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Hollywood Product - Hellboy II: The Golden Army

The devil's in the details for director Guillermo del Toro

GENRE: Supergothic comic book movie

THE PITCH: In another adaptation of Mike Mignola's comic book series, wisecracking outcast demon Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his ghostbusting pals try to stop pissed-off Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), a royal renegade among mystical beings, from launching an army of mechanical warriors against the human race.

MONEY SHOTS: The visual marvels from Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro begin with a prologue that uses cool stop-motion puppets to render an ancient war between mortals and magical creatures. The Troll Market resembles a pungent cross between an Arabian bazaar and the Star Wars cantina. An invisible foe pummels Hellboy with locker doors in a classic piece of slapstick. Hellboy & Co. brawl with the Golden Army. Hellboy's and Nuada's final duel, atop giant, grinding gears, features thrilling fight choreography.

BEST LINE: "I like these tight little leather straps!" coos thoughtful fish-man Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) over a new gizmo. Jones provides the movements for Sapien and other creatures, as well as Abe's sensitive voice, but doesn't quite match David Hyde Pierce's vocal wit in the previous film.

BODY COUNT: Vicious, swarming "tooth fairies" (not as cute as they sound) eat dozens of people – two on camera. A giant meat grinder catches Nuada's hulking henchman. A towering plant monster kicks it Cloverfield-style by hurling a car into a helicopter. Three magical characters turn into crumbling statues upon expiration.

FASHION STATEMENTS: Overall, the film features the most splendid, Oscar-caliber costumes in any film fantasy since The Fifth Element. The clothes literally make the man in the case of Johann Krauss (drolly voiced by "Family Guy's" Seth McFarlane), a ghostly agent who only becomes solid when he fills an old-fashioned deep-sea diver suit.

MP3-TO-BE: The Eels' "Beautiful Freak" provides an almost too appropriate soundtrack to a lonely montage with Hellboy, Abe and brooding firestarter Liz Sherman (a misused Selma Blair). The film's comedic and emotional highlight catches Hellboy and Abe bonding over a Barry Manilow tune.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Liz finds her toothbrush in a can of Iams cat food – a downside of shacking up with Hellboy. Hellboy quaffs many cans of Tecate.

POP REFERENCES: Jimmy Kimmel appears as himself to talk about Hellboy's (unauthorized) public appearances. Background TV screens show clips from many Universal horror movies such as Bride of Frankenstein. Johann's use of the word "schwanzstucker" is probably a Young Frankenstein shout-out.

BETTER THAN THE FIRST? No. It looks better, proving to be one of the most outlandish yet lived-in film fantasies ever made. But del Toro's prior Hellboy featured funnier jokes, better acting and deeper pathos along the lines of Beauty and the Beast.

THE BOTTOM LINE: One of the visionary filmmakers of our time, del Toro opens his imagination like Pandora's box for Hellboy II: The Golden Army. But he's not much of a juggler, and many of the romantic themes, not to mention the busy echoes of Men in Black and X-Men, don't resonate as much as they should. For the sequel, Hellboy's supernatural exploits raise the pulse and dazzle the eye without truly touching the heart.