The Lake House (2006)

Coming as a surprise to exactly no one, the Warner Brothers remake of Il Mare proves to be just as sterile, unenthusiastic and bland as you would expect your typical generic Hollywood retelling to be. I’m not even that big of a fan of the original, but damn, this makes the Korean original look like high art in comparison. Admittedly, it’s been more than a couple of years since I saw the original movie, but I don’t remember wanting to rip hairs from my cranium every fifteen minutes or so like I did with this remake. In fact, Il Mare was actually a bit endearing and cute in its own way, albeit as a whole it kinda bland, from what I can remember.

Now I know you should just judge the movie on its own merits, especially when it comes to remakes, but the Lake House really grinds my gears in the worst possible way. I’d like to think that I’m open minded enough to be able to allow a very loose and free reinterpretation of the plot if need be, but I can’t. I just can’t with this movie. The Lake House basically does a hatchet job while adapting the story for American audiences and ruins just about everything that was nice and nuanced about the original. It’s guilty of simplifying the plot to the average viewer to a point where it no longer simplifies things and just becomes egregiously dumbed-down. And it’s not like the original plot was that hard to follow to begin with. If people can understand Back to the Future, they can understand a rudimentary concept such as a mailbox that connects two different periods of time that are just two years apart from each other. It’s not exactly rocket science.

To illustrate how stupid the remake is can be illustrated by recounting two particular scenes from the movie. The first one shows Keanu planting a tree in 2004 in front of the apartment building where Bullock’s suppose to live in the future, and rather than this being a cute moment where it’s revealed that something nice happened to Bullock because of that tree, we instead just see it magically appears out of nowhere right next to Bullock’s character in 2006 and cover her from the rain, as in, it didn’t exist in the present 2006 timeline until the moment Keanu in the past planted it. Gone is the charming aspect of magical realism, in it’s place we have cheesy and completely stupid Hollywood movie making. The second instance has Keanu and Sandra actually meet each other (circa 2004, ie. Keanu’s present, Sandra’s past) and have a discussion about Jane Austen’s Persuasion (which is about fated lovers who due to circumstances can only get together in the future, rather than the present) that is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Just how stupid do you take us for, movie? Not only is it kinda creepy the way Keanu hovers around unsuspecting Sanda Bullock and then makes out with her, it’s really awkward and hamfisted way to allude how they’re destined to fall in love. I’m fairly sure that in the original they never actually meet until the very end, thus it’s actually much more exciting when they do finally meet in the present time.

As a small side step but kinda still staying on topic tangentially, I found myself constantly distracted by Sandra’s haircut. It’s really weird. Her hair makes her look almost exactly like a less plastic, 90s era Lisa Rinna. Why? I don’t know, I can’t explain it. There is a vague resemblance, but rather than this being one of those weird little connect the dots thoughts that you have and then just shrug off, it just kept popping back into my head non-stop as I watched this movie, doing no favors to what was already proving to be a progressively disappointing affair.

Simply put, the remake is inferior in just about every possible way. The original movie felt so much more intimate and contained and had a lot of charm to it even if I found it a bit lacking. There the whole magical aspect of the main characters talking to each other through time was so natural and well executed that it never felt obtrusive. Here, it’s the complete opposite. In the remake, the movie basically beats you repeatedly in the head with the gimmick to a point where it feels completely out of place for the story (which is pretty catastrophic considering it’s the crucial plot device for the story to work) and what’s even worse, the way they act out the letter exchange between Bullock and Reeves is so incredibly dumb. They actually start depicting it at one point as if they are having one long conversation with each other, sitting in the same space right next to each other. For what possible purpose? The only thing you achieve with this is make the scene look incredibly contrived and silly.

The chemistry between Bullock and Reeves also leaves a lot to be desired. Part of the appeal of this remake apparently was, from the marketing POV at least, to reunite Reeves and Bullock on the silver screen for the first time since Speed. As someone who didn’t find their tête-à-tête to be anything beyond passable in this, and I don’t really recall their chemistry being much better in Speed either, that is not only baffling, but unintentionally funny given how bad they work together. Maybe I’m too young to remember this, but were the two of them as a couple actually that big of a deal when Speed originally came out? The mere though feels so bizarre to me. And did anyone really care twelve years later? Oh wait, this did almost triple its original budget at the box office. Good grief. Anyway, the point is, this movie fails utterly to feel romantic. Keanu and Sandra are completely unbelievable as a romantic couple, so much so that I kinda keep forgetting this was meant to be a romance movie at its core. That if anything should indicate just how outright terrible this movie is.

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