Picks and Pans Review: The Island of Dr. Moreau

updated 09/09/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/09/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, Fairuza Balk, Ron Perlman, David Thewlis

One of the woeful creatures in this woeful film is a mix of hyena, swine and man, and another looks like a cross between the Man from Planet X and Ross Perot. Still, the most grotesque onscreen apparition is Brando, the mad scientist of the title in this adaptation of an 1896 H.G. Wells novel. Wearing a white snood and white makeup, Brando looks like Moby Dick rolled in flour. Yet not even Brando lends weight to the script by Richard Stanley and Ron Hutchinson, which is alternately silly and gruesomely violent. (Be prepared to see one bunny torn to pieces and the neck of another broken.)

More ludicrous than scary, Brando presides over an island populated by his experimental beast-men, the products of genetic blends between humans and animals devised in a deluded attempt to create a "pure" species.

As for the supporting performers, Thewlis applies almost maniacal over-tones to his role as a United Nations emissary stranded on Moreau's island. Kilmer, eons away from Batman, plays the doctor's assistant as a creepy, effete sycophant. And Balk, as Moreau's daughter, bats her eyelashes fiercely, laboring as one of the few females in the cast—unless of course you count the two forlorn actresses consigned to play Sow Lady No. 1 and Sow Lady No. 2. As directed by John Frankenheimer, the story peaks early, then fizzles to a limp ending. While his take on the Wells novel is not much worse than the 1977 Burt Lancaster-Michael York film of the same title, it is nowhere near as frightening, nor as poignant, as the 1933 version, Island of Lost Souls, starring Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi. (PG-13)

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