Alfie (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs about level! Neither of us has much bad to say about the film, and we were impressed with Jude Law, but we didn't find much to inspire us. Our basic reaction was, "Yawn."

Scoop's comments in white:

The first version of Alfie, made in 1966, made Michael Caine a star, and there is really nothing so bad about the 2004 remake. Jude Law distinguishes himself by bringing to the role more depth and sensitivity than were present in the original, and his conversations with the camera are natural and convincing. That stands as a strong positive for Jude, because having natural conversations with a camera is not an easy thing for an actor to do. In many ways, he did a better job than Michael Caine did in the original movie.

The problem with the remake is that it is nothing special.

You see, the first movie was a very special epiphany for many people at the time it was released. After the repressive 50s and before the cultural and feminist revolution of the late 60s, there was a brief period of male-dominated sexual liberation which was characterized by carefree hedonism. The symbols of this time were Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy, and Hugh Hefner, swingin' ring-a-ding guys who were out to score with the "broads" and "dames" of their time.

Alfie came out with thinking that was nearly revolutionary in its day - that the self-gratifying Hefner-style hedonism might be bad for a man not because there was anything morally or theologically wrong with it, but because it was an empty and shallow lifestyle that was going to lead to loneliness. This was a new concept at the time, because the previous criticisms of that lifestyle had been concentrated on external other-directed and morality-driven rationale. "You shouldn't live like this because you are hurting other people," or "you are offending God," or "you are treating women like objects." Alfie, on the other hand, attacked the swinging Playboy lifestyle from a pragmatic standpoint. "You shouldn't live like this because in the long run you are hurting yourself."

That made a lot of sense in the context of the time, because it lent perspective to a cultural trend which needed perspective. After decades of sexual repression, a lot of men, even very thoughtful men, saw Sinatra and Hefner as the prophets of a new age. After all, they were rebelling against a Puritanism that needed to be rebelled against, right? Alfie came along to say, "Yes, rebellion is necessary, and a new age is necessary, but this hedonism is only the first step, just the brief window of libertine behavior that always occurs whenever freedom replaces long-standing repression. We need to move on from here."

And the movie's thinking was prescient. Society did move on from there. Within a year or two, the Summer of Love had happened, the cultural revolution had begun, and the sexual revolution had truly begun. Sinatra and Hefner, who had seemed like cultural prophets in 1963, suddenly seemed in 1968 like dinosaurs from a long-forgotten past.

The problem with the remake is that all that cultural perspective is now lost. A story which once symbolized and summarized an entire time and place has now become just a story, nothing more. And it isn't even a very realistic story any more. In the early 60s, the choice between hedonism and restraint was simply an intellectual or ethical decision that tested one's capacity for long-term thinking. There was no AIDS. There was no feminism. Even herpes had yet to be mentioned outside of medical journals. In our time, it is much more difficult to be a hedonist. The decision to commit to a series of casual sexual encounters is no longer just a personal ethical choice. Even assuming you can find the women willing to co-operate in the first place, the choice can be a matter of life and death. Yet our Jude Law version of Alfie does not acknowledge the realities of sexual promiscuity in the 21st century. He simply romps about latter day New York as if he were Michael Caine getting some ring-a-ding in a 60s England which swung like a pendulum did.


The new version of Alfie is not a bad movie, mind you. It has its moments.

And you certainly have to respect any film that gives a decent-sized dramatic role to Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles. The Donger rules! (Picture to the right)

You won't come out of the theater muttering about Alfie being shite, but it's just not special, and you might emerge from that theater wondering why they bothered making it in the first place


Tuna's comments in yellow:

Alfie never had a chance. It is a remake of a film, that, while culturally relevant, was more than a little unpleasant. I watched the original a year or so ago when it was released on DVD, and, distanced from the era when it was relevant, it was just plain painful to sit through. I was very concerned about an attempt to remake this film, as I could see no possible reason to do so. After watching both the Widescreen and the pan-and-scan version, I still have no idea why it was made.

I had many problems with this version, in addition to the fact that there was no compelling reason to make it.

  • Alfie as a compulsive womanizer just doesn't fit into the reality of modern dating. When the original was made, serial shagging was de riguer for men. The realities of AIDS have ended that mentality.

  • Alfie spends half the film talking directly to the camera. Granted, Law did it very well, but I much prefer to be shown, not told in a "motion picture."

  • The editing was problematic. They frequently used freeze frame and jump cuts to speed up the pace. Each time it happened, I found it jarring. In a climactic scene with Susan Sarandon, I am convinced that they edited together dozens of takes to create the final scene. It came off very choppy.

  • Where the new film could have been far better than the original was in the bedroom, showing exactly what it was about Alfie, who treated women like shite, that drew them to him. It did not go there.

I would imagine that much of today's audience is not familiar with the original, so the question is, does the 2004 version have any merit on its own, not as judged against the original. Jude Law was brilliant in the title role. He didn't try to mimic Michael Caine's star-making performance, but made the character his own, but we basically have a hedonist, who, for some reason we never quite know, is irresistible to women, but, in the end, finds himself alone. What it adds up to is a morality tale about romance and commitment with an unsympathetic main character and an unhappy ending.

 Not impossibly bad, but nothing of merit here.


DVD Info:

  • 8 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by the Director and Editor
  • 5 Featurettes
  • Script, Production and Storyboard Galleries
  • 2 Commentaries


  • Sienna Miller runs around in a very tiny bikini bottom, showing her breasts and 95% of her bum in excellent light.
  • Most of a nipple and partial buns from Jane Krakowski.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: about two and a half stars. BBC 2/5, Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C (both reviewers). Scoopy says, "It is a bittersweet romance performed beautifully by Jude Law, but I'll be damned if I can justify its existence."

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