Alfie, yet another testament to the failure of imagination at the major movie studios, is a remake of the 1966 film of the same name which propelled Michael Caine into stardom. Neither the shift oflocation from London to New York, nor the not inconsiderable talent of Jude Law (I Huckabees, Cold Mountain) in the lead role rescue this film from a flat pointlessness. Why did they bother?

Alfie Elkins is, of course, another incarnation of the Don Juan of legend–the obsessive and unscrupulous womanizer out for his own carnal satisfaction with little concern over the consequences for his partners in passion. But the updated screenplay by writer/director Charles Shyer (The Parent Trap, Father of the Bride), who seems to specialize in redundant remakes, and TV writer Elaine Pope (Seinfeld) offers neither fresh perception nor depth of characterization beyond the obvious.

As in the original film, the script calls for Alfie to directly address the audience, sharing his views and, to the extent he can muster them up, feelings. The charm that Law manages to deliver carries the audience along with him on his adventures, even as the character grows distinctly less likable with each conquest. The inevitable turnarounds begin to take their toll on him, exacting the price of his debauchery.

Cast with a fine group of actors, some of this material momentarily rises above the flaccidity of the whole. In particular, Nia Long (Big Momma’s House), playing Lonette, the sometime girlfriend of Alfie’s best friend, is both sexy and sympathetic, and manages to display a range of emotion generally lacking in the film. The only serious screen chemistry occurs between Law and Susan Sarandon (Shall We Dance?, The Banger Sisters). She is literally old enough to be his mother, but the heat is palpable, nontheless. As Liz, she provides a female mirror-image to Alfie’s persona, and she gets to deliver the ultimate comeuppance to our hero as well. In the few scenes with Sarandon, she infuses the screen with energy, making the lack of same all the more obvious when she isn’t around.

Marisa Tomei and Omar Epps are wasted in undeveloped stock characters and brilliant Jefferson Mays is reduced to an embarrassing and unfunny caricature.

The fascinatingly complex character who inspired masterpieces from the wit of Moliere and the genius of Mozart draws only humdrum mediocrity from the remake mill of Hollywood.

Arthur Lazere

San Francisco ,
Mr. Lazere founded in 1998 and worked tirelessly to promote its potential as a means for communicating a distinctly personal yet wide-ranging selection of arts reviews. Under his leadership, the site grew in esteem as well as in “circulation", and is well-regarded nationally and internationally as a source for up-to-date, well-written criticism. Arthur passed away on September 30, 2006.