For those of you who are wondering why, I'm not waiting till next year to review the remake, I decided to screw waiting to review remakes, sequels and seasons from shows and films for next year because I feel like it's holding me back. From now on if I feel like reviewing a sequel, a season or remake the same year as I review the first film, last season or orginal, I'll do it! So just recently I changed two rules and I'm happy with it and I hope you're happy with it too.
Not to along ago, I did review on the first popular "Talkie" film "The Jazz Singer" starring the great Al Jolson. I found the film amazing with it's story, lead, use of sound and music, catchy songs and cinematography. When I heard of the remake starring the great Neil Diamond I was both upset but interested in seeing it. So is it a good modern remake or is it a remake that should have never happened? Well let's take a look at...
Neil Diamond plays Jess Robinson, a Jewish cantor who sneaks to play at clubs to sing rock to going to California to make it to the top. Along the way he meets a women named Molly (Lucie Arnaz) who promotes him and a friend named Bubba (Franklyn Ajaye). However, his father (Laurence Olivier) wants him to stay and continue his singing as a cantor and he has a wife. While carrying some of the aspects to the original classic, it actually could have been better if it was entirely different film. First of all, our main character doesn't sing Jazz, so the films title shouldn't even be called "The Jazz Singer"; remake or not. Second, most of the plot devices that are taken from the original film, feels forced, corny and is just trying to either poorly homage it or just make the reference. None of the plot devices that was used in the original film doesn't feel needed here and feels a bit dated. In fact, if the writers just take away the plot devices from the original and just make it about a musician who starts from the bottom and makes it big while probably having conflicts with his girl, friends, band and family, star our main lead while giving the film a different title, it could work.
Neil Diamond as our main character Jess Robinson, come on he's not acting; he's playing himself and I have to admit even if he was in a film playing himself, I still don't think his acting can cut it. It's not terrible but it's very one sided and bland. The character he plays is really not likable at all. In the original, Jolson's character pursued his dream and left his family because his Father forbidden him to sing and whipped him for it and when Jolson makes it to the top, he tries to please his Father when his Father doesn't want him and in the end redeems himself to his father by singing as Cantor at the synagogue while his Father is dieing and is happy to hear his son giving up a performance for him. Here, the character neglects his Father while the Father wants him back, becomes a bit of an asshole when he becomes famous, leaves his friends and new wife to just hit the road so the film can have some time killing filler and only goes back to his Father because his Wife tells him too. See what I'm talking about people? Here it's a different side of the coin, I feel bad for the Father not our main character! It should be the other way around.
Lets now talk about the songs. Well it's been said that Neil has been called "The Jewish Elvis", well here it shows whenever he performs. His voice is great, his style and songs are both soothing and rockin and his stage presence brings an Elvis like feel. In fact his songs such as "America", "Love On The Rocks", "Jerusalem", "Hello Again" , "Hey Louise", "Songs Of Life" and even his Razzie nominated song "You Baby" are all great and wonderfully sung and performed by Diamond. While praising the music and his stage performance, I still have problems with it. The songs are great, don't get me wrong but I feel like the films trying to put as many of Diamond's songs as possible to promote the soundtrack then the actual film. While his on screen concert and recording performances are good. it makes me wish that this was a concert film or a film with a completely different plot because as I said earlier the films take on the classic is poor. By the way, if you hate Jolson's blackface performances in "The Jazz Singer", well Neil actually puts on blackface at the beginning of the film when he first performs. Not only is it a poor "Homage" or one of the aspects taken from the classic that feels dated, but it's also done more for comedy while Jolson's was a metaphor on the suffrage of different race performers. As a result, his song "You Baby", became a Razzie nomination for Worst Song because of this scene.
Now for the supporting characters. The great Laurence Olivier as the Father is really awful. I'm sorry but it's true. His acting is a bit over the top and lame, his Jewish accent is more funny than serious, his relationship with Diamond's character is really corny and on top of it, the character as I said earlier is all backwards when being compared to the original. He doesn't hate Jazz, I mean rock, he doesn't abuse his son, he just wants him to stay in N.Y. with his Wife, take care of him and continue his singing as a cantor then being a Jazz, I mean rock singer. He's not even mean, he's really innocent, helpless and sweet, the only reason why he leaves Diamond is when he sees his new wife which causes him to throw a hysterical fit, that's it. He doesn't even die at the end, the two get back together because he has a kid now, that's it, not because he sings as a cantor for one night (In fact, he doesn't give up a performance to cantor either). Lucie Arnaz as the love interest Molly, may have a bit of spirit to her role and may have better acting skills then Diamond and Olivier but her acting doesn't interest me and the scene when she tries to make Diamond cheat on his wife really made me hate her even more. Franklyn Ajaye as Bubba is actually the only character I like in this movie but sadly he doesn't really save the movie.
Overall, the film is a really poor remake on a classic, the acting (Epically from Olivier) is no where near good, the characters aren't likable or memorable and the film's music is only there to promote Neil and the films soundtrack. Overall, buy or download the soundtrack, look up clips of Neil performing and stay away from this bomb.