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It's been remade seven times before but Hollywood can't remember a thing. Brace yourself, folks, because remake-itis has infected Dickens' classic Great Expectations and we critics are not happy. Let me explain.

Director Alfonso Cuaron set his update in modern day New York and Florida, that's okay. For financial reasons, we understand the selection of quality ingredients like Robert De Niro and Anne Bancroft. We applaud the choice of Gwyneth Paltrow (one of the few Yanks who can do a convincing English accent as she proved in Emma) and a pre-eminent Ethan Hawke as the romantic leads. Donna Karan frocks are fine. Even that `Pip' is now `Finn' (reportedly at Hawke's suggestion) doesn't rankle. Not even GRAPHIC SEX could ruin it for us. One fan put it best when he said, "This isn't the Dickens novel I had to read in seventh grade!" Yes, we're talking panties.

Any trace of the delicacy of David Lean's classic? Not likely. Gone is Henry Pocket, gone the fire which consumes Haversham, gone the cracking of her facade. Rats on the wedding cake are now a swan song, endlessly danced to by Anne Bancroft whose Miss Haversham is, yes, fun.

In Great Expectations (1997), everything one remembers best about the story and loves the most isn't here - including the bittersweet ending. That's right. It has a happy ending! Unless this is the original Mills & Boone finale intended by Dickens himself, a happy ending for Great Expectations is a cheat. Why, that would be like Titanic director James Cameron deciding that the ship doesn't sink. Wouldn't that not be the story of The Titanic or am I being difficult?

Now you can see why we critics are snorting like winded racehorses. Great Expectations (1997) is one remake too far. That does not make it a bad film. It's just one Great Expectation you should see without any expectations.

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