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Van Helsing: The London Assignment (2004)

by on 2011/05/21

“If you had bought me the proper sized corset,  I wouldn’t have to squirm.”

* * *

Nasty, brutish and short – the bleak assessment of the human condition in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and an apt description of Van Helsing: The London Assignment.

Good thing I like nasty, brutish and short in my animation.

This animated film is a prequel to the comic grotesquery that was Van Helsing (2004). (Can anyone say clumps of vampire fetuses?) While the live-action film, a modern-day homage to Universal Horror movie classics, was a frantic attempt to cram in as many monster classic references in as was demonically possible, the animated film embodies the truism less is more.

The action opening with a bracing slashing death of a lady of the night or a lady walking at night (hard to say). A serial killer is loose in London and the bodies that are turning up are not only slashed but wizened as though their youth had been Dyson-vacuumed out of them.

The bobbies on the beat are flummoxed. Enter Van Helsing, a steampunk, demon-slaying Inspector Gadget with deadly Go-Go-Gadget grappling hooks and steel-clawed gloves. He’s on the hunt for the infamous Dr. Jekyll who’s gone all Jack the Ripper in the foggy back alleys and cobblestone walkways of London.

His mission from the Vatican powers-that-be is to save the soul of the tortured killer …not kill him.

Voice-acted by Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing and David Wenham (300) as Helsing’s comic sidekick and monk-helper, Carl, this movie delivers creepy atmosphere, gore and hilarity in rapid, fast-changing bursts. As the viewer understands immediately, this blunt-force animated offering is not, Not, NOT for children, unless you are systematically trying to raise a sociopath.

This particular story of Dr. Jekyll (Dwight Schultz) and Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane) offers a royal twist. Turns out Dr. Jekyll is in crazy-stalker love with Queen Victoria. “He broke into the palace with a sponge and a rusty spanner.” (The Smiths)

I found this angle quite funny. I mean …”We were amused.”

The Queen (Tress MacNeille) is in her double-chinned dotage but the diabolical, certifiable doctor has hatched a plan to restore the lady queen to her former, milky-skinned, blue-eyed youth.

You guessed it, he’s going to do it with bottled murdered-lady souls, freshly harvested from the streets. Eat local, indeed.

The action sequences are fast-paced, deftly executed and entertaining. I particularly like the action sequence in the London underground where Dr. Jekyll and Van Helsing really, really screw up that evening’s commute – badly. Blown up badly.

As for the movie overall, I’ve whiled away 30 minutes in less entertaining ways. Plus it deserves my love simply for featuring the voice talents of Tress MacNeille, who played the immortal Dot Warner on Animaniacs.

All hail the Queen.

* * *

30 minutes

Rated PG13 for bloody violence and Van Helsing and the Grandmother of Europe totally making out

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