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Glover is just too creepy as the ratmaster 'Willard'

WILLARD — ** 1/2 — Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Elena Harring, Jackie Burroughs, Kristen Cloke; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, brief gore, vulgarity); see "Playing at local movie theaters" for complete listing of local theaters.

There's always been something vaguely rodentlike about Crispin Glover. Which probably makes him the ideal choice to play lord and master of a bunch of rats.

However, that doesn't necessarily make the oddball character actor the perfect choice to star in a remake of the 1971 cult film "Willard," about the lord and master of a bunch of rats. A more subtle and sympathetic actor might have been a better choice. Glover may be many things — "creepy" chief among them — but he's definitely not anything close to sympathetic.

Perhaps that explains why the filmmakers abandoned the somewhat subtle approach of the film's first two-thirds and allowed the final third to go way over the top. Which is unfortunate, because the first two-thirds are pretty darned good.

Glover stars as Willard Stiles, a meek 30-year-old with few, if any, friends. He lives to serve his ailing mother (Jackie Burroughs) and is in mortal fear of his boss, Mr. Martin (R. Lee Ermey, in full shouting/eye-popping mode).

But Willard has an even bigger problem. His house has been invaded by rodents. Rather than kill them, however, the kind-hearted man instead takes a shine to the rats — especially a tiny white one he names Socrates. Willard also encounters a much bigger black rat, which he names Ben — and Ben helps rally the other rodents around their human "friend."

The rats prove useful in exacting revenge on his tormentors, but, unfortunately, they also keep him from exploring his friendship with a beautiful co-worker (Laura Elena Harring).

Director Glen Morgan works in several sly nods to his prior works, including TV's "The X-Files." He also manages to get in an homage to actor Bruce Davison, who played the title character in the original film. And while there's a lot to appreciate in this film's peculiarly dark humor (particularly a scene in which the rats surround and attack a cat), a lot of the more clever moments are undercut by Glover's campy performance.

"Willard" is rated PG-13 for scenes of violence (rodent attacks), scattered use of strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), brief gore (more discreet than you might expect) and some vulgar humor. Running time: 95 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com