A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hellboy II: The Golden Army is an action-packed sequel to 2004's Hellboy. It includes a plethora of scary monsters and supernatural creatures and extensive fantastic violence, including shootings, superhuman fist-fights, and grisly deaths at the hands of nightmarish creatures. That said, the movie's overall tone is so light and fantastical that it never becomes too oppressive or grim for fantasy-loving teens and adults, and its sheer visual imagination is stunning to behold. The title character is a demon, albeit one with a soft spot for kittens. He likes his cigars and Baby Ruth candy bars; characters also drink, and other brands pop up here and there.
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What's the story?
Following up on 2004's Hellboy, HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY sees writer-director Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone) return to Mike Mignola's comic-book creation. This time around he pits supernatural monster-stopper Hellboy (Ron Perlman) against the machinations of evil elf-prince Nuada (Luke Goss), who's searching for the lost segments of a golden crown that, when united, will give him control of the titular Golden Army -- an unstoppable legion of mechanical warriors that he plans to use to destroy humanity in order to protect the world of enchantment. But even as he works the case, Hellboy has to come to terms with his team's existence becoming public knowledge -- and the resulting prejudices of the general populace. Oh, and his fire-starter girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) really needs to talk to him about some important stuff. ...
Is it any good?
After the dizzying high art of the Oscar-winning Pan's Labyrinth, del Toro downshifts a little to deliver high entertainment with this sequel. Meshing the supernatural with the super-heroic, Mignola's comic-book creation is a wise-cracking, gruff-yet-good tough guy played with pitch-perfect swagger and comedy timing by Perlman. Hellboy's intrinsic goodness shines out through his bizarre appearance -- and Perlman's talent shines out through bizarre, brilliant makeup and special effects. The movie takes place in a world of gods and monsters, and some of its creations are startling, inventive, and as scary as they are fascinating.
Loaded with action (some of which is intense, if otherworldly), Hellboy II: The Golden Army also takes the time to give us full-drawn characters. Hellboy sincerely cares for Liz, is a good friend to the team's psychic -- a genteel man-fish named Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), and even comes to terms with his higher-ups at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, including the all-too-human Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) and the disembodied spirit Johann Kraus (voiced by Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane). For every eye-popping effects sequence or line of hokey comic-book dialog, there's also a brief moment of human warmth or goofy comedy, and if the film's a little loose and slapdash, that hyper-inventive spirit surprisingly enhances its charm instead of undercutting it. Hellboy is hardly the best-known big-screen superhero, but Hellboy II: The Golden Army is the most brilliantly bizarre, visually vibrant, slyly self-aware and freakishly funny example of the genre you could hope for.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hellboy II: The Golden Army's underlying message of tolerance. What's more important, how someone looks, or how they act?
How does the movie move Hellboy toward adult responsibility (although he ages slowly and is supernatural, Hellboy is fairly immature and teen-like at the beginning of the film)? Does that strike any chords with teens? What does being "human" mean for Hellboy? Where does he have the power of choice?
- In theaters: July 9, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: November 10, 2008
- Cast: Doug Jones, Ron Perlman, Selma Blair
- Director: Guillermo Del Toro
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language.
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