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Improbably cute

Movies | Hellboy II is short on plot but long on fun-to-watch action

Issue: "NextGen worship," July 26, 2008

The friendliest little action movie of the summer might be the one that stars a monster: Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Guillermo del Toro's oddly friendly franchise (Mike Mignola, who wrote the Hellboy comics, is Catholic) follows the adventures of the first superhero to sport both horns (well, stubs of horns) and a rosary as he tries to decipher the mysteries of elvish warlords, paranormal pseudoscience, and girls.

The potentially objectionable thing in the PG-13 flick, besides some scattered swearing, is the fact that Hellboy (the perfectly cast Ron Perlman) must at some point have slept with his girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), because she is pregnant.

The film's plot is so perfunctory it doesn't even bear rehashing; suffice it to say that where Mignola is an amazing folklorist, del Toro is a thrilling visual stylist and the canned save-the-world story is just an excuse for some great action sequences. Plot or no plot, Hellboy II is long on personality and feels welcoming and unhurried, even though it doesn't run even two hours.

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The fighting is mostly of the monster-on-monster variety and is great fun to watch. Del Toro has plenty of CGI plant monsters and "tooth fairies" (the bad kind), but there are some terrific puppets in this film, too, and the whole movie is permeated with a sort of Narnian wonder as H.B. and his cohorts wander through the Troll Market, through a cave full of elvish robots (yes, really), and through the bowels of Hellboy's home base, the BPRD.

It's an improbably cute movie, right down to its closing song (Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You"), and despite its devilish-looking hero, it's tempting to call it a family film. After all, ugly isn't bad-it's just strange.

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