In the ongoing deluge of comic-book adaptations, Hellboy ranks well above average. Having turned down an offer to helm Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in favor of bringing Hellboy's origin story to the big screen, the gifted Mexican director Guillermo del Toro compensates for the excesses of Blade II with a moodily effective, consistently entertaining action-packed fantasy, beginning in 1944 when the mad monk Rasputin--in cahoots with occult-buff Hitler and his Nazi thugs--opens a transdimensional portal through which a baby demon emerges, capable of destroying the world with his powers. Instead, the aptly named Hellboy is raised by the benevolent Prof. Bloom, founder of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, whose allied forces enlist the adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman, perfectly cast) to battle evil at every turn. While nursing a melancholy love for the comely firestarter Liz (Selma Blair), Hellboy files his demonic horns ("to fit in," says Bloom) and wreaks havoc on the bad guys. The action is occasionally routine (the movie suffers when compared to the similar X-Men blockbusters), but del Toro and Perlman have honored Mike Mignola's original Dark Horse comics with a lavish and loyal interpretation, retaining the amusing and sympathetic quirks of character that made the comic-book Hellboy a pop-culture original. He's red as a lobster, puffs stogies like Groucho Marx, and fights the good fight with a kind but troubled heart. What's not to like?