Ricci finds career, new movie ‘Cursed’

About an hour through Wes Craven's newest film "Cursed," a pissed-off werewolf flips Christina Ricci the bird.

The animatronic wolf, framed against a gothic window, might be the best symbol for why the movie is so unsatisfying. "Cursed" — like the snarling, defiant werewolf — is wedged solidly somewhere between parody and horror movie, yet checks off the requirements for neither.

It's got all the basics of your great werewolf movies: a snarling, half unseen monster lurking the glitzy B-list celebrity world that populates the movie (When Craig Kilbourn, Lance Bass and Scott Baio all play themselves in any particular movie, the phrase "B-list" is a compliment). It's got the staple werewolf transformation scene, the wacky twisting of alternate identities and the sexual tension undercurrents, as well as the werewolf being used as a metaphor for closeted homosexuality.

It's also got the makings of a great parody a la "An American Werewolf in London." A poorly disguised werewolf with disturbing bug eyes plays the villain. One of the alternate identities for a villain is a neurotic publisher named Joanie (Judy Greer).

The movie is positively littered with second rate stars. "Cursed" was shot when Kilbourn still had "The Late Late Show." They didn't change the title of the show now that Craig Ferguson is the host. Worst of all, this comes off as an unintentional screw-up rather than a potentially hilarious intentional gag.

The action surrounds the fate of Ricci's Ellie and her brother Jimmy (played by Jesse Eisenberg). One night on a Craven-ish dark road, they are attacked by a house cat and become werewolves. The rest of the movie is spent either a) denying that werewolves exist, b) making the jump from unbeliever to believer by reading comic books and hack literature, c) trying to avoid Scott Baio's flirtatious intentions or d) all of the above.

If you selected d, you're right. that still means the movie is 96 minutes long.

Eisenberg in particular looks wolfish enough to make his part somewhat believable, but without extensive computer-generated fangs and other wolfish accoutrements, Ricci looks little more than dazzled to find herself in "Cursed" on the heels of her fantastic performance in "Monster." Joshua Jackson, who plays Ricci's beau "Jake," simpers around with a kind of half-menace.

If you don't think too hard about what "Cursed" could be, then you're in for a pretty good time. That being said, there are a number of parallels between "Cursed" and another, even more terrible movie that debuted last year, "Blade Trinity." There is a wrestling scene, a dog with strange powers and peculiar elaborate sets.

Even with these parallels, "Cursed" is far less hackneyed than its Marvel-based counterpart.

Were it not for the movie's terrible identity crisis, this would be a good movie. However, since it can't decide whether or not to be a parody or a serious horror movie, Craven's latest work is doomed to mediocrity.

Grade: C

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Mar. 3 2005.,”Brian O'Connor”