Ostensibly a horror movie, it's also not scary, and as an action film, it's certainly packed with non-stop, high-flying, explosively boring action. Endless dull action, as far as the eye can see!
The film begins in 1887, when the world was still in black and white. Dr. Frankenstein completes his monster just in time for angry, pitchfork-wielding, conservative Republican villagers to raise an objection to his use of monster-based stem cells. Luckily, Dracula swoops in to save the day, but a windmill fire and a poor public-relations campaign lead to some sort of death occurring.
Cut to a year later: color film stock has been invented, and fresh from his run in Broadway's The Heterosexual Man From Australia Sings His Heart Out for Elderly Women Whose Loveless Marriages Have Somehow Not Dispossessed Them of Their Highly Romanticized Notions of Lovemaking, the ironically named Hugh Jackman swings into Paris to defeat Mr. Hyde, who has somehow wound up computer animated, and in France.
Next, we're at the Vatican's underground secret weapons lab, where Buddhist monks and Jewish Kabalists and Islamic Imams work together to protect the world from vampires and Protestants.
Here, Jackman (as super-warrior and hat-wearing ne'er-do-ill and also titular characterless guy Van Helsing) gets a new assignment: He must kill Dracula.
Why must he kill Dracula? Because that's how he'll meet hot, leather-clad vampire fighter Kate Beckinsale, and without her, there's no meaningless romance to the plot.
Not that there's a plot, or anything, but still, somebody has to kiss somebody, or it's not a movie.
But wait: Other than the kissing--of which there's very little--if you're a 9-year-old boy who thinks he's going to grow up to be an astronaut but who's actually going to be a C++ programmer, this is the best movie ever made. It has Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman and a guy with a crossbow shooting vampires out of the sky.
And these vampires are naked ladies who don't have nipples. It's like a young boy's dream come true!
Back to the film: At this point, most adults can take a refreshing snooze while their youngsters thrill to the site of vampire eggs bursting forth with tiny, naked vampirelings who do some blood-sucking and then explode like a summer action movie. There's vampire-goo everywhere! So cool!
Or dull! Because there's no story and no sense to the action! Or cool, if you just want to see exploding vampire babies! Or dull, if you require a plot or characters!
In fact, Van Helsing himself, though possessed of advanced fighting skills, has no memory of his early life. This is sort of a metaphor for the whole movie: a complete lack of depth, but a lot of swinging on ropes to decapitate things that may or may not already be dead, such as vampires, zombies and the brain of director Stephen Sommers.
Sommers is best reviled for having made The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, two of the worst films of the last two millennia. Van Helsing is easily 40 times better than The Mummy, which is to say that it just basically sucks.
Or not! It's great, if you just want to see things moving around at high speeds! Or, if you like plot holes so big they make Madonna seem like a virgin! Or, your only interest in going to the cinema is to see people falling off cliffs and swinging on ropes and stopping only to utter extremely flat expository dialogue! Then it's awesometacular and s00pr-k3w1!!!
Actually, a good test for whether or not you'll like this awesome, spectacular, deadly dull action-snooze-fest-orama, is to watch 2 1/2 hours of Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. If that's a good time to you (and, as I recall, it seemed like a good time before I had pubic hair and taste and stuff), then you'll adore Van Helsing. If the thought of watching that poor coyote fall off yet another cliff doesn't send you into giggly paroxysms of girlish glee, then you might want to send the kids in to Van Helsing while you wait in the car and think about your dashed dreams and lost youth, because that'll be a lot more fun for you.