The Wolfman, Joe Johnston, 96 mins (15)
Ponyo, Hayao Miyazaki, 93 mins (U)
Valentine's Day, Garry Marshall, 125 mins (12A)

Benicio Del Toro's howling at the Moon. Me? I'm just howling

Sometimes a film can be beset by all sorts of hitches during production, and yet still be greeted as a potential classic (Casablanca) or at least a hit (Titanic) by the time it reaches cinemas.

On the other hand, there are films like The Wolfman. Its original director walked out just before shooting started, and, by all accounts, matters didn't improve much when his replacement took over. And, in this instance, all the difficulties encountered behind the scenes are apparent in the finished product. The Wolfman is a dog's dinner.

A remake of the Lon Chaney classic of 1941, it stars Benicio Del Toro as a Victorian gent who visits the family pile, just across a foggy moor from a gypsy encampment, and finds himself immediately cursed to have a bad-hair day every full moon. Del Toro is also one of the producers, so you'd assume that it was some kind of passion project, and yet neither he nor anyone else appears to have had a clear vision of the film they were trying to make. The tone continually wavers between silly and serious, and because scenes have been edited down to bite-sized chunks, there is a general impression that the cast members want to get to the end of the nonsensical screenplay as quickly as possible, so as to put the whole sorry business behind them.

To be fair, there's some romping energy whenever the werewolf is lopping people's heads off, and Hugo Weaving and Antony Sher ham it up nicely as a police detective and a Sigmund Freud-like psychiatrist respectively. But the three actors with their names on the poster look thoroughly bored. Their characters are brought together by the grisly murder of a loved one – Del Toro's brother, Anthony Hopkins's son, and Emily Blunt's fiancé – but they're so unmoved that you'd think they'd never met him. It's hard to care what happens to Del Toro as a wolfman when he's such an expressionless lump as a man.

Just a fortnight after The Princess and the Frog, along comes another hand-drawn cartoon, Ponyo. The latest film from Hayao Miyazaki, creator of the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, it's a delightful contemporary fairy tale featuring a mermaid shaped like a glove puppet. She's tired of being stuck under the waves with her wizard father, so she swims to the surface, where she meets a boy called Sosuke, who lives on a clifftop overlooking a seaside town. He names her Ponyo. When her father drags her back to the briny deep soon afterwards, she's determined to become human so that she and Sosuke can be reunited.

Ponyo is more comprehensible than most Japanese animes, but it has its head-scratching moments. If Miyazaki were an American writer-director, rather than a Japanese one, critics wouldn't be so soft on all his mystic waffle about Sosuke's love for Ponyo "bringing nature into balance". Still, you can't blame anyone for being swept along by the film's hearty orchestral score or by its many visual enchantments: a submerged town where prehistoric eels glide along the roads; a city seen twinkling in the distance that turns out to be a pile-up of ocean liners. And, crucially, the film balances its unearthly magic with down-to-earth human interaction. What makes it so special is that Miyazaki puts as much loving care into showing Ponyo eating noodles as he does into showing her running along the backs of fish the size of whales.

Valentine's Day is an all-star ensemble romantic comedy which unfolds over the course of one grindingly long day – you can guess which one. During that day, various interchangeable Jessicas, Jennifers and Julias scurry around Los Angeles, obsessing over their love lives. It's a calculating, banal and deeply unromantic affair which brings the adjective "Altmanesque" into disrepute, and which makes you re-evaluate Love Actually, not because its jokes aren't funny or because its set-pieces fall flat, but because there aren't any jokes or set-pieces in the first place.

Garry Marshall, the director, seems more interested in selling the soundtrack album, and the wholesale commercialisation of the feast of St Valentine. Even the woman (a Jessica, or possibly a Jennifer) who claims to hate 14 February hosts a themed dinner to mark the occasion, complete with balloons, banners and a heart-shaped pinata. But, strangely enough, amid all the proposals and break-ups, not one of the overlapping storylines concerns the sending or receiving of an anonymous card, which is what I always thought Valentine's Day was about. If you must see one of Marshall's rom-coms, stick to Pretty Woman, the subject of a 20th-anniversary reissue this week.

Also Showing: 14/02/2010

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (110 mins, PG)

Having directed the first two Harry Potter instalments, Chris Columbus must have been in the mood to try something radically different, hence the hero of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is American, not English. As for the rest of the film, well, you be the judge. It's a CGI-heavy fantasy adventure, based on a series of children's novels about a troubled boy who finds he's inherited superpowers, and who is packed off to a place where others like him learn to use their magical abilities. All right, so it's more of a camp than a boarding school, but its name, "Camp Half-Blood", rings a bell of Big Ben proportions.

The gimmick is Greek mythology. Percy (Logan Lerman) may be a Zac Efron-lookalike who lives with his mother (Catherine Keener) in a cramped New York apartment, but he's the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), and he goes on a quest that brings him into contact with Medusa (Uma Thurman, pictured above), Hades (Steve Coogan) and all the other gods and monsters we're due to meet in the imminent Clash of the Titans remake. None gets as many laughs as Harry's adult supporting cast – not intentionally, anyway – and the plotting that unites them all is creaky compared with J K Rowling's. But it's harmless and sometimes spectacular fun, and it might even induce its younger viewers to read some Greek myths.

Food Inc. (94 mins, PG)

Robert Kenner's Oscar-nominated documentary goes behind the closed doors and blacked-out windows of America's ecologically, medically and economically ruinous farming industry, which is subsidised by the taxpayer and controlled by a handful of companies with government ties. There isn't much in it that hasn't been seen in several other recent documentaries, but it's worth being reminded of the stomach-churning truth.

Malice in Wonderland (83 mins, 15)

Bizarre collision between a post-Ritchie mockney gangster thriller and Alice in Wonderland, which means that it stars Danny Dyer as a taxi driver called Whitey who keeps rabbiting on about being late for a very important date. If it had been shown late at night on Channel 4 in the 1980s, it would probably have been applauded as experimental.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, already a contentious novel and now an even more contentious film

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss