A remake that I don't think too many people were exactly pushing for, "Alfie" stars Jude Law in a remake of the Michael Caine picture. Audiences, either tired of seeing Jude Law in 50 movies last year or just not interested in the tale, didn't respond particularly well, and the movie closed just short of $20m at the box office. Personally, I think the wrong choice wasn't Law as much as it was Charles Shyer ("I Love Trouble", the "Father of the Bride" movies), who I don't think particularly capable of handling drama particularly well, unles it's not deep.
"Alfie" isn't all that bad - in fact, I liked some things about it - but I till think that another director could have done a better job here. The film stars Law as the title character, a Manhattan chauffeur who loves the ladies, picking up some of his regulars (Susan Sarandon, Jane Krakowski, Sienna Miller) and others, including his best friend's girl (Nia Long, in a small, but excellent performance.) He has what he calls a "semi-girlfriend" (Marisa Tomei), but he never wants to commit to her - partly because she's a single mom - and ends up losing her, much to his regret. His friend's girl, who he had an affair with, also gets pregnant.
It's about this time that Alfie decides to try and change his ways. The problem, however, leads back to Shyer, who doesn't give the material much depth, as the drama just doesn't have much impact, aside from a few moments, such as a speech that Alfie gets in a bathroom. The other trouble with the film is really how the movie really tries rather intensely to try and get us to be sympathetic to Alfie - a guy who lives in Manhattan, wears great clothes and gets with women who look like they'd be at home in Maxim. Boo hoo. Beyond that, how many times have I seen the movie where the guy finally gets a clue and settles down with someone who really loves him rather than bedding girls left and right in meaningless one-nighters? Is kabillion a real number? To the film's credit, at least it doesn't go entirely for the easy ending.
All that said, Jude Law does give a fine performance as the title character, and some of the supporting efforts - Miller, Long, Tomei and Sarandon - are pretty good. Although there are some obvious devices (use of blue during the film's sadder moments), this is Shyer's best-looking film, as Ashley Rowe's cinematography is often vivid and lively, and the production design is solid. It's glossy, slick stuff to be sure, but the film has a nice atmosphere.
This certainly wasn't a bad movie, and some moments of it worked pretty well. However, the drama isn't effective enough of the time, and the only really fully-realized character is "Alfie". It's another decent movie about a guy growing up and realizing that all you need is real, honest love.
VIDEO: Paramount presents "Alfie" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality was generally very good, although a few issues arose through the viewing experience. The picture mostly appeared crisp and nicely defined, but some minimal softness entered the equation here-and-there.
The picture did show some minor edge enhancement at times, and a couple of slight traces of pixelation. The print appeared to be in good shape, with no specks, marks or other daults. The film's varied color palette generally looked quite nice, with colors not looking smeary or otherwise problematic. Flesh tones were generally accurate and natural, with only a couple of exceptions. Overall, this was a satisfactory effort.
SOUND: Paramount offers up "Alfie" in Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio is about what one would expect from this kind of movie - the sound mainly is focused from the front speakers, with some mild reinforcement from the rears for the score and some light ambience. Audio quality was fine, as dialogue seemed crisp and clear.
EXTRAS: The main supplements are a pair of audio commentaries - one with director Charles Shyer and editor Padraic McKinley and the other with Shyer and co-writer Elaine Pope. The first commentary is more a technical track and the other is a story/character track. The second commentary is recorded a little after the movie's disappointing opening, and the two reach for reasons why it didn't succeed. Neither track is particularly high energy, but each offers some decent explorations of the production and what the filmmakers were attempting with this remake. Those who enjoyed the film may want to browse through these, but I don't think anyone will listen to these more than once.
Director Charles Shyer sits at a round table with the cinematographer, editor and other members of the crew to discuss the movie in an interesting featurette. We also get comments from Pope, Shyer and Law about updating the movie in "The World of Alfie". "The Women of Alfie" takes a look at the actresses involved. "Deconstruction of a Scene" has the editor going piece-by-piece through an early scene in the film. "Let the Music In" offers a look at Mick Jagger's work composing music for the movie.
Finally, we get Gedde Watanabe Dance Footage (w/optional commentary), 8 deleted scenes (w/optional commentary), 8 deleted scenes (w/optional commentary from the director/editor), script/storyboard and production galleries, as well as the film's trailer and promos for other Paramount titles.
Final Thoughts: "Alfie" has moments where either the drama or comedy work, but they're too few to really recommend the movie as anything more than a rental. Paramount's DVD edition provides fine audio/video quality and an unexpectedly large set of supplemental features. Rent it.
The Film ** 1/2