Van Helsing packs more adrenaline into its first 15 minutes than any movie I have ever seen. This is a gift... and a curse. The film is so
continuously loud and overblown that by the end credits the audience is tired, weary, and just plain spent.

That's not to say Van Helsing is a complete waste though. In fact had it not been for the last 20 to 30 minutes of this movie I would have
given it three stars.

The movie opens with a beautiful black and white tribute to the old Universal monster flicks as Dr. Frankenstein brings life to his monster.
An angry torch carrying mob breaks up the party though as they charge Castle Frankenstein.

The story is certainly contrived (how else could you get Dracula, The Wolfman, and Franky's Monster in a film together?). Dracula needs
Frankenstein's monster to make vampire babies... nuff said.

However, story isn't really the point here. Van Helsing is a vehicle for director Stephen Sommer's trademark campy humor and balls to the
walls action set pieces.

In its first hour and a half Van Helsing, for the most part, succeeds in being good fun. Hugh Jackman is a great dark hero; David Wenham
provides excellent comic relief; and Kate Beckinsale is hot as hell (and her accent isn't
that bad).

Speaking of great looks, ignore the early trailer's questionable CGI. Van Helsing is a visual effects masterpiece. Fantastic environments, CG
characters, and some of the best morphing ever done.

The great effects are complemented by an adventurous score by Alan Silvestri.

Unfortunately, the last act loses its lighthearted spirit and just becomes way too loud and way too much. The action becomes increasingly
ridiculous and the ending is a complete disappointment.

However, for the most part Van Helsing is a fairly enjoyable adventure that could have been good with a stronger finish and a little more
character and less action. I never thought I would complain about a movie having too much action...

* * 1/2
(out of four)

Written and Directed by: Stephen Sommers

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard
Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley, Elena Anaya

Cinematography by: Allen Daviau

Music by: Alan Silvestri

Released: May 7, 2004; 131 Minutes