American Werewolf in Paris, An (United States/France/United Kingdom, 1997)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

An American Werewolf in Paris is a failed attempt to recapture the humor and horror of John Landis' 1981 feature, An American Werewolf in London. Where the original had comedy, the sequel has the kind of revolting silliness that can be found in TV sit-coms. Where the first installment had chills, this one has sequences that are inappropriately, unintentionally funny. In short, while An American Werewolf in London has become something of a minor classic in its genre, the woeful An American Werewolf in Paris seems destined for late nights on Cinemax (it even has the necessary gratuitous nudity).

The film opens with a trio of daredevil Americans -- Andy (Tom Everett Scott), Brad (Vince Vieluf), and Chris (Phil Buckman) -- sneaking up to the top of the Eiffel Tower to drink wine and do a little bungee jumping. Soon they have company in the person of Serafine (Julie Delpy), who has decided to end it all. She jumps, but Andy, with a bungee cord attached, goes after her, and manages to save her (at the price of a major headache). Serafine disappears, but a smitten Andy seeks her out. However, once he learns his would-be girlfriend's dark secret, he wishes he hadn't. She's a werewolf, cursed to change into a hideous beast when the moon is full, and, to make matters worse, he has suffered a nasty bite himself.

Actress Julie Delpy is far too good for this movie. She imbues Serafine with spirit, spunk, and humanity, which gives us an emotional stake in the character's fate. This isn't necessarily a good thing, since it prevents us from relaxing and enjoying An American Werewolf in Paris as a completely mindless, campy entertainment experience. Delpy's injection of class into an otherwise classless production raises the specter of what this film could have been with a better script and a better cast surrounding her.

Delpy's previous credits include such memorable ventures as Krzysztof Kieslowski's White and Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise. She was radiant, charismatic, and effective in both. Given the nature and level of the material she has to work with here, she gets as close as possible to those adjectives. It could be argued that Delpy is the only reason to see An American Werewolf in Paris, but even her most devoted fans should consider giving this one a miss. And if your primary objective is catching a glimpse of her in the buff, check out either Killing Zoe or The Passion of Beatrice -- those movies have intelligible plots in addition to breasts.

The rest of the cast acts at a level considerably below that of Delpy -- which is to say, they give performances appropriate for the screenplay. Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do) plays the lead like he's in a made-for-TV movie. It would be kind to call him bland. Actors Vince Vieluf and Phil Buckman, as Andy's friends, are no more impressive. Julie Bowen (Happy Gilmore) is suitably fetching as werewolf meat. And respected French actor Thierry Lhermitte has a brief turn as another monster meal.

On the technical side, it's all bad news. The computer-generated werewolves look painfully unreal. The creatures would probably have been more believable had they been men in wolf suits. Repeated use is made of the "werewolf cam", an infrared wolf's point-of-view approach that's interesting the first couple of times it's employed, then becomes tedious. And the soundtrack includes some alternative grunge rock tunes that clash violently with the on-screen action they're matched to.

Director Anthony Waller, who displayed a confident, edgy style in Mute Witness, stumbles with this material, never being able to make the comedy and horror elements gel. As a result, we get the worst werewolf sequel since The Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf. (I will give Waller credit for killing off a dog, though -- something that's rarely seen in movies these days.) An American Werewolf in Paris is marginally entertaining in a "bad movie" sort of way, but that's a dubious distinction. Ultimately, it's an unfortunate effort, for, while it isn't unbearable to sit through, it isn't a howl, either.

American Werewolf in Paris, An (United States/France/United Kingdom, 1997)

Run Time: 1:40
U.S. Release Date: 1997-12-25
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Sexual Content, Nudity, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1