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Big Red’s back with a vengeance

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or a film about a wise-cracking, cigar-chomping demon, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” manages to mingle gravitas with humor, and tenderness with frenzied, fantastical action.

The sequel is a comic book-to-film adaptation done right—and that’s no easy feat.

But under the confident direction of Guillermo Del Torro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), “Hellboy II” looks effortless.

Remarkable visuals combine with adroit performances by the talented cast, as well as a collection of creatures both great—a po’ed forest demon—and small—murderous tooth fairies.

For those who misspent their youth exercising instead of sifting through back issues in a comic book shop, the film is based on the Dark Horse series about a spawn of Satan, Hellboy, who battles evil for the United States Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development. He also enjoys candy and routinely trims his horns in order to ‘fit in.’

In this latest chapter, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is catching some major relationship heat from his pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), but the drama takes a momentary backseat to more pressing concerns, namely the fate of Earth.

The ancient, exiled Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) is going about town collecting pieces of a crown that will give him the power to control the Golden Army, an unstoppable force of mechanized fighters.

“Humans have forgotten the good—and for what? Parking lots and shopping malls,” the prince remarks.

While sociologists might agree with Nuada’s point, Hellboy ain’t into philosophizing much.

It’s up to Red, as his pals call him, and the other misfits at the bureau, to face death—literally—and try and stop Nuada before it’s too late.

Del Torro, who also wrote the sharp screenplay, is on his game, injecting each set piece with an infectious sense of wonder.

A troll market underneath the Brooklyn Bridge and a scrap with the aforementioned forest demon are standouts among a rush of imaginative flourishes.

The film has a freewheeling arrhythmia: a drunken singalong to a Barry Manilow tune is followed up by an intricately staged swordfight.

But it’s all done without pretense. “Hellboy II” is all heart.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language. Running time: 110 minutes. With Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Seth MacFarlane, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, and Jeffrey Tambor.

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