There was a time, I promise you, when the prospect of a remake did not immediately cause members of the reviewing press to reach for their sedation of choice. No, there was a time when people actually looked forward to seeing what Judy Garland would do with the Esther Blodgett role in A STAR IS BORN that Janet Gaynor made famous. When we flocked in droves to watch a very sweaty Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd duke it out in chariots the way Ramon Navarro and Francis X. Bushman had in the first version of BEN-HUR. Heck, even Hitchcock dabbled in remakes, turning THE 39 STEPS into THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, though, it must be noted, the latter did inflict the song ?Que Sera, Sera? on the world.
Those days are long gone. Perhaps it was the third remake of A STAR IS BORN, the vanity showcase with Streisand. Perhaps it was the Marty Feldman remake of BEAU GESTE. Whatever the
And so it is that we come to WALKING TALL, a re-make not of classic art, but of classic schlock. True, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS pulled this off. Also true that neither of the versions took themselves seriously and that was the key. The current incarnation the saga of Buford Pusser is deadly serious, or at least wants to be. What we have is film that in the olden days would have played at drive-ins in and around the less densely populated areas of the
Several changes have been made in this version. First of all, Buford Pusser, a name many people found hard to get behind, has been changed to Chris Vaughn (The Rock). Second, the sleepy south of the original is now the nippy
It's all pretty silly really. The plot putt-putts along with nothing better to do than be a buffer between bouts of butt-kicking. Said smacking of posteriors, and other areas, is the reason for the film and, truth be told, there is something very compelling about The Rock, bodacious pecs, abs, and all the other muscle groups flexed, swinging the 2 x 4 that is Chris' weapon of choice. It's no stretch to believe that this man-mountain really could walk into a casino and not only take it apart, but also wallop the gun-toting security staff into a puddle of pudding. Little else has that smack of authenticity. Chris, on trial for that little brouhaha, mounts a defense that might give even Ghengis Khan pause. In short order, juris prudence, due process, civil rights, and just plain common sense fly out the window as Chris somehow becomes the sheriff and a turf war of mammoth proportions ensues. Things blow up, things burn down, and the number of semi-automatic weapons spewing lead leads to serious pondering about the gun control laws in the
Ordinarily, it would be hard to hate film that takes such a firm stand against drugs, gambling, gender exploitation, and chain stores. Yet the perfunctory script fails to take advantage of any of The Rock's real cinematic strengths. It seems to have confused him with an actual 2 x 4, Steven Segal, and that's a real shame. Segal could probably have used the work. The Rock, though, is more than just a finely tuned fighting machine. He's a guy with serious charisma and a soulful, even sweet side that peeks out occasionally here when he's trying to charm his nephew, or showing a bemused patience for, Ray, the melon-headed sidekick who becomes his melon-headed deputy, a deputy with far too much fascination for both bull horns and chain saws. The Rock has also got a dead-one sense of comic timing, as we saw in THE RUNDOWN, and to not use that as much as possible instead of relegating it to a few moments of screen time is a crime on par with the ones depicted in this film.
Oh Rock, Rock. Where did it all go so very wrong? Drop this remake nonsense. You're an original. Find a script that's one, too.