Van Helsing: The London Assignment Sharon Bridgeman

Van Helsing, the apparent James Bond of a fictional Victorian era, returns in an animated prequel to the feature film. Featuring the voices of Hugh Jackman (Van Helsing), Robbie Coltrane (Mr. Hyde) and David Wenham (Carl), The London Assignment tells of Van Helsing's attempt at tracking a serial murderer. In doing so, Van Helsing is caught up in mayhem, pandemonium and even a little bit of skulduggery. Let's face facts here though, the true purpose behind this release is not to add dimension to the existing feature film. Universal is banking on the prequel catching your interest enough for you to go see the movie — the 30-minute short ends where the movie begins, thus setting you up to run out and see the film (cha-ching!). Also, this DVD includes a short piece on the making of the Van Helsing video game, thus setting you up to buy the video game (cha-ching!). There's also an interview with Hugh Jackman, which hypes the franchise even more, thus setting you up to buy the video game, see the movie and probably go and look for Van Helsing underoos too (cha-ching!). Where Universal's marketing concept fails however, is that in order to make the prequel an effective tool to sell the movie, the product has to be interesting. Van Helsing: The London Assignment is far from interesting. It is not horrible — the animation is decent and the plot works well with the feature film (though wasn't the Transylvania mission Carl's first time out?) — but it's not intriguing either. What is great though is that the real actors participate in this release. There is a half-hour feature on the making of the Van Helsing movie that is pretty good too. And you are able to view the storyboard sketches in unison with certain scenes in the short. Still, this release is more like a Saturday morning cartoon. Unless you happen to be buying it for your kids, don't waste your cash. (Universal)