½*/**** Image B+ Sound A Extras C+
starring Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham
written and directed by Stephen Sommers
by Walter Chaw There are times now and again over the course of Stephen Sommers's unspeakable Van Helsing when the film is so brazenly bad that it threatens to be satirical--so bad that one is left to scramble to pull some sort of gestalt sense from the carnage. But it's just a mess, a cesspool of half-formed ideas and images ripped off whole from The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Hugh Jackman reprising Wolverine from X-Men and Kate Beckinsale essentially reprising her role from Underworld. All of it's wrapped up in a cacophonous jumble of dour mattes, really (really) bad CGI, and an Alan Silvestri score that is itself a rip-off of everything that made John Williams famous (that is, Holst's "The Planets"). Way too long at just over two hours with no story to speak of justifying its length, the piece is stolen by David Wenham as a deadpan 19th century Q, Friar Carl, and grinds to a dead standstill whenever Jackman delivers one of his twenty lines, Beckinsale chimes in with a jarring non sequitur ("There's a bright side to death in Transylvania"), Shuler Hensley as Frankenstein's monster threatens to cry out "Puttin' on the Riiiitz," or Richard Roxburgh as Count Dracula vamps around like a diva in a John Waters film. If only Van Helsing were campy.