There are two curious remakes out this week, both of them commendable in their own right, but neither of them a must-see as long as the films they're rehashing are available on DVD.
To avoid being sued, I should explain that the first of these remakes, Due Date, isn't technically a remake at all. It's a brand new farce about a man rushing across America to be with his family, and being hampered at every turn by the tubby jonah who's latched on to him. Any resemblance it may have to Planes, Trains and Automobiles is entirely coincidental.
Besides, in Due Date, directed and co-written by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), the hero is hurrying home not for Thanksgiving, but for the birth of his first child. And Steve Martin and John Candy have been replaced by Robert Downey Jnr and Zach Galifianakis. Whether this casting is an improvement is debatable, but both actors are quirky enough to make their characters unusual, even if their situation isn't. The film's most explosive comedy comes from Downey's propensity to be selfish and vicious, rather than the uptight everyman you'd expect, while Galifianakis's prim sociopath is wonderfully weird as well as quite touching.
Due Date doesn't stray far from the beaten track, though. As soon as Downey is thrown off the flight he's due to take, you know he's going to be injured, he's going to wreck a car, and he's going to learn to love the person who's making his life hell. Given that Phillips has already directed a teen version of the same story, Road Trip, he might want to try some different mode of transport from now on.
This week's other remake, Let Me In, is a strange endeavour for two reasons. The first is that the film it's remaking, Let the Right One In, came out to rave reviews just a year and a half ago. The second reason is that the appeal of the Swedish original rested on how surprising and inventive it was – and, by definition, those adjectives can't apply twice. An ambiguous take on the vampire movie, Let the Right One In had its fair share of throat-biting, but it was predominantly a sombre coming-of-age drama about a lonely boy, growing up in the 1980s, who is befriended by a more self-assured, but similarly lonely girl. The fact that the girl drank human blood was almost a side issue.
The American remake, written and directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), is surprisingly faithful to the mood of the previous film. It's a sensitive, atmo-spheric tale, with a suburban setting that would be cold and alienating even without any supernatural inhabitants. Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) and Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) are quietly compelling as the pale, bullied boy and the enigmatic girl who comes to live in his apartment complex, while Richard Jenkins is typically frayed as a man who's been doing the girl's bidding for far too long. Reeves's script is less subtle than the Swedish one – Romeo and Juliet was a school set text in Twilight: New Moon, so it's a shame to see it on the vampire reading list again so soon – but Let Me In hasn't been dumbed down anywhere near as much as it might have been.
The paradox is that this fidelity to the Swedish film is what makes it so good – but also so missable. On the one hand, it's an intriguing horror drama that's recommended if you didn't catch Let the Right One In. On the other hand, some of us have literally seen it all before. What's really galling is that Reeves is too talented to be wasting his time on pointless exercises. I spent most of Let Me In enjoying the film he'd made, and wishing he'd made a different one.
Nicholas Barber sees Gérard Depardieu co-star with a 96-year-old in My Afternoons with Marguerite
Also Showing: 07/11/2010
Mammoth (127 mins, 15)
After the triumphs of Show Me Love and Together, Lukas Moodysson began making ever more experimental/bonkers films, so it's a severe disappointment that his return to the mainstream is this dreary sub-Babel issue-drama about the evils of globalisation. Gael Garcia Marquez and Michelle Williams (above) star as a couple who are too busy to see their daughter, while their nanny is too poor to visit her children in the Philippines. Ah, the irony.
Jackass 3D (100 mins, 18)
More scatological stunts from Johnny Knoxville (inset below) and his tattooed buddies. You may wince and groan, but there's no way you'll laugh as much as the boys themselves do whenever one of them receives a blunt instrument to the crotch. Ultimately, the Jackasses are relics of the pre-YouTube age. These days, you can see idiots harming each other on the internet any time you like.
Fit (108 mins)
Well-intentioned but amateurish British film in which sixth-formers learn that homophobia is a bad thing.