love song — but it’s the dark beauty of the movie’s visuals that really sets it apart. B

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence and some language. Directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Mike Mignola (who wrote the comic book), Hellboy II: The Golden Army is an hour and 50 minutes long and is distributed by Universal Pictures.