With 1999's The Mummy, writer-director Stephen Sommers hit on a lucrative formula by infusing an old-fashioned monster movie with Indiana Jones-style cliffhanger action and an abundance of CGI effects. Two years later, The Mummy Returns offered more of the same. This year, Sommers' trademark strategy speeds headfirst into a brick wall with Van Helsing, a work of staggering stupidity.
Having successfully resurrected the mummy, Sommers has gotten greedy and set about simultaneously reviving nearly every other monster made famous by Universal Studios. The result is a movie with too much of just about everything: too many monsters, too much CGI, too many artless special effects, too many breathless climaxes doled out indiscriminately, too many bad lines, and way too much overacting. Then again, it's hard to fault the film's luckless actors, as they pretty much have to scream every line just to be heard above the din of a movie in perpetual overdrive.
Sommers' misbegotten blockbuster stars Hugh Jackman as the titular vampire slayer, a tormented yet hunky soul doomed to spend his days hunting down monsters for the Vatican. Along with a comic-relief friar sidekick (David Wenham), Jackman is dispatched to Transylvania, where his old foe Count Dracula has a scheme to breed vampire babies with the help of werewolves, vampire brides, Dr. Frankenstein's sidekick Igor, and Frankenstein's monster. (Somehow, this is even more idiotic than it sounds.) Kate Beckinsale co-stars as Jackman's heavily accented love interest, although after starring in last year's Underworld, she should learn to say no to scripts involving both vampires and werewolves.
Perhaps out of fear that the audience will catch its breath long enough to realize just how harebrained its plot is, Van Helsing never stops assaulting the senses, which is more exhausting than exhilarating, and more silly than scary. The film doesn't just feel like it was made exclusively for hyperactive 12-year-old boys; it feels like it was made by a hyperactive 12-year-old boy given a $150 million budget, and liberated from any attempts to impose logic and common sense.