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"The Truth About The Truth About Charlie."
on 24 December 2003
Before this film even started, it already had two strikes against it in my book. You see, "Charade" - the film of which "The Truth About Charlie" is a re-make of - is one of my all-time favorite films. Thus, when I first heard it was being re-made, I thought that idea was insane. Why mess with near-perfection? "Charade" still holds up very well after forty years and no present-day actor and actress pairing could ever re-create the magic Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn brought to the original. Director Jonathan Demme sure had guts to take on this project. If he desecrated the memory of "Charade" then its legions of fans would surely let him know about it. Well, after finally viewing the re-make with as much of an open mind as possible, I can say that the film is not the total disaster I feared it might be, but, despite good stabs by Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton, "The Truth About Charlie" is significantly inferior to "Charade."
Newlywed Regina Lambert (Newton) returns to Paris to find her apartment abandoned and looted. Matters become worse when the police soon inform her that husband has been murdered. After Regina is shown one passport after another of her dead husband, each with a different identity, she immediately realizes Charlie was not exactly what he seemed. One crucial clue to unraveling the truth about her husband comes to her when a government official played by Tim Robbins tells her that mysterious strangers would soon be stalking her . . . . because her husband had stolen six million dollars. Thankfully, a knight in shining armor by the name of Joshua Peters (Wahlberg) shows up to help Reggie. Or is he only after the money too?
"Charade" worked because of three reasons: (1) its clever story was a delight to unravel as one charade after another was exposed to reveal the true intentions of all its characters, (2) Grant and Hepburn were perfectly matched and fed off each other's screen charisma, and (3) director Stanley Donen delivered a crisp and breezy film that managed to never confuse its audience while still keeping all of its complex elements intact. "The Truth About Charlie" fails to deliver in all three respects. Demme tweaked his version of the story to prevent it from being a straight re-make of the original. However, these new twists - while interesting at times - do not improve matters. While "Charade" assembled all of the pieces of the puzzle in a neat manner at its conclusion, "The Truth About Charlie" concludes in a mess (and an unnecessary epilogue only works to complicate matters further). Wahlberg and Newton do the best they can but there's not much spark between them. Separately, Newton is very good in creating a character who is scared, angry, clever, and charming at the same time and Wahlberg makes some amends for his "Planet of the Apes" debacle, but sadly neither of them can elevate the film. Finally, Jonathan Demme is no Stanley Donen, plain and simple.
If you are purchasing the DVD, then the good news is that the original "Charade" is included on the DVD and the print of it is of very good quality compared to the many public domain copies in circulation. If anything, the release of "The Truth About Charlie" can be considered a good thing for bringing "Charade" to the attention of a new generation of film watchers. There are times when new is not better than old and one need only look at both "Charade" and "The Truth About Charlie" to see such an example of this point.