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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.9%
Worth A Look: 3.45%
Average: 6.9%
Pretty Bad55.17%
Total Crap: 27.59%

2 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Truth About Charlie, The
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by Erik Childress

2 stars

Leave it alone! What is wrong with you people! It was great the first time. If you want people to see it, promote the original. It may work with a major brand name like Planet of the Apes and it may work when you want to translate it into English, but taking a film like Charade and rebuffing it for its 39th Anniversary does no good to anyone except those cashing a paycheck off of it. Congratulations (or at least a good stoning) is in order to Universal Studios who may have contributed a first to the world of film. Off the top of my head, I canít remember a time when a studio, in a single month, released only two films and both of them were remakes of far superior originals. October 2002 will boast a healthy box office return for Red Dragon (the Manhunter redux) and this film, which Iíll be surprised if it crosses $15 million.

Thatís probably less money than the 1963 Charade earned in its original release and a good couple decades of video and DVD returns. This has to be the most dead-on-arrival project Iíve heard of in several years. What possessed Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme to take a wonderful comedic thriller starring two legends (Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn) and commit the biggest casting blunder since Richard Gere played Lancelot? When you think Cary Grant, you want someone who can emulate cool. Very few actors today can pull it off, but you can easily go with a George Clooney, a Brad Pitt or even a Harrison Ford. You donít think of Mark Wahlberg.

When you hear directors talk about the actors in their films, sometimes you wonder how deluded they are to use the word ďtalentĒ when so many critics, industry folk and an all-too-forgiving public can see right through them. Wahlberg had people fooled for awhile, choosing smart scripts and surrounding himself with great people. He was the perfect fit for Boogie Nights, acquitted himself well alongside Clooney in Three Kings and The Perfect Storm, but then there was the Apes remake and ROCK STAR!!! Slowly but surely the reins were starting to come off and the pony couldnít find another trick.

If Demme and his team of screenwriters (FOUR including himself) had fashioned the story to fit Wahlbergís minimalistic-minus-one approach to acting, then maybe this could have been an unnecessary, but pleasant, distraction. But they havenít. With the exception of a few Demme flourishes, theyíve followed Peter Stoneís original screenplay virtually to the scene. Amazing how it took four Writerís Guild credits to ineptly replicate what one did right by himself the first time. Original author Stone is now credited as Peter Joshua, a sly in-joke to the original.

Never saw the original? Well let me refresh. In true ass-backwards remake fashion, Wahlberg plays the mysterious Joshua Peters (Grant was named Peter Joshua.) On the beach, he meets Regina Lampert (Thandie Newton), a married-into-riches socialite who returns home to find her domain cleaned out. Turns out her husband, Charlie (Stephen Dillane), was murdered and a trio of associates (Joong-Hoon Park, Ted Levine and Lisa Gay Hamilton) are after six million dollars that he stole. And theyíre not the only ones on her tail. Commandant Dominique (Christine Boisson) thinks Regina may be hiding something and CIA agent Bartholomew (Tim Robbins) knows sheís in a great deal of danger.

The original film handled its twists and turns with doublecrosses and triple identities with skill and panache. Its surprises didnít seem ham-fisted or predictable and itís a damn shame that a great many people will see this film without having the pleasure of Grant & Hepburn and spot the reverses coming a mile away. Characters make a habit of showing up in the most convenient of places (do you think they could be following someone?) and even while thereís clearly an eyewink to the Hitchcock pictures (as was the original), thereís not a shred of suspense to be found and worse, nary an ounce of chemistry between the two leads.

Thandie Newton is really trying here and comes off rather successful with the thankless task of filling Hepburnís graceful shoes. Sheís charming and has at least five more facial reactions than Wahlberg does which makes it hard to induce a spark in their romantic scenes together. It takes Charles Aznavour (from Shoot the Piano Player playing himself) to serenade them in a charming fantasy sequence to provide any life to their scenes. Ted Levine brings some weirdness to the crazy baddie (played by George Kennedy with a hand hook in 1963) and Tim Robbins has some fun with the role played to perfection the first time by Walter Matthau, but all roads lead back to the witless performance of Wahlberg, who sucks the life even out of the grand surroundings of Paris.

Why? Why? Why do they do it? Will they ever learn? A poster boasting the names of Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton certainly ainít going to be packing in the crowds on a weekend, so as a financial proposition, you can bet this one out of the money and still lose. As an artistic endeavor, Demme fails on just about every level. Every subtraction is a loss to the storytelling and every addition he makes (like the inscrutable appearances of Charlieís mother) either further uncloaks the twists before we should be aware of them or drags the sense out of character motivations and the story in general.

On the Criterion DVD of Charade, you can listen to a commentary track by director Stanley Donen as he explains what it was like to film the original and the choices he made. Thatís more than youíll get out of the remake, at least until its DVD makes a quick appearance to the video shelves hopefully with a Demme track explaining what HE was thinking. The Truth About Charlie surely has an uppity musical beat that you can dance to, but its energy canít compare to the wit, humor and snappy dialogue of the original. If I want music, Iíll buy the soundtrack. If I want a real movie, Iíll buy the Criterion DVD. The one that says ďCharade.Ē (Note: The funniest moment in the movie comes courtesy of the closing credits when one character does a humorous homage to Hannibal Lecter from Demmeís ďThe Silence of the LambsĒ.)

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originally posted: 10/25/02 06:14:18
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User Comments

9/07/09 Cat Smith I never really like Charade but this film is garbage. 1 stars
1/23/07 Matt Boisson and Newton stand out in this ocean of mediocrity. 2 stars
5/24/04 Butterbean Better than original. Newton is perfect. Wahlberg's miscasted. Some scenes made it lame. 3 stars
4/27/04 el yosharto dyle, peters or barlotheway he was HOTTER DEN HELL! I LOVE HIM! HIS ABS ROX! 4 stars
4/07/04 Taylor Fladgate Horrible...A waste of time... 1 stars
12/20/03 Monster W. Kung God-awful. 1 stars
8/05/03 Piz Not typical Hollywood junk, smart but contrived, terrible sound. 3 stars
6/11/03 George Jung Terrible shit...I wish I had thrown the money away rather than pay to see this shit. 1 stars
4/13/03 kitty horrible horrible movie 1 stars
3/16/03 Sodium Pentothal Wahlberg's a jejune American who can't pass off as anything more than a plebeian in Paris. 1 stars
12/25/02 Goofy Maxwell Alt. titles: "The Bourne Charade", "Marky Mark Jumps the Shark", "Crap". 1 stars
11/04/02 gaymonk great movie, very clever, I love Ted Levine and Christine Boisson 5 stars
11/03/02 Reid What a piece of shit. A downright insult. 1 stars
10/28/02 Butterbean I didn't like Charade either, but this piece of shit made me appreciate it. 2 stars
10/26/02 I never really like Charade but I'm sure not going to see the remake!! 2 stars
10/22/02 stropi I loved it 5 stars
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  25-Oct-2002 (PG-13)



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