Dir: Charles Shyer. US.2004. 103mins.
Charles Shyer, whosecredits include the bland remake of Father Of The Bride and the periodmisfire The Affair Of The Necklace, takes another bath with his insipidremake of 1966 classic Alfie. Systematically eliminating any of thecruelty which made Alfie such an iconic figure of his day, he has recrafted himas a womaniser with a heart of gold - a move which renders the story pointlessand banal.
Poor Jude Law, whose actingchops and charisma made him the perfect choice for stepping into MichaelCaine's shoes, does his best with the material but the character has no biteand is finally as stale as the attempted reinvention of the story.
Law's rising star failed tohelp Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow at the US box office andwon't fire up Alfie either, especially since it opens on Nov 5 oppositethe wonderful new Pixar film TheIncredibles - a far more satisfying package for adults.
In the UK, where it isreleased this week, the press will hark back to the original and audiences willbe befuddled by Alfie's relocation to the US.
Internationally, it islikely to get lost in the avalanche of adult titles being unleashed by thestudios as part of the awards season. A modest following on the less criticalsmall screen is its ultimate destiny.
Shyers has so misjudged thelacerating wit and potency of the first film in his translation that comparisonbetween the two is embarrassing. Lewis Gilbert's original presented a charmingyoung cad about town who abandoned his child, deliberately seduced the haplesswife of a helpless friend for no other reason than because he could, got herpregnant and forced her into an ugly backstreet abortion.
Thanks to the wittydialogue, the unusual talking-to-camera technique employed by Caine, the franksexual situations, a defining jazz score by Sonny Rollins and the classic themesong by Burt Bacharach and sung by Cher, Alfie was a landmark film ofthe swinging 60s and of London.
In the new film, Alfie is still an Englishman but nowhe's living in Manhattan. A callous, sexy young limo driver, he is in arelationship of sorts with single mother Julie (Tomei), but has plenty ofcasual encounters with partners such as married woman Dorie (Krakowski) and,one night, after a few too many drinks, the estranged girlfriend Lonette (Long)of his best friend Marlon (Epps).
Julie soon tires of hisfailure to commit, he dumps Dorie after sensing she is looking for more thanjust sex and Lonette falls pregnant with his baby after reuniting with Marlon,a situation which leads Alfie and Lonette on a secret visit to the abortionclinic. At the same time, Alfie discovers a lump in his testicle which causeshim momentary mortality panic even though his test results prove benign.
Lonette and Marlon leavetown without telling him, and Alfie falls back into his philandering ways,seducing a wealthy cosmetic businesswoman (Sarandon) and a mentally unstableparty girl called Nikki (Miller) with whom he shacks up for a week or twobefore throwing her out.
But Alfie starts to realisethe shallowness of his ways when he discovers that Lonette has not gone throughwith the abortion but had his child, Marlon has found out about his betrayal,the businesswoman is as selfish as he is and Julie has found a new lover.
Shyer has turned Alfie fromthe blithely brutal creation of playwright and screenwriter Bill Naughton andMichael Caine into a mildly unevolved, generally good-hearted commitment-phobewho finds out that sleeping around can be bad for your soul. His simplificationof the character, his softening of the plot and heavy-handed message is adepressing sign of how little risk-taking studio movies take now as opposed tothe 1960s. After all, Alfie was a Paramount film in 1966 as well.
The supporting cast of womenis not required to do much in the film, nor does Shyer create a palpable visualexcitement from his New York setting. If the original Alfie epitomised London in the 60s, the new Alfie presentsNew York City as drab, an effect which might be due to the fact that the filmwas part shot in Manchester, England, doubling for the Big Apple.
Three new songs by MickJagger and Dave Stewart are featured on the soundtrack, in a vain attempt tocreate a buzz around the music in the film as in its source movie.
Prod cos: Paramount Pictures
US dist: Paramount Pictures
Int'l dist: UIP
Exec prods: Diana Phillips, SeanDaniel
Prods: Charles Shyer, Elaine Pope
Scr: Elaine Pope & CharlesShyer, based on the film Alfie screenplay by Bill Naughton and the play Alfieby Bill Naughton
Cine: Ashley Rowe
Prod des: Sophie Becher
Ed: Padraic McKinley
Mus: Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart& John Powell
Main cast: Jude Law, SusanSarandon, Marisa Tomei, Omar Epps, Nia Long, Jane Krakowski, Sienna Miller