Making a pit stop at Cartoon Network en route to DVD release, this second animated movie based on the comic-character-turned-movie franchise “Hellboy” boasts the feature’s stars among its voice cast but proves a trifle slow-going and tame for the blood-and-guts audience, displaying animation only slightly better than the average Saturday morning ‘toon. A mundane plot about a risen vampire doesn’t help matters, but foremost this 80-minute pic doesn’t fully exploit animation’s principal advantage — namely, to showcase the sort of action and f/x that would be cost prohibitive in the live-action arena.
Marvel has actually done a laudable job in that regard with its “Ultimate Avengers” direct-to-DVD animation, which would cost about $300 million to put on screen. By contrast, after an opening skirmish, “Hellboy” drags for an extended stretch before a final “Biff! Whap! Pow!” battle that’s less exciting than it should be.
For those who missed the movie or comics, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is a demon who was summoned to Earth as a baby in 1944 and raised to fight evil by Professor Broom (John Hurt). With his hulking physique and enormous strength, he’s the center of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, and generally quite blasé about the various otherworldly perils that he has to dispatch.
In this case, the challenge involves a female vampire who has camped out in the hotel of a Donald Trump-like figure, sucking the blood of young women to restore and maintain her youth, which qualifies her to serve as a judge on the CW’s new “Pussycat Dolls” talent search. Having been slain by the professor years earlier, she’s now in league with an ancient goddess, which leads to a lot of portentous dialogue.
As constructed, though, the tone lands in a nether-realm where such material generally dies — too scary for little kids, and not engaging or clever enough for older kids, teens and young guys.
Strictly from a marketing perspective, it’s clever to feed the appetite for such characters with animation between or beyond live-action movies, and there’s reason to believe a small core audience will ante up, making such ventures economically viable. In general, though, the storytelling will have to be more compelling than this to avoid a one-way ticket back to Hell.