The Truth About Charlie  (2002) and Charade (1963) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I guess this must have seemed like a sensible project to director Jonathan Demme.

On the surface, it met the basic remake criteria pretty well. 1963's Charade was an excellent film, but not so excellent that remaking it would cause a scandal or violate treasured memories.

Charade is one of those really corny old-time Hollywood studio movies made in the dying gasp before the modern director/auteur era began in the USA. One small element will serve to illustrate my point about how the film belonged to the old, romantic, Hollywood era. The film has quite a lovely, Oscar-nominated theme song. Imagine how it was used in the film. One scene took place next to a carousel. Guess which song the carousel played over and over as the horses spun dizzyingly. One scene took place on a dinner cruise through Paris. Guess what the wandering minstrels were playing. One scene takes place in a Paris cabaret. I'll bet you can figure out what's coming next. That was a familiar device in the old studio films.

In short, Charade was a pretty good pseudo-Hitchcock film, albeit made without Hitchcock, in fact made by a director who specialized in syrupy musicals, not thrillers.

Perhaps the modernization of the film could have lifted it to glory, but there was one problem in trying to improve it. The script wasn't really that good. Charade was only terrific in the first place because it featured the magical pairing of two unique performers: Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Take away those two, replace them with Doris Day and Fred MacMurray, and it is a mediocre film, not number 166 of all time at IMDb. The comic banter between Grant and Hepburn was scripted well, but those two made it shine.


Olga Sékulic is seen topless from the side-rear in the opening scene.

Thandie Newton is poking through her blouse in a braless scene, and is seen naked (??) behind a frosted glass shower door.

The trick, therefore, in doing a remake, is to get some charismatic performers that can bring that Grant/Hepburn charm ...

... um ... like Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton.

You see where I'm going with this? If you go to a Minneapolis production of Camelot, it's just a musical. If you see it on Broadway, it's an event with Richard Burton and Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet. The actors in Minneapolis say the same lines, but they just don't have the unique chemistry that made it JFK's favorite. Think of The Truth About Charlie as the Minneapolis road-show version of Charade. Nothing really wrong with it, but nothing to make you want to see this instead of renting the original.

In my opinion, director Jonathan Demme gummed the remake up with lots of unnecessary gimmicks. Do you remember how Mike Myers worked Bert Bacharach into the Austin Powers movies? I think that was cute, and I hope he does it as long as the series lasts, but those films are supposed to be comedies. The Truth About Charlie is supposed to be a mystery, yet the director keep tearing down that fourth wall to introduce Charles Aznavour, the legendary French singer and star of Shoot the Piano Player. Marky Mark puts on an Aznavour album to seduce Thandie - and there's Aznavour singing away in Wahlberg's apartment, like Bacharach in Austin Powers. Later, Aznavour sings away on camera in the film's finale.

DVD info from Amazon (both films on same disk)

  • Truth About Charlie: Widescreen anamorphic 2.35:1. Same disk also includes a widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1 version of Charade.

  • The Truth About Charlie includes: feature-length commentary, deleted scenes, and a "Making-of" featurette

There are stylistic gimmicks as well, including lots of jittery facial close-ups and unnerving cuts, and the usual Tarantino scene with 20 guys in a circle all pointing their guns at one another.

The original movie may have been corny, but at least it had the elegant majesty and luxurious camera work of an old Hollywood picture. The remake had a feel of an older director trying to show he could be really hip with some jazzy new-fangled techniques. I found it irritating.

The Critics Vote on The Truth About Charlie

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Apollo 70/100, 1.5/5.

The Critics Vote on Charade

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary for The Truth About Charlie. IMDb voters score it 4.8/10. Yahoo voters agree, 2.4/5
  • IMDB summary for Charade. IMDb voters score it 8.1/10, among the Top 250 of all time.
  • Box office: The Truth About Charlie was a major bomb. It grossed only five million dollars, never reaching more than 800 screens.
  • Cinema Score. The exit interviews were weak. C's from teh young demographic, D's from the oldest group, and F in the crucial 21-34 demographic.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, The Truth About Charlie is a C-. Competent, but unengaging remake, not worth seeing instead of the original. In fact, it is a very disappointing effort from director Jonathan Demme. Charade is a B-. It is overrated at IMDb, but you have to love the cast: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, James Coburn, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy

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