April 12, 2004 12:00 PM


Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, Karel Roden

Despite his horns, tail and bright tomato hue, Hellboy is the most prosaic of superheros. Though he fights monsters and bad guys, he longs to be an average Joe, lazing around in his basement bunker drinking beer, watching TV and pining for the woman (Blair) he loves. Perlman, the imposing actor best known for TV’s Beauty and the Beast, plays Hellboy as a lovable lug. By injecting a welcome dose of levity and personality into the role, he elevates what otherwise would have been just another wham!-bam!-blap! comic-book-inspired film into an amusing and stylish comic-book movie.

Director-writer Guillermo del Toro (Blade II) expertly captures the distinctive visual style and dark humor of Mike Mignola, who created Hellboy for Dark Horse Comics. The film’s confusing opening sequence, depicting Hellboy’s supernatural origins (his birth is midwifed by Nazis and Rasputin during WWII) takes too long, but once the movie shifts to the present and Perlman shows up, it’s hell-zapoppin’. (PG-13)

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