27 November 2008

Compare & Contrast sine nomine

There haven’t been all that many cases where I’ve seen both the original and a re-make; so I haven’t gravitated to any generalization of either approval or disapproval. For some such pairings, the original held no great interest for me, so why should I trouble with a remake? For others, I like the original so well, what attraction could the remake have for me?

In this instance, though, we just chanced on the remake while watching cable one night. It’s a cable station which tends to ‘run’ a movie several times over the course of one or two months; so we saw patches of the remake (sometimes quite large patches) on quite a number of occasions. It was clear to me that here was a remake of a movie whose original (while I had not seen it for a couple of decades) I still remembered with fondness as amusing, even (for this was a production ideal in the cinema at one time) zany, in a fairly agreeable way.

The remake drew me in, and at the end there were ways in which I felt that the remake had very tidily improved upon the original (even though my affection for the original remains undimmed). The prospective bride and groom were better illustrated as characters, rather than walk-ons (and in the case of the pr. gr. in the original, a walk-on with big Brady-Bunch hair). Shifting the one principal from a dentist to a podiatrist made for a good (and modest) recurring plot element; and the updating, with edgier Cold War elements than the original might have capitalized on, worked nicely in general, and in particular both tightened pacing, and gave focus to the Final Act. The dénouement with the ceremony on the beach was a nice touch (and an earlier script tie-in), where all we had seen of the ceremony in the original was a New Jersey orchestra tuning up (not without some anthropological interest, to be sure).

“How ethnic?” was a great pivot line; and the Vietnamese restaurant in the re-make delicately counterpoises the pair of Chinese aviators from the original. Times have changed, and the script of the remake could not get away with anything quite so leg-pulling as the Guacamole Act of 1917 or José Grecos de muertos; but Al Brooks grabbing the mic at the rehearsal dinner is a fine set-piece for which there was no environment in the original.

Overall, the remake carries itself as a comic twin to ‘James Bond’, where the original has the amiable self-conscious mockery of a Get Smart. And I enjoyed each effort individually, as well as enjoying the differences. An unusually collegial original-&-remake pairing.

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