So Secret Life of Pets went beyond everyone’s expectations and reeled in $104 Million last weekend. That is giant for any film, but I’m planning to write a separate post all about this film that made more in its opening weekend than any other original non-adapted property. Think about movies like Inside Out and Avatar. Yes, Secret Life of Pets just did something unprecedented. So what’s coming next? Do any of this weekend’s offerings have what it takes to dethrone the pets? Let’s find out.
After watching the Korean version of My Sassy Girl, I was doing some research and found out that, because of the popularity of the film in Korea, a remake was made in 2008. It was originally slated for a full theatrical release, but the negative response after the trailer below came out, was enough to force it into a bare-bones direct to DVD release.
I totally agree that the trailer was less than satisfactory. But the problem was that no one even gave the movie a chance. They immediately began to compare it to the Korean version; and in doing so they lost the ability to view the remake on its own merits. While it is a remake of the basic plot and story, many of the social and cultural ideas present in the original simply don’t translate well across the gap. In some ways I would have liked to see the remake depart even more than it already does from the original script and story.
The remake stars Elisha Cuthbert. She is probably best known for her role as a former porn star in The Girl Next Door, but Jack Bauer might have to kill you for thinking of her that way since she also plays his daughter on the hit TV show 24. Cuthbert revisits the role made famous by Jeon Ji-hyun. In the original, this character was nameless; but in the remake, she was given the name of Jordan Roark. Jeon Ji-hyun was more than simply sassy, she was insane. She didn’t playfully slap, she delivered full right hooks. And all of that physical comedy just made me dislike her more. I personally preferred Cuthbert’s performance. Her physicality was more flirtatious, although she was more verbally abusive than her nameless counterpart.
I couldn’t place the lead actor until I searched for him on IMDb. His name is Jesse Bradford, and he’s best known for his role in Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers and Bring It On. But I remember him best in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet where he played the very small role of Romeo’s manservant Balthasar. Bradford plays our leading man, Charlie Bellow. Charlie is almost nothing like the original’s Kyun-woo. He was a slacker engineering student and a womanizer, but Charlie is a business student who wishes to get a management job at the tractor company who had employed his father for decades. Charlie is also whitewashed to become the typical lovable yet naive guy-next-door, and all of the characters more carnal tendencies have been forced off on a completely useless best friend character.
I loved the cinematography of this film, it was a delight to look at. Yann Samuel the young French director behind Jeux D’enfants (Love Me If You Dare) filmed in the rich colors of the fall to signify the transition of our characters. These two meet in the general “opposites attract” pattern,, and the audience is led to believe that Charlie through his calculated work ethic will add some much needed structure to the unbridled enthusiasm of Jordan. While Jordan in turn will provide Charlie with a passion for life and the ability to think outside the box his parents have created for him. These two would have had some kind of obstacle to overcome, then one or both of them would realize that they are made for each other and would reveal it to the other in a grand fashion. Oh wait, that is exactly what happens in this movie. In fact, this is a purely according to formula romantic comedy if you stop watching after one hour. But as the couple is dancing the night away, reunited in their love, the story keeps going. And it’s not showing the happily ever aftermath of their romance. This film is more like real life, our couple has more obstacles to overcome.
I was entertained, but thoroughly unsurprised for the first hour. Though, because I knew the original, I wasn’t surprised by the ending either. I knew that unless those responsible for the remake were completely inept, this was going to get a lot deeper before the curtain closed. And it did. I can’t ruin the ending for you; you’ll have to splurge and pick this one out of the $3 bin at Wal-Mart. It is very entertaining and touching. And it was refreshing to watch a romance that was more than physical. In fact, in the original, they never even kiss. While the American version was not that conservative, all they add in this version is a kiss. My only complaint about the last thirty minutes of the film was that it only lasted thirty minutes. As in the original the couple agrees to part ways for a certain time, but the American version shortens this time to one year instead of two and in another case shortens a year to only one day. The time of their relationship was shortened as well. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this condensation. Perhaps a long relationship without sex is anti-American.
I think the producers and distributors of this film made a big mistake by listening to the opinions of the elitists who saw the original and thought that American audiences would have been better served by a dubbed version. I don’t think that most Americans have an issue with foreign film, most just can’t relate to foreign issues. The original film was edgy because of the role reversal of the male and female in a male-dominated Korean society. But in a country that preaches gender neutrality and equality, seeing yet another woman walk all over a weaker male character wasn’t edgy or even entertaining. But I don’t think that people gave this a chance, it is a better romantic comedy than most of the mindless drivel filling the theater. Oh well, what can you do?
If you’re watching the IMDb 250 along with me, the film for this next week is one off the few Alfred Hitchcock movies that I haven’t seen, Shadow of a Doubt (1943).