There are long, long, stretches detailing the creative process between the two main middle-aged characters, as Beatty's accent comes and goes like the wind, fading in, fading out. Most people can do a southern accent, but Beatty is apparently the only person in the U.S. who can't. There is zero chemistry between the characters. Half-said sentences and half-finished thoughts are left lingering. You keep waiting to laugh and the laughs never come. Isn't this supposed to be a comedy, you ask yourself. Truly bad singing should be funny, especially if the characters are sincere, but the film plays it straight and there is no payoff as both Beatty and Hoffman, both accomplished actors, struggle with poorly-written dialogue to find their characters.
Two cringeworthy things stand out: both Beatty's and Hoffman's inability to distinguish a woman from a man; done properly with the right clothing it could have been a humorous joke, but Adjani is clearly a woman so both of these middle-aged men are blind as a bat.
The other cringeworthy scene is the auction in the desert. Done properly, it could have been hilarious, but how anyone could mistake Hoffman's gibberish for native language is beyond me.
The worst thing about the film is the premise; even in fictional entertainment, you have to sell me on your concept, and a map that can destroy the middle east is a hard sell; you didn't quite get there, Elaine May.
But the suffering isn't over, as you get to the end and endure the pain of hearing them sing again. Intentionally bad singing can be humorous, but they're not bad enough to be funny, and not good enough to be enjoyable, as it goes on and on for what seems like ten full minutes. It's easy to see why this film was a box office flop, word must have gotten around pretty fast.
I see the trivia section contains some positive spins on this film, as though the passage of time has somehow rendered it watchable, but given its low rating on IMDB, the film's cheerleaders managed to make these comments more prominent than they deserve to be. This film is an insult to every intelligent person on the planet.
There's something seriously lacking in this updated version, it's not nearly as intense, the characters aren't engaging or interesting, and it's hard to care about any of them or their problems. The only bright spots are when Janel Parrish as Mona shows up, her rapid-fire delivery and pushy attitude are welcome antidotes to the rest of the beige cast. The number one problem I have with this show is this: I understood how the detective in PLL could be made to be a villain, the girls had to keep their secrets in fear for their lives, but in this show, there is no clear reason for the in-house detective to be made out as a villain, she's trying to help the students and yet none of them are cooperating with her. This is just one of the show's many annoying inconsistencies.
This show is no PLL and it never will be.
I realize this is a long review, but there are so many layers to this show, and the characterizations are so carefully constructed, and the writing is so precise, that I'm compelled to point out that the show is still fresh after fourteen years, long after most TV shows suffer from writers burnout. I've been a fan of this show for a long time and I'll probably be watching it on my deathbed, if only to hear Dee say "Goddamit" one more time.
Like a lot of other reviewers have said, I once disliked the ending of this film, but on a recent viewing I have come to understand what Laughton (and presumably the author of the book) were coming to: listen closely to Rachel's words, the story isn't about the kids, or about Harry Powell, it's about the endurance of humanity in the face of overwhelming evil. She has seen the face of it, and handled it like a pro with her huge shotgun, so she's reflecting on it after everything that has happened. It works.
This is one of those films that I will watch every time it's on TV, even with traumatic memories of watching the underwater scene when I was little. This film is nearly perfect.
As much as I love this film, there is one corny old horror movie cliche that prevents me from giving it ten stars, and that's the old book that explains everything, with illustrations no less. Here it's a book about witchcraft that grandmother conveniently left among her belongings. The rest of the film is so unique and original that it's rather glaring when this cliche pops up.
1) Daughter is missing, mom calmly goes about her normal routine. Any mother in the world would be climbing the walls with worry.
2) Son gets yanked up the chimney, dad doesn't seem too put out by it. If this happened in real life, the whole family would be upset, screaming, terrified, instead they just return to their normal routine. The film takes great pains to set us in reality, then expects the viewer to accept the characters' calm reactions to missing family members. Either go full on horror or broad comedy or something, but make it believable.
3) Grandma says keep the fire burning, she's right there in the living room, why can't she keep it burning?
4) The backstory makes ZERO SENSE. She's given a loaf of bread that people take from her, why would they take her bread? It's a major city, of course they would have bread for everyone already. If they're too poor to afford bread, they can't afford Christmas anyway, so why would krampus come because they're poor? Someone didn't think these things through while they were writing the story.
5) The characters have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The main kid is too old to believe in Santa Claus. The visiting family are painted with broad brush strokes, too obnoxious to be taken seriously, in a film that asks you to suspend disbelief and then is too lazy to write believable characters. The fat aunt marches into the kitchen and criticizes mom's cooking, NO ONE WOULD DO THAT. A talented writer with a lighter touch could have handled that scene with aplomb.
I had been looking forward to seeing this film for some time and was greatly disappointed.