Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

"Stirring Up Old Ghosts"
"The Maltese Vampire"

"When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it. And it happens we're in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it's bad business to let the killer get away with it, bad all around, bad for every detective everywhere."*

I like Brandon Routh.  I think he was given a lot of unfair criticism from Superman Returns because he was picked to be reminiscent of Christopher Reeve—director Bryan Singer wanted a continuation of the first two late-model Superman films and when he thought of "Superman," he was thinking of Reeve's version.  So, Routh, who looked and sounded—with a touch of Tom Cruise's vocal qualities—so much like Reeve was the man to be The Man of Steel.  But, his problem was...he wasn't Reeve, and he especially wasn't our idealized image of Reeve.  But, he's a pretty good actor, with a casual gravitas and a likeable quality.  He just doesn't know how to be a star yet, still underplaying his lines, trying not to get caught "acting," and so robbing himself of any chance to grab a movie or audience and make them his.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night might be a good vehicle for him.  Also based on a comic-book—Italian of origin this time—he looks sufficiently like the titular hero and the matter-of-factness of his playing serves as a fine counter-point to the ghastly ghouly happenings going on.  That's the whole joke of Dylan Dog, though it wears thin very quickly.  While everybody else is over-emoting, spitting spray through oversized canines (the two primary examples being Taye Diggs and Peter Stormare), Routh gets to be a normal human being, slightly bemused about the war between the vampires and the werewolves (there are zombies, too, but they appear to be playing the role of Sweden, they don't take sides and nobody cares about them). 

DD is a private investigator in New Orleans, and used to specialize in the occult, kind of a niche market.  He carried cards that just had his number and the catchy phrase "No Pulse?  No Problem!"  But, like Matt Damon's character in Hereafter, he spends a lot of screen-time saying "Yeah, I don't do that anymore.."

Sure, he doesn't.  But a mysterious death of an art collector reported by a pretty blond puts him back behind the wheel of his vintage VW bug (which also shows signs of being undead) to investigate. Getting involved could make things very squishy between The Tooths and the Claws, dredging up some bad blood, so he says "no."

Sure, he won't.  Then his partner, Marcus (Sam Huntington, who was Jimmy Olsen to Routh's Clark Kent) gets killed.  And...well, you know. 

But, this is Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, so when we say his partner gets killed—he only gets a little killedGoing to the morgue to retrieve him, Dylan has to break the news to his friend gently. "The bad news is you're dead," he says blandly.  "The good news's manageable."

Cute.  But, we're talking werewolves, vampires and zombies ('oh, my!"), so cute doesn't exactly cut the artery, if you know what I mean.  It should be rip-roaringly funny to off-set the gore and horror, and it just isn't.  It's...functional.  Huntington is great for a laugh or two, as he plays Jerry Lewis to Routh's Dean Martin, but it's not enough to make Dylan Dog more than just a little silly.  And for all the frothing that the ghoulies do, you never really think anyone's in danger, even though the script makes sure a couple of the main characters get dispatched.  It all leads to a crisis of apocalyptic proportions.**  The ideas are there, but the presentation is as clumsy as a zombie with no head.  The blame must go to writer-producer Kevin Munroe, whose previous film was the 2007 CGI version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, entitled TMNT.  This guy knows games and short films, but sustaining even a genre film that follows The Dots of Dashiell seems to be beyond him.  This one has its moments, but like the undead, they're mostly recycled...and could stand a bit of rejuvenation therapy.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is a Cable-Watcher.

* Yeah, that's from The Maltese Falcon.

** By the way, wasn't the world supposed to end today?  Looks like I'd better have a "Don't Make a Scene" for tomorrow.  Wonder if I've got a copy of The Rapture...

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