A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has non-stop and intense action, with characters in constant extreme peril. There are gross and violent images and many characters are killed. There are a lot of jump-out-at-you surprises and grotesque creatures. Characters use brief mild bad words. There are brief mild sexual references and a non-explicit sexual situation.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
VAN HELSING starts with a bang, even the movie studio's logo a part of a glorious black-and-white intro that wonderfully evokes James Whale's iconic scene of Viktor Frankenstein screaming "It's ALIVE!" as the monster created from pieces of seven men is shocked into life and torch-bearing villagers are getting closer to the castle door. But then Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who can regenerate when he is wounded, shows up to say, "It's a pity your moment of triumph is being spoiled over a little thing like grave robbery," and things take a surprising turn. A year later, a guy in the coolest fedora since Indiana Jones is fighting a monster. It is Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman), a man who knows that he is here to fight evil, but is not sure why. He seems to remember fighting the Romans at Masada (that would be in about the year 72) but can't remember the details of his past. When asked whether he is a holy man or a murderer, he says, "A bit of both." All he ever needs to know is "What are we dealing with and how do I kill it?"
Is it any good?
This is one vampire movie with bite. It's a deliciously entertaining thrill ride that pleasurably tweaks new thrills from old stories. Thankfully, little time is wasted on exposition and explanations. Van Helsing is pretty much non-stop action, more thrill ride or video game than story. And that's fine with me. The production design is fabulously entertaining and imaginative. The monsters are all re-imagined with a great deal of flair, particularly Frankenstein's creation, one of the best of his many screen portrayals. The CGI effects are exceptionally well done, subtle details add a great deal of depth and atmosphere, and there are many intricate contraptions and a lot of slimy, dripping gloop.
Some good dialogue is delivered with a lot of panache. The movie takes itself seriously enough to have us care about the outcome but has enough of a sense of humor to provide Van Helsing with a cheery sidekick with a knack for weapons technology. Jackman has all that it takes to be both leading man and action hero. Kate Beckinsale is fine as Anna, the last in the line of her family, which for generations has been dedicated to wiping out the vampires. But in a movie like this, what matters is the bad guys, and Roxburgh is just right as Dracula, sinuous and seductive, a little effete, a little theatrical, and deliciously bloodthirsty.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the original sources and enduring appeal of characters like Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Wolfman. They could talk about the villagers' decision that since the vampires killed only one or two people a month, they should not try to stop them. They might want to talk about the ending, whether it was a surprise and how they feel about it.
- In theaters: May 7, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: October 19, 2004
- Cast: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh
- Director: Stephen Sommers
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 132 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: nonstop creature action violence and frightening images, and for sensuality
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