Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham
The gang's all here. There's Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and even Mr. Hyde (the evil alter ego of Dr. Jekyll). The only major monsters missing from this vacuous bit of wham-bam summer silliness by writer-director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy and The Mummy Returns) are the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Figure on those two and more showing up in Van Helsing 2. Not that anyone needs a VH2. Asking viewers to sit through a second chapter of this blathering balderdash would be a monstrous imposition.
Van Helsing's titular hero is hunting down and, in most cases, trying to do away with all these creatures. Played with manly bravado by Jackman—is this guy ever going to get a movie worthy of his huge talent?—Gabriel Van Helsing toils at the behest of the Vatican to rid the world of supernatural fiends. He begins each job by asking two essential questions: "What are we dealing with, and how do I kill it?" This time he's assigned to take out Dracula (Roxburgh, who hams it up shamelessly) and encounters the other monsters along the way. He also falls for a comely, corset-wearing Transylvanian aristocrat (a snippy Beckinsale) whose family has been battling the sharp-toothed Count for centuries.
It's all pretty darn dumb, with even the main characters so thinly drawn that one remains indifferent to their fates. On the plus side, Van Helsing's nonstop special effects are whiz-bang impressive, and the movie never takes itself too seriously. Then again, it couldn't if it tried. This is popcorn fare popped so light it's practically weightless. (PG-13)