Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Written by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary

Starring Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie



At one tense moment toward the end of "Beowulf," the slave girl to the queen says of Beowulf, "My lady, he has very bad jeans." I thought, wait a minute; we've seen him naked, though with carefully screened genitals, unlike Bart in "The Simpson's Movie," and we've seen him in his Calvin Klein boxer briefs (I kid you not), but we haven't seen him in anything resembling jeans. "Oh, wait," I said: "He has very bad DREAMS."

Yes, he does, though I don't believe that you will care very much about them. Or about very much else in this bizarre retelling of the great epic poem. For one thing, director Robert Zemeckis has decided to use what's called 'motion capture,' or mocap as his animators refer to it, and if you want to be au courant you should too; it's the same principle of animation he used in "The Polar Express," that inert retelling of an already inert children's story. Only this time, with a few more years to work on it, and releasing it in 3-D for theatres that are equipped to show it, they've filled the screen with bodies crashing toward you, arrows flying toward you, dragons whipping their tales at you, big boulders flying, yes, and even buckets of mead flung toward you. If only guns were invented in the 7th century, they would have had bullets flying toward you as well. However, the important thing is that none of these people, things or boulders are actually real. The actors were told to imitate the motions of drinking, fighting, more drinking, and more fighting, and then the animators turned them into, well, animated figures that move just a bit slower than real life and look like the zombies in 'Day of the Dead."

And they've taken a few other liberties as well. They've given Beowulf (Ray Winstone) a six-pack of abs and put all of his excess flesh onto the tummy of Anthony Hopkins, who plays King Hrothgar as though he were Falstaff in "The Merry Wives of Windsor." As you may or may not recall, Beowulf arrives in Hrothgar's court in Denmark from his home in Sweden, to slay Grendel the dragon and say for the world to hear that he is "Beowulf." Grendel has been busy tearing down Hrothgar's mead hall; this time Hrothgar says he won't rebuild it, and I don't blame him. But in a fight, naked to naked, Beowulf thrashes Grendel and kills him.

However, Grendel's mother (Angelina Jolie, nude and delicious though covered with gilt and, of course, not really there), vows to avenge Grendel's death. She lures Beowulf into sleeping with her and bearing him a son whom we do not see in the film, but the thought of him curdles Beowulf's queen (Robin Wright Penn), who now won't sleep with him. So off Beowulf goes to slay Angelina, who can turn herself into a great dragon; their climactic fight seemed endless.

"Beowulf" has been entered into the Oscar race as an animated film, rather than as live action. If there's any justice, it won't win.