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Yes, it is Hopalong Cassidy, and if you don't like it, yer a toe-eyed varmint.
This an free adaptation of the novels of Clarence Mulford; fans of the Willaim Boyd films will probably feel a little at sea here (and the reviews here so far reflect that). But I knew of Hopalong from the novels first, and never cared much for the Boyd films once I got around to them.
Christopher Coppola has made a wise choice - he has not made a nostalgic "Western"; instead, he has approached the Cassidy story as a slice of what we used to call 'Americana'; or what older critics once called 'homespun'. As the film unraveled, I found myself more and more reminded of the great "Hallmark Theater" version of Mark Twain's "Roughing It", with James Garner narrating.
Both these films remind us that, although films about the 'old west' are probably always to be mythic for Americans, they need not be 'westerns'; they can very well be just films about what it meant to be American in that time, in that place.
I never feel pandered to, watching this film; there's no effort to shove the Boyd-Cassidy legacy down our throats, no irony, no camp. Consequently, I get a sense of these characters as having walked - or ridden horseback - across some real western America I too could have walked a hundred years ago.
Given that, the plainness of the film - it positively avoids anything we have come to call "style" - is all to its favor; and the plain acting of the performers fits neatly in with this; gosh, it really does feel like some story told around a campfire on a cattle drive - no visual dressing, just the quirks and good humor - and sudden violence - that we expect from the good narration of an adventure yarn. I was very pleasantly surprised by this film, and if the viewer sets aside encultured expectations, he or she will find considerable pleasure in it.
I would have given this film 9-stars, but I'll give it a ten just because most reviewers here have missed the point completely; and I urge them to set their memories of Boyd aside and give this film another chance.
Note 1: A reviewer complained that Hopalong shoots people dead in this film, rather than shooting the guns out of their hands (ala Boyd's Cassidy); first, Cassidy DOES shoot people dead in the novels; second, if Cassidy were a real cowboy he would have shot people dead - the problem with shooting guns out of people's hands is that they can always get another gun - which happens to be part of the subtext of this very film.
Note 2: I admit that I am jealous of the Coppola family, that they have the Director of "The Godfather" among them who can get them all opportunities to make movies that I can't; but a good movie is a good movie; and this is a good movie. If it's by somebody by the name "Coppola", well, that's just is as it is. America is the land of opportunity (or was, until Bush got into office) - that's what the great American novels are all about.
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