Finally, we have a remake that’s better than its predecessor. I guess it figures that, in a week when I saw the release of three movies that are all remakes of movies from the 1980s, at least one had to stand alone as the winner. No one should be surprised that the new Endless Love is dreadful or that the return of RoboCop is unnecessary and mediocre. Still, who would’ve thought that re-imagining one of the least of the ’80s Brat Pack movies would result in such a winning movie?
Steve Pink’s remake of the 1986 romantic comedy/drama of the same name acknowledges its source material, by way of loose story similarities and by cleverly inserting a clip into the new version. In every other way, it stands alone and above the previous film.
During a horrible double-date, in which the endearing but obnoxious Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) are wildly drunk, their sober and annoyed best friends Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) sneak off together. Their initial attraction comes quickly, resulting in a one-night stand based more on a gentle, shared affection than lust. While Danny and Debbie grow increasingly more serious about the long-term possibilities of their relationship, Bernie and Joan find their explosive courtship becoming a marathon of distrust, public cat fights and acrobatic sex. The contrast of approaches in romance between the two couples tests the friendships of everyone involved.
What I remember most about the pleasant but unexceptional original is that the main lovers, played by Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, were upstaged by flashier supporting turns by James Belushi and Elisabeth Perkins as their best friends. But here, the four leads all give sensational turns that keep you emotionally invested the whole way.
Ealy and Bryant are so sweet, believable and charming as the optimistic couple, the movie would’ve worked if it just starred them. Hart’s choice of roles and films keeps getting better and better. Here, he gives a killer comedic turn, making Bernie a more-is-more ladies’ man, whose pride and bottomless sexual appetite keeps him from finding fulfillment. Hall, who’s terrific in a breakout role, matches Hart scene for scene. Joan alternates between a no-nonsense attitude towards her relationship with Bernie but her anything-goes demeanor, towards partying and public confrontations, makes her Bernie’s equal, for better or worse.
The movie this reminded me the most of is Boomerang, another fast-paced, sexy, raunchy and bang-the-arm-rest-funny, Battle of the Sexes romantic comedy, with a mostly African-American cast. I mean this as a compliment, though a shared quality of both films is the tendency to be so crass, it sometimes eclipses how tender-hearted this is. Paula Patton is a terrific actress, but her bit supporting role as Ealy’s ex-girlfriend has been cartoonishly written and performed.
Like the original, the running time goes on too long and starts to lose its way, though it closes on a strong note. A subplot with Christopher McDonald as a bar owner is a nice touch initially, until it seems the movie doesn’t know what to do with him.
I could have done without the scene involving a chicken mask, a touch that came across as degrading. Despite this, the movie doesn’t celebrate chauvinism but smartly portrays a couple of sexually active and emotionally conflicted men and women, who are tested by the need to compromise and be real in their relationships.
While it earns it’s R-rating in the first few minutes, this is actually a great date movie, full of scenes that induce swooning and hysterical laughter. Hart and Hall give full-throttle comic turns so vital, I’d even be down for a sequel. In spite of a few flaws, I’m happy to cite this as one of the year’s nicest surprises.
Score: *** (1-5 Star Score)