Reviewer's grade: A-
Robert Zemeckis returns to his monster-loving roots " he was one of the producers of HBO's "Tales from the Crypt" " with this gaudy, rambunctious re-telling of the old epic tale of a boastful warrior who kills a monster, becomes a king, loses his soul to lust, and then redeems himself by adopting a more selfless heroism. Zemeckis uses an updated version of motion-capture animation " think Gollum and King Kong " to bring the story to life.
Ray Winstone stars as Beowulf, Anthony Hopkins is the king who urges him to go a-monster-slayin', Robin Wright Penn is the queen who wouldn't mind trading Hopkins' flab for Winstone's abs, John Malkovich is the king's advisor, Brendan Gleeson is Beowulf's friend, Crispin Glover is the monster Grendel, and Angelina Jolie is Grendel's mother, a demon who can assume a pleasing shape for seducing heroes.
The film is a wild ride with a dragon-battling sequence to die for, courtesy of a sometimes tongue-in-cheek screenplay by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary. Catch it in its 3-D incarnation if you can. The splendor is worth the extra time and money. PG-13