Dante's Inferno 

As it did with "Dead Space," Anchor Bay Entertainment has unleashed an animated feature film to tie in to a high-profile video game from EA "? in this case, "Dante's Inferno." Don't take "animated" to mean "plop the kids in front of the TV," because this one's for the big boys and girls, refreshingly.

"Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic" draws from Dante Alighieri's classic of 12th-century literature, "The Divine Comedy." But whereas many an English student has struggled to make heads or tails of that epic poem, viewers can shut off their brain for this hour-and-a-half excursion into Hell.

Our sword-slinging, Conan-esque hero is named Dante, natch. He undergoes a virtual suicide mission when his beautiful girlfriend, Beatrice, is kidnapped by Ol' Scratch himself, literally pulled down into the underworld. Dante follows her with hopes of saving his beloved, but "? amid a booming operatic score "? he first has to defeat obstacle after obstacle.

That includes wispy smoke beings, winged creatures, obese goblins, three-headed giant worms, armored demons, bare-breasted "lust minions" and other things that are the shape-shifting stuff of nightmares, complete with a cameo by Adolf Hitler! Entrails are spilled; faces are halved; and bodies are dissected, all with prodigious overuse of the color red.

Although its segments have been divvied up among half a dozen directors ("Ghost in the Shell" and "Blood: The Last Vampire" among their credits), "Inferno" is much less episodic than you'd think. What it lacks in originality "? this is, after all, one fight scene after another "? it more than makes up for in visual imagination. The animation looks nothing like the trying-too-hard CGI of the game (whose trailer rests on the extra features) and everything like a lost, extended segment of the '80s cult classic "Heavy Metal."

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here? Not a chance. "?Rod Lott

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