Guillermo del Toro and Co. have pulled off a fantastical feat of high entertainment in Hellboy II, a follow-up that bounds off its predecessor into new comedic and action-packed heights, giving this unlikely big screen hero a gleeful second installment that works its devilish tail off to satisfy and astound. Having already been through the rather transparent -- "This is who the big-horned fella is and yes, he's the leading man" schtick the first time around, round two finds its own groove as Mike Mignola's characters trounce through Del Toro's menagerie of fetishes, namely misunderstood monsters, clockwork gears, undying love, and a magical array of monsters that leaves the audience spellbound throughout its near-two-hour running time.
If one thing is for certain, it's that Ron Perlman was born to play this cat-loving demon with a heart of gold. His nuances under the makeup are effortless, as is his interaction with the movie's biggest surprise, that of gill-man and best bud, Abe Sapien. Performer Doug Jones dons the suit once more, but this time, is given the humble task of supplying the voice for the creature (taking the reins from Frasier's David Hyde Pierce) -- the result being a homerun straight out of one of the Hollywood's most unexpected playbooks. Abe and Hellboy are an endearing duo to be reckoned with, and with their dual romantic subplots, are given the chance to play off each other in wonderfully silly ways. And if there weren't enough laughs already with returning cast member Jeffrey Tambor, here comes the newest -- and most delightfully bizarre -- BPRD member, Johan Strauss, infectiously voiced to a Germanic hilt by Family Guy-guru, Seth MacFarlane. On the flipside, Luke Goss provides another intriguing villain that's not unlike his sorrowful portrayal of the tragic Shakespearean baddie in Del Toro's highly underrated Blade II.
Far separated from the sparse, atmospheric creation that makes up much of Mignola's comics, Hellboy II dares to cram as much creativity into every frame as possible, leaving no doubt that this big-screen incarnation is its own valid animal -- and one that's well worth the price of admission. From the exquisite production design to the top-notch creature effects, the film is eye candy of the highest order. Boasting the largest set of in-camera monster effects this side of Nightbreed, and featuring some of the most striking character conceptions of its time, Del Toro has crafted a uniquely beautiful creation that dazzles the eye as well as the heart. Add in its sharp comic instincts and wham-bam action and one gets a comic-book film that strives to deliver a rousing experience for audiences of all ages -- and really, who could ask for more than that?