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Despite what Anne Rice may want you to believe, vampires can’t always be sexy. Century after century of artful seduction, sensuous neck-biting, and well-endowed young cohabitants is bound to get old. So it’s only natural that, at a certain age, even the vampiest of vamps turns his thoughts to more meaningful pursuits.

Please. Who wants to see a forever-young bloodluster fretting like a

middle-aged suburbanite? In Van Helsing, Hugh Jackman’s star turn as Bram Stoker’s monster hunter, the world of immortals is reduced to the stuff of a WebMD message board. The movie’s Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), for instance, is vexed less by Van Helsing’s lame attempts to crucifix him into submission than by a more clinical problem: fertility. Yes, the dark lord is having trouble making babies, and he’s after the life force of Frankenstein’s monster—or something—to prevent his current batch of spawn from ending up stillborn like the rest. Sure, it’s all part of Drac’s evil plan to take over the world, but that doesn’t mean that he and his irritating brides don’t get to coo and embrace at the first sight of their beastly winged treasures.

The progeny problem isn’t the only wellness issue among Van Helsing’s plot lines: The brother of Princess Anna (Kate Beckinsale) is bitten by a werewolf, but despite his attempts to kill her, Anna won’t have him destroyed, because she’s heard there’s an antidote. The race-for-a-cure talk soon becomes so prevalent you half-expect the characters to bust out matching T-shirts and start a walk-a-thon.

Van Helsing is, essentially, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman: Monster Mash Edition—a Who’s Who of legendary villains also including the Wolf Man, Mr. Hyde, and even Igor—whose gathering, one might suspect, should be effortlessly interesting. As written and directed by The Mummy creator Stephen Sommers, though, Van Helsing is, like LXG, quite effortful indeed.

The opening black-and-white homage to Universal’s early monster movies is stylish but a bit confusing, involving Dracula but otherwise essentially separate from the rest of the film. Things quickly deteriorate from there: Sommers uses the handy fact that our hero, Gabriel Van Helsing, can’t remember his past to simply plop him in front of us, sans introduction and ready to fight a bloated and pretty cheesy-looking Mr. Hyde (beneath the CGI, Harry Potter’s Robbie Coltrane) in Paris. Van Helsing then hops to Vatican City for some Bond-inspired weapons-shopping with one Friar Carl (David Wenham), the film’s desperate attempt at comic relief, and then the two are transplanted just as quickly to Transylvania for an assignment to kill Dracula.

Here they team up with Anna, whose royal family has been plagued by the supervampire for generations. It’s also the point of no return for Van Helsing: An appearance by Dracula’s brides (Elena Anaya, Silvia Colloca, and Josie Maran) at the snowy, bleak town center is momentarily thrilling, as the white-winged vixens descend ferociously on the villagers in a midday guerrilla attack. But then they open their mouths—revealing cackling witches’ voices dripping with the cartoonish eee-viiilll better befitting Young Frankenstein.

Though brooding, forgetful Van Helsing is made of practically the same stuff as Wolverine, Jackman is unable to make his character smolder. (Maybe it’s the hat.) Beckinsale, attempting an awkward Romanian accent, is also less watchable than she was in the thematically similar Underworld. (Maybe it was the cat suits.) At least Sommers seems to understand the stiff actress’s main appeal: He introduces us to her ass before we glimpse her ringlet-framed face.

Indeed, the director’s script offers so much mawkishness and ineptitude that it’s tough to know what else to single out. OK, it’s not: Dracula’s constant switching between screaming and acting a pillar of calm. Anna’s out-of-nowhere moment in which she confesses, “I’ve never been to the sea…I bet it’s beautiful!” An ending in which a fallen character’s face appears all Lion King in the sky. And finally, one anachronistic little whoopsie that symbolizes this mess of a movie pretty much perfectly: a wayward carriage that—yes—explodes on impact.

The monsters in Young Adam are far lustier than those in Van Helsing, but that doesn’t make them any more compelling. Based on a novel by Scottish Beat writer Alexander Trocchi and directed by fellow Scot David Mackenzie, Young Adam is a slow, sullen affair that mistakes a lack of definition for thoughtful lyricism.

On the canals of ’50s Glasgow, Joe (Ewan McGregor) is working on and living in a barge owned by Les (Peter Mullan) and Ella (Tilda Swinton). One day, he and Les come across a body floating in the water. There’s no sign of foul play on the slipcovered young woman’s corpse, and the mystery of her death becomes the talk of the town.

Joe at first seems an upstanding sort, a quiet hard worker whose puppy-dog expressions make him appear sympathetic even as he’s rubbing legs with Ella underneath the dinner table. A brief bedroom scene in which Les can’t get it up because he’s drunk suggests a loutishness that alienates both his lonely wife and the sensitive Joe; the lack of dialogue that passes between the two lets the viewer ascribe a burning connection to Joe and Ella’s every stolen glance.

It soon becomes evident, however, that the burning isn’t exactly taking place in Joe’s soul: Young Adam quickly devolves from moody murder mystery to a working-class version of Emmanuelle. In fact, Joe does little more than smoke, screw, and look thoughtful throughout the film’s 93 minutes, during which we discover that he knew the drowning victim, a comely lass named Cathie (Emily Mortimer)—a revelation made in flashbacks that are so irritatingly seamless that it’s initially unclear that the story is jumping back in time.

McGregor’s at first magnetic turn as Joe is rendered ineffective by Mackenzie’s undernourished script. Joe’s quick, wordless seduction of Ella—whom Swinton gives a no-frills carnality that’s both sensual and distasteful—is repeated with others until it seems a joke. A steamy eye-locking can certainly be passionate, but Young Adam suggests that Joe need only glance at the town’s apparently sex-starved women before they fling their legs around him.

The gist of Young Adam is that (1) appearances can be deceiving and (2) most people are selfish bastards. Eventually, an innocent man is charged with Cathie’s death, and Les is shown to be a decent, humble husband and father; meanwhile, earthy taskmaster Ella is happy to ignore her partner’s feelings as long as she’s shagging ne’er-do-well Joe. Within the confines of Les and Ella’s barge, the volatile dynamic makes for a watchable powder keg of a story, but whenever Joe takes his slime elsewhere, Young Adam fizzles.

Audience members unsure of their willingness to stay with the filmmaker’s bleak, sexed-up, and somewhat incomplete picture of humanity will likely be polarized by one of Young Adam’s most memorable moments: a custard- and ketchup-dripping rape scene that could, I suppose, be of some dark significance. But the scene scans more convincingly as a bit of hard stuff to top all the soft-core that’s come before. Like the rest of Young Adam, it provokes the senses much more than the mind. CP