Set in the late 19th century, Bram Stoker\'s fabled monster hunter, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, is summoned to a mysterious land in East Europe to vanquish evil forces in the form of: Count Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein\'s Monster. Assisting him once he gets there is Anna, the heir of a long-running family committed to hunting down and destroying Count Dracula.
A whole lot of monsters — werewolves, a Frankenstein creation and, above all, Dracula, his three wives and several thousand potential bat-children — roar and squirm in this long, grinding special-effects migraine. Stephen Sommers, who wrought similar havoc in "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns," seems to be aiming for a kind of insouciant pop grandeur, something that will mix spookiness and spoofiness in spectacular fashion. But whatever visual and narrative wit there is (and there is a little) is crushed by the lumbering rhythms of the plot and the hectic, murky action sequences. Kate Beckinsale is Dracula's ancestral nemesis, while Hugh Jackman, with none of the wired gravitas that was so effective in the "X-Men" movies, plays the title character, a centuries-old monster fighter with bad amnesia. Lucky him. — A. O. Scott
2004-05-07 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Van Helsing