“No pulse? No problem,” reads Dylan Dog’s (Brandon Routh) business card in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. That refers to his supernatural clients. Unfortunately, it turns out be a pretty good description of the movie, where it is very much a problem. And I wanted to like this. I don’t care that it departs from its source comic books, which I’ve never read. I understand those include—at least in Italy—a Groucho Marx character, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen in trademark-happy America, even though it would have been cool. (They did get a Duck Soup poster into the set decorations.) All the same, I was hoping for something better than this. It’s not so much that Dylan Dog is bad—certainly nowhere near as bad as is being claimed—it’s that it’s so completely inconsequential that it’s rarely more than just “there.”
For the record, the movie is all about the down-at-the-heels gumshoe of the title, who used to work as a kind of mediator among the rival supernatural factions—vampires, werewolves, zombies—who reside in New Orleans. He was there in case one of their number did something extrovert—like killing a human—that might draw the attention of the “breathers” (live folks). But he gave up the job to eke out a living as a P.I. for live people. Why? There’s a reason the film makes a big deal out of this, but you probably won’t care very much. It hardly matters anyway, since—just like the perpetually retiring Nick Charles (William Powell) in the Thin Man movies—circumstances, manipulation and clever scripting will conspire to put him back among the supernatural. Otherwise there’d be no movie.
There’s nothing really wrong with the plot about getting a hold of an artifact with incredible powers—except that it’s nothing more than serviceable and not very interesting. The whole hook lies in the movie’s world-weary private eye and his ersatz-Raymond Chandler narration. And there’s the real problem—31-year-old Brandon Routh hasn’t got any world-weary vibe. At all. Sure, former juvenile lead and crooner Dick Powell turned into a wholly credible Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet (1944), but he was 40 at the time and looked even older. When Routh makes a big deal about using film rather than a digital camera, he just seems silly and affected.
It’s not all Routh’s fault—and in his favor, he’s constantly likable and has good chemistry with Sam Huntington (Jimmy Olsen from Routh’s Superman Returns) as Dylan’s zombified sidekick. Their scenes occasionally boost the movie. But they can’t get it past Kevin Munroe’s direction. Yeah, he can shoot a scene like a series of comic book panels, but he has zero sense of atmosphere, and that’s a killer with a horror movie. Plus, the CGI is often dodgy and haphazard—no one seems to have a clue how big the big-deal monster is. But whatever size he is, he’s easily the dumbest omnipotent being ever to wander up from the bowels of hell. He certainly cooks the film’s goose in the “why bother” department. Rated PG-13 for sequences of creature violence and action, language including some sexual references, and some drug material.