(director: Mike Nichols; screenwriters: Jim Harrison/Wesley Strick/from the story by Jim Harrison; cinematographer: Giuseppe Rotunno; editor: Sam O’Steen; music: Ennio Morricone; cast: Jack Nicholson (Will Randall), Michelle Pfeiffer (Laura Alden), James Spader (Stewart Swinton), Christopher Plummer (Raymond Alden), Kate Nelligan (Charlotte Randall), Richard Jenkins (Detective Carl Bridger), Om Puri (Dr Vijay Alezais), Eileen Atkins (Mary), Prunella Scales (Maude), Madhur Jaffrey (Party Guest ); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Doug Wick; Columbia Tri Star Home Video (1994)
“Glossy werewolf horror/comedy that fails to make its mark on the genre.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Glossy werewolf horror/comedy that fails to make its mark on the genre, as it comes apart after the halfway point failing to be convincing as a werewolf flick but is seemingly more like a mid-life crisis allegory. But the werewolf makeup is first-rate by Rick Baker.
It also plays out as more a satire about office politics than as a horror film bloodfest. Mike Nichols (“Carnal Knowledge”/”The Graduate”/”Postcards from the Edge”) directs this upscale horror film in a slick and delicate way that has no stomach to tussle with the hairy werewolf gory bits but seems more at home mixing it up with aggressive Manhattan corporate types on the prowl for blood. The screenwriters, novelist/poet Jim Harrison and producer Wesley Strick, keep it urban sophisticated, Hollywood smug and filled with droll humor, but never make it feel right as a werewolf film. Supposedly Elaine May fixed up the unwieldy script without credit but received a lot of bread to fit the horror film into old pal Nichol’s way of thinking by turning it into a social commentary on modern society.
The middle-aged Will Randall (Jack Nicholson), a mild-mannered, bifocal wearing Manhattan book editor at MacLeish House, is driving back from Vermont during a full moon when he hits a wolf on a snowy country road and is then bitten by it when he goes to help. Back at the office, Will learns that billionaire publisher Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer), in a takeover of his firm, has demoted him to the position of foreign editor and replaced him with his ambitious younger back-stabbing yuppie protégé Stewart Swinton (James Spader). Will asserts his new hyper-sensitivity, feral instincts and wolfish aggressiveness to fight to win his old job back. He also becomes romantically involved with Alden’s world-weary, bitchy, black sheep daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer), and with his teeth undresses his unfaithful startled wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan) who says he hasn’t shown for years such a passion. Though satisfied with his new animal powers (full of energy, no longer needing specs and able to hear whispers of office gossip from great distances), Will becomes disturbed over growing hair, his ravaging hunger and that he awakens in the morning with unexplained blood on his hands leading him to believe that he is becoming a wolf who is driven to kill when there’s a full moon.
The project is ridiculous, campy, pointless and toothless, and except for a few funny incidents the whole thing seems all chewed up by dated werewolf storytelling and in conclusion throws away any freshness for the same old genre clichés that have grown tedious over the years from overuse.
REVIEWED ON 1/12/2009 GRADE: C+