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Neil Simon's script for the original 1970 hit, "The Out-of-Towners," was, essentially, a one-joke skit stretched out to a feature-length film. Starring Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis as two suburbanites from Ohio who experience a nightmare of frustrating complications when they hit the Big Apple, the film managed to generate some laughs as well as a great deal of grating repetitiousness.
The 1999 remake, with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn in the central roles, manages to be a far worse film. The original at least seemed grounded in some sense of reality as the couple fell victim to a believable, if overstated, series of tourist mishaps; this version spins off into slapstick delirium, going so far as to have its main characters actually swinging on hotel signs six stories above street level and John Cleese as a snippy concierge prancing around in lady's clothing to Donna Sommer's "Bad Girls." Also, in the original, Jack Lemmon seemed determined to really take on all the people who arrayed themselves against him and the film conveyed a real sense of this implacable, almost malevolent force known as NEW YORK coming down with all its might on this innocent couple from the Midwest. In the remake, Steve Martin seems strangely passive and unharried and the victory-over-the-city theme comes along only at the very end. Without that added dimension of epic frustration, the new film robs the original of whatever audience identification it might once have had and simply devolves into an undisciplined display of unfunny slapstick.
Martin, Hawn and Cleese are game players, but this "Out-of-Towners" should indeed have been driven out of town!
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