Dinner and a Movie: The Wolfman, Hair of the Dog and TJ's Pizza


The creature feature is the Hollywood equivalent of frozen pizza.

It's timeless (that idea/pizza will keep in the freezer for years), it's formulaic (BTW, who decided that "supreme" should be little bits of green bell pepper, soggy mushrooms, pepperoni and black olives?), and as long as it's done right it makes for a cheap satisfying meal/moviegoing experience.

Alas, when it comes to The Wolfman with Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, the movie is more TJ's than DiGiorno. What that mean, exactly? Both the movie and TJ's are extra-cheesy but the cheese is the cheap, processed kind that leaves an icky aftertaste and causes indigestion.

At least that was the gastrointestinal status after a one-two gut punch of The Wolfman and a TJ's Italian sausage personal pizza at Hair of the Dog on Washington Avenue.

The movie was doomed from the moment Benicio Del Toro was cast as an Englishman. Del Toro is one of the best actors alive, but he is incapable of speaking with a British accent. Thus, what should be witty dialogue is rendered as stiff as an unthawed frozen pizza crust every time Benicio opens his mouth and futilely attempts to conceal his natural patois.

In Wolfman Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, an acclaimed stage actor who returns to his father's rural estate to investigate his brother's mysterious disappearance. It's a wolfman movie, so we all know the drill. His brother was mauled by a mysterious creature, which of course turns out to be a werewolf, which of course ends up biting him, which of course gruesomely transforms him into a bloodthirsty beast. His love interest (Emily Blunt) thinks she can save him, while his father (Hopkins) walks around in a leopard-print scarf and says spooky things to the point that we all know he's a wolfman too about fifteen minutes into the film.

Wolfman constantly struggles to find the appropriate tone. It tries to be spooky, with blurred flashbacks to Talbot's troubled childhood, an inky-dark color palette and a soundtrack heavy on the high-pitched strings. It tries (and succeeds wildly) at being gory. (Severed heads? Ceck. Disemboweled organs? Check. Ample blood spatter? Check, check, check, check.) Worst of all, it tries to be clever with Hamlet references and dog/wolf puns (example: "Dog eat dog world") that linger after the characters' punch lines like elevator farts.

Wolfman is undeniably disturbing at some points (in particular, there's a very random sequence in which Talbot is locked up in a mental institution/torture chamber), but it's never compelling, it's never exciting and it's never really funny. And honestly, a movie all about men in wolf suits needs to be funny from time to time. Just ask Abbot and Costello.

As for the Hair of the Dog, at 7:30 on a Sunday night, the place was as dead as a decapitated werewolf victim. The only person there was the bartender. Asked about the slow night, he replied: "It never gets busy until after midnight on a Sunday." Howling at the moon indeed.

Belying its reputation as a dive, the bar has an outstanding tap selection and a pint of the Schlafly seasonal Fudd -- a mild brown ale, like Newcastle without the bite -- with a nutty aroma was just the ticket to wash away the film's lingering dog-doo stench.

Then there was the TJ's frozen pizza. It's the only food served at Hair of the Dog. It's quick, it's cheap and when it's 1:45 a.m. there's something about it that manages to hit the spot. If that ain't enough, it's locally made. (No, really, it's made in St. Louis!)

On this occasion, however, the cracker-crust, chunks of Italian sausage and soggy provolone was not what the stomach-ordered. Like the evening's choice of movie's, the pizza's reheated cheese was just not as good on the umpteenth time around.

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