Wolf (1994) / Horror-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for violence, sexuality, and language
Running Time: 125 min.
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Christopher Plummer, David Hyde Pierce, David Schwimmer (cameo)
Director: Mike Nichols
Screenplay: Jim Harrison, Wesley Strick
Review published August 11, 1999
Wolf starts off with a book publishing exec (Nicholson, Hoffa) running his vehicle into a wolf in the middle of a desolate road, and when trying to move it out of the way gets bitten in the hand. He later begins to exhibit strange supernormal behavior, including a heightened sense of sight, smell, and hearing. There's also the problem of him leaping around the neighborhood at night killing deer and other animals with his teeth. All of this comes during a period in his life when his job and wife has been stolen out from under him by an ambitious hire (Spader, White Palace). Things get a little more complicated when he starts a relationship with the daughter (Pfeiffer, Batman Returns) of his boss after breaking up with his wife, who later ends up murdered savagely.
"Mystifying" might be the only word that comes to mind when thinking of how such a pantheon of great talent could fail so miserably on every level. Most of the blame for this fiasco should go to director Mike Nichols (Working Girl, Gilda Live), who probably thought he needed something new and refreshing to work on. Nevertheless, he seems to have lost interest early on, as he doesn't even bother to make his film suspenseful, scary, or the least bit interesting. This apathy probably also spread to his fine ensemble of Oscar-caliber actors, who might as well have phoned in their performances, as they virtually sleepwalk through their lines with a curious lack of energy.
The base themes of werewolf movies are usually not very deep or complicated, but the screenplay lacks the intelligence and freshness to transcend its derivative roots. Expect little in the way of any surprises, with an ending that is completely predictable from the get-go. In addition to these distractions, even the most mundane of werewolf flicks at least can claim some decent special effects, but this one inexplicably has some of the phoniest looking make-up and fakest looking animals seen to date. It's actually embarrassing to think this was done in such a high budget film ($70 million dollars!!)
This piss-poor travesty makes me want to do to it what Nicholson does to Spader's shoes.
©1999 Vince Leo