- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 1, 2004

As the film “Hellboy” repeatedly reminds us, success in life boils down to a series of choices. Director Guillermo del Toro

made every correct one in translating Mike Mignola’s eponymous Dark Horse Comics hero to the big screen.

The director, a professed Hellboy lover who also takes a screenwriting credit, plunges into a supernatural world of good versus evil that will appeal to both hard-core fans of the comic book and movie audiences looking for an action-packed love story.

The adventures of this large, red demon with a stone hand begin toward the end of World War II with his summoning, engineered by some desperate Nazi occultists with the help of the famous Russian conjurer Grigori Rasputin. Allied forces choose not to destroy the baby Hellboy, who takes to Baby Ruth candy bars and a kindly scientist named Professor Trevor Bruttenholm.

The movie then jumps to the present, and viewers learn of a covert government agency — the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) — led by the Professor to take on evil that goes bump in the night. It boasts as one of its members a 20-year-old punk with horns and a working-class mentality who seriously needs to clean up his room. Imagine Ralph Kramden or Moe Howard with a tail battling creatures while smoking a cigar and screaming, “Why you little… .”



Of course, no one can ever keep those troublemaking Nazis and Rasputin down, and they return to wreak havoc around New Jersey, New York and Russia as they look to repossess their original creature, whom they wish to turn back to the dark side.

Mr. del Toro orchestrates a ballet of effects-laden action scenes while developing believable relationships among the B.P.R.D. team — a red demon, a fish-man, a human detective and a girl who occasionally bursts into flames.

With its colossal battles fought against the backdrops of foreboding sewer systems, subways and a mechanized castle, the two-hour-plus opus beautifully displays the dark, gritty world of Mr. Mignola. Monsters imagined from the nightmares of famed horror writer H.P. Lovecraft pepper the work to give our hero something to punch, rip and disembowel, but he always offers a wisecrack in the process.

Wearing the red makeup and tail, actor Ron Perlman resurrects his “Beauty and the Beast” persona from the 1980s to deliver an empathetic and humorous performance as the demon whose eternal flame burns for the girl with fire in her eyes, arms, legs and body. It’s a testament to his craft that the veteran actor never looks ridiculous as he sands his horns, rescues a pair of kittens and, in a clever scene, talks about the love of his life to a 9-year-old while spying on her.

The supporting cast also shines. David Hyde Pierce brings a complementary intelligence to Hellboy’s brawn in his voicing of the telepathic Mer-Man Abe Sapien. John Hurt portrays Hellboy’s adopted father with philosophical reserve, Jeffrey Tambor is the bumbling government agent, and Selma Blair, as Elizabeth Sherman, provides the complex, smoldering (literally) love interest to the flame-retardant hero.

“Hellboy” may never win a popularity contest with Spider-Man or the X-Men, but he will not disappoint anyone looking for a fun monster film with heart.

***

WHAT: “Hellboy”

RATING: PG-13 (Science-fiction action, violence and frightening images)

CREDITS: Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Based on the Dark Horse Comic created by Mike Mignola, Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Peter Briggs. Produced by Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin.

RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www.-sonypictures. com/movies/ hellboy/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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