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Wolf Review

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A middle-aged publisher has enough worries to deal with and then manages to get bitten by a cursed wolf. He starts to change and not ALL the changes are bad...

★★★★★

Publisher Nicholson, struggling with personal and professional mid-life crises, runs into a wolf on a lonely road and gets bitten. Soon after, his senses become more acute, his teeth get sharper, he grows hairier and he becomes ruthless at the office. After flexing his newfound animal magnetism on rich drop-out Pfeiffer, Jack starts roaming New York by night, ripping off muggers' fingers and howling at the full moon. Anyone who has seen more than half-a-dozen horror films will work out quickly that Nicholson has become a werewolf (a word the script coyly doesn't use), but big-name helmer Nichols and an A-list cast strangely seem to believe this is fresh meat.

Like all werewolves, this film is cursed by duality: despite the fervour a toothy Nicholson and an edible Pfeiffer bring to their roles, it's simply too ridiculous for a mainstream audience and too familiar for horror fans. As they pad ominously across the screen, plot developments will have genre cognoscenti checking off bits from The Werewolf Of London, Curse Of The Werewolf, I Was A Teenage Werewolf and An American Werewolf In London. And, going against the grain of recent bubbling rubber or morphing effects, the movie relies on Nicholson's growly face, minimally augmented by old-fashioned yak hair and dentures. It's a nice idea, but it won't scare anyone who has seen The Howling.

The first act, before Nicholson gets into hairy business, effectively juggles satire at the expense of the cut-throat publishing biz (Spader is wonderfully smarmy as Nicholson's stab-in-the-back protege) with unease as Jack senses his new powers. There is a suggestion that Nichols is trying to do a remake of his last film, Regarding Henry, which was about a struggling New Yorker who suffers a trauma which induces a bizarre medical condition that changes his life around. While Henry was fuzzy, however, Wolf is sharp: by far the best scenes are those with Nicholson playing off the sneaky Spader and the genially tyrannical corporate raider (Christopher Plummer) who has taken over the firm. All seriousness evaporates when a mystic expert gives Nicholson an amulet that staves off the curse (this is a rip-off of the magic flower in 1935's Werewolf Of London, which also had a similar make-up for its star monster). And for a big, expensive, much rewritten movie, this has a remarkably dull finish: after a scrappy Wolf Man Meets The Wolf Man dust-up, one of the stars simply walks off into the woods and disappears, while the other does that glowing-eyed curse-lives-on shtick that has been a howling cliche for the last 30 years.

Fairly humdrum werewolf antics...