Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Package deals

Everyone's a critic on the web, especially the blogosphere. But I actually get paid for it. Albeit not very much.

And so it's just a bit more painful when I have to watch two movies to earn one payment.

Granted, I did not have to re-watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid before reviewing its prequel, which came out ten years later. Didn't know there was a prequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? It's called Butch and Sundance: The Early Days. It was directed by Richard Lester, and came out in 1979. Remember, I can review anything that doesn't currently have a review on the site I write for, which is why I'm reviewing a 31-year-old movie.

But I decided that my review would be more confident if I could revisit the classic characters made famous by Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Especially since one of the review's primary points of interest would be how well Tom Berenger and William Katt -- B-level replacements if ever there were -- stepped into their famous shoes. (As it turns out, not half bad, but the story itself is dull and episodic.)

In this case I don't mind it so much. The original is not only a classic western, it's a classic American film, period, which I'd seen only once. I fell asleep during my second viewing last night, because I started it late and was a tad too comfortable on the couch, but will finish today. It's nice to be reacquainted with a classic.

Not all package deals are this satisfying, though. Try this one on for size:

I haven't seen either of the Daddy Day movies yet. But I've gotten approval to review Daddy Day Camp. So to write the best possible Daddy Day Camp review, I'm going to subject myself to Daddy Day Care first.

You may think I'm crazy. After all, Daddy Day Camp is the perfect example of the sequel you don't have to have seen the original to understand. Surely my time is worth more to me than this?

It may be, but I also think you have a certain duty as a critic. In any sequel you review, one implicit criterion is that you compare and contrast it with the first. I'm sure there are examples of instances where I didn't do that. But maybe I defined my duty as a critic differently back then. And due to that different definition of my duties, Daddy Dare Care -- followed shortly by Daddy Day Camp -- will soon be entering my life. (Love the alliteration with those "d"s.)

My favorite package deal was probably this one:

Now, I review remakes all the time. And I certainly don't always consider it a prerequisite to see the original. However, for some reason, when I reviewed the Dennis Quaid Flight of the Phoenix (2004), I felt I first needed to see the Jimmy Stewart Flight of the Phoenix (1965), which is more properly referred to as The Flight of the Phoenix, with the definite article at the beginning. Sometimes the whim just hits me to be more thorough than I probably need to be, for the money I'm getting.

At least in this case there was an unanticipated benefit. As it happened, the original was not reviewed either, so I saw and reviewed both within the space of two weeks.

And did it really improve my review of the remake to have seen the original? Yes and no. I did make references to the changes -- for example, in the original, the plane crashes in the Sahara, but in the remake, it's the Gobi, a change that matters only in terms of the types of natives who threaten our American heroes. But those were differences I probably could have identified without actually seeing the original. And there were a couple other structural changes I referenced, if only because I could. The fact of the matter is, most potential viewers of Flight of the Phoenix won't really care if the film is similar to or different from the original -- they just want to know if it's good.

Whether or not watching two to review one is really necessary, I'm kind of glad I do it from time to time. It's a reminder that I don't do this for the money. I do it for the love of cinema, and for making sure I get my reviews as thorough, as informative, as correct as I can make them -- irrespective of whether those films actually deserve that based on their merits.


Luke said...

I always thought it was 'The Early Years' ala Death's charades guess in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.

Vancetastic said...

I don't remember that, Luke! Then again, I was always a bigger fan of Excellent Adventure.

Travis McClain said...

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of my favorite movies; I've probably seen it a dozen times over the last fifteen years, almost annually. I was aware of the prequel (though I've not seen it). Having The Early Years fresh in your mind, you might later pair it with The Sting II to see which was really the worse Newman/Redford follow-up.

Oh, and I actually enjoyed Daddy Day Care. Steve Zahn cracked me up, but maybe that's because he spoke to me as a Trekker.