Do you remember Brandon Routh? He was the new Superman the last time they chose a new Superman, before the current new Superman. He made one movie, “Superman Returns,” and then the Superman people were like, “Ehhh, never mind.” Routh was left to fend for himself then, and the sad result was “Dylan Dog: Dead of Night,” an unfunny supernatural comedy about a P.I. who solves crimes in the vampire and werewolf communities of New Orleans — which sounds like a can’t-miss formula for a truly terrible movie, but it turns out it’s merely subpar in the average way that things are subpar. Poor Brandon Routh can’t even be a stand-out at being bad.
The movie is based on an Italian comic book, because we ran out of American comic books to turn into movies and had to start importing them. (Take THAT, Wonder Woman!) The “Dead of Night” subtitle has no bearing on this particular story; my hunch is that subsequent Dylan Dog movies would have had similar “dead”-themed titles: “Dylan Dog: Dead Wrong”; “Dylan Dog: Better Off Dead”; “Dylan Dog: Dead Last at the Box Office”; etc.
Anyway, the deal is that all the scary monsters you’ve seen in movies and young-adult romance novels are real. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, bronies, they all exist, and they live among us, trying to blend in and stay out of trouble. Dylan Dog (Routh) is a private investigator who used to be the one human the monsters trusted to sort out crimes committed within their ranks, but that was a long time ago, before his girlfriend got killed, which the movie will refer to 48,000 times before it says what actually happened. (Vampires killed her. THERE, WAS THAT SO HARD??) Now Mr. Dog is a regular P.I., the kind whose office is liable to be entered by leggy dames who spell trouble. He’s assisted in his work by his friend Marcus (Sam Huntington), whose function, in both the detective agency and the film, is to be panicky and stupid. Dylan’s own affable blandness is thus contrasted with his sidekick’s blundering comic-reliefitude. In a Scooby-Doo equation, Dylan is Fred and Marcus is an especially jittery Shaggy.
(Note: Sam Huntington, who plays Marcus, also played Jimmy Olsen in “Superman Returns.” “Hey, Sam! It’s your agent! How would you like to work with Brandon Routh again?” “On another Superman movie??” “Well…”)
Dylan is dragged back into the supernatural biz when a young lady named Elizabeth (Anita Briem) seeks his assistance in determining who or what killed her historian father in a most bloody fashion. Actually, she asks Dylan for help and he refuses, then changes his mind when Marcus is killed by what seems to have been the same creature. Here the movie has done two good things in one move: give Dylan a personal reason to get involved, and get rid of the character we’re already most annoyed by.
But in a cruel reversal, and a dispiriting example of the movie’s indifference toward us, Marcus comes back to life. Only now he’s a zombie, and the zombies in this world can talk, complain, be hysterical, make stupid decisions, get in the way, and act as irritating sidekicks. These zombies are just like regular people except that their bodies are falling apart and they carry the stench of death. So they are like people at Walmart. And while we’re on the subject: the vampires in the Dylan Dog world show up in photographs and don’t need permission to enter your house; werewolves can change between human and wolf forms whenever they want to, regardless of the moon; and private detectives can be successful without being any good at detecting.
Elizabeth’s father was looking for a mystical artifact that can control monsters, or something, and he didn’t have it, but a monster thought he did and killed him. Monsters are notorious for not getting their facts straight. Now the search is on for the real artifact. Everyone wants it! It’s like the Maltese falcon in that movie whose name escapes me. Peter Stormare is here as the head of a local werewolf clan, and like 115% of Peter Stormare characters, he’s super-crazy. And hey look, it’s Taye Diggs as a suave vampire who owns a nightclub and has much sex with hot human ladies! Yessir, New Orleans is a swingin’ town with a saucy nightlife, as long as you don’t mind the rotting flesh and ever-present danger of being murdered. It’s probably even worse when you factor in the vampires and werewolves.
“Dylan Dog: Dead of Night” is essentially just a generic P.I. whodunit, only with generic monsters added, for more generic-y goodness. You can see what they were going for: a mixture of comedy, horror, and mystery, but without any of those things. Brandon Routh seems like a nice boy, but his flavorless performance as the supposedly dynamic Dylan is so forgettable and unremarkable as to approach Paul Walkerian levels. The Dylan Dog movies could have become a hugely popular series, and he could have starred in all of them, and people still wouldn’t have known the name of the guy who played Dylan Dog. They’d say, “Let’s go see the new Dylan Dog movie. What’s-his-name, Dylan Dog, was on Leno last night.” Not that I can blame him for phoning it in here. I’d be a little glum, too, if I’d lost the job where I got to dress up like Superman but had to keep working with Jimmy Olsen.