(SPOILERS AHEAD) I didn’t bother with Wolf when it came out because it seemed way too easy, with a bunch of Hollywood execs sitting around a napkin saying “Hey, Jack Nicholson’s a wild man, wolves are wild. What if he was a werewolf?” etc, etc. In fact, Jack Nicholson is probably the best thing about this film, especially in the early scenes which play a bit like a precursor to his amazing performance in About Schmidt. Nicholson plays a highly regarded, but long in the tooth, publisher who gets usurped by the younger, hungrier James Spader; loosing his career and his wife in the process. Fortunately, he’s also bitten by a really bad animatronic wolf in the opening scene and soon starts to get a taste for life, love (with Michelle Pfeiffer) and blood.
Directed by the great Mike Nichols, the film plays like a reverse of his Working Girl, with the audience this time on the side of the old has-been rather than the young upstart. The early set up with Spader doing his best sleazy back-stabbing, as Nicholson tries to fight-back and save his lifelong career, is all quite intriguing. However, once he starts getting all hairy and toothsome the film really looses its way. Numerous sub plots seem to fade-off into the background: what happens to Nicholson’s attempt to start up his own company? Who actually killed his wife? Why was Prunella Scale’s character in one scene at the beginning and never seen again?
Worse still the werewolf effects are terrible. Rick Baker is a legend, arguably one of the greatest make up effects artists in cinema history. His work in American Werewolf in London still stands up today. What happened in Wolf though? The main make-up is little more than some pubic-like side burns and a dodgy under-bite. I suppose the contact lenses are okay. That doesn’t say much though does it? As for the aforementioned fully animatronic wolf – I think there is a reason it’s only seen in two shots, it makes Bruce from Jaws seem like the height of robotic monster sophistication.
By the time we reach the climatic wolf-man showdown, shot in excruciating slow-motion, I was hiding my eyes in embarrassment. It’s all just so overblown and ridiculous. Plus some of the dialogue is really clunky, especially when talking about the werewolf legend. Only a beautifully delivered moment when Jack Nicholson proclaims his pure, instinctive love for Pfeiffer stands out.
To sum up I’m not going to make any wolf based jokes, okay I am! It’s a bit of a howler. Oh god that was terrible. Bite me. Oh, it just goes on. I bet all these puns were made in 1994 when I, rightfully, ignored this film.