THE BACHELOR is a
half-assed remake with Chris O'Donnell in the Keaton role; where the
Keaton movie was light and graceful, the remake is ponderous and
obvious. Ideas that were standard for 1925 haven't been brought up to
date, but clumsily replicated, such as the idea that men view marriage
as a trap that has to be avoided as long as possible.
As badly directed and ineptly written as it is, the biggest failing of
THE BACHELOR is the casting of O'Donnell in the title role. He has no
discernible comedy ability; he seems to think that playing everything
with his eyes wide open indicates sincerity, or honesty, or just
innocence. O'Donnell is a limited actor at his very best; taking on
this role underscores his limitations and trumpets them to the world at
large. He's just not funny.
Then again, neither is the movie. It opens with a herd of wild horses
galloping over the southwestern plains while a new take on Cole
Porter's "Don't Fence Me In" accompanies the titles. The horses are
there, you see, because bachelors are stallions, running wild and free;
marriage traps them, emasculates them, destroys their freedom. (The
movie runs the horse imagery into the ground.) And one by one, each of
Jimmie's bachelor friends is snared into what have to be -- based on
all this horse crap -- utterly loveless marriages. No one even gets
twitterpated; they're almost literally dragged to the altar.
Jimmie has had a long series of girlfriends, each of whom he eventually
breaks up with. As he's breaking up with the latter, he meets the next
one, Anne (Renée Zellweger), who's at an adjoining table complaining
about men. They fall in love, and Jimmie even finally decides to
propose, but the way he does it -- "You win," he smiles -- pisses Anne
off, and she stomps out.
Then Jimmie learns that his late grandfather (Peter Ustinov, no less,
sounding like Peter Sellers sounding like an American) has left him a
hundred million dollars if he'll get married by 6:05 on his 21st
birthday. The will has other provisos, too, all of which sound like a
mediocre lawer could break them.
So Jimmie tries to propose to Anne again, but she again turns him down,
so he and his pal Marco (Artie Lange, awesomely unfunny) try to find a
match from Jimmie's roster of ex-girlfriends. He meets with each of
them in turn, and each of them has a different, but very good, reason
for turning him down. However, damned few of these women are remotely
funny, although Jennifer Esposito, as a tough cop, and a surprising
Brooke Shields, as a money-hungry debutante, have their moments.
Mostly, though, the film doesn't. As directed by Gary Sinyor, even fine
actors like Hal Holbrook and Edward Asner come off badly -- and the
script is so poorly written we never quite figure out who these two
even are. The story limps from one ex-girlfriend to another, as Jimmie
keeps blowing his chances. Meanwhile, Anne and her sister visit their
parents, who are depicted as disgustingly lovey-dovey and honey-bunchy
-- to what point? This would seem to indicate marriage is a bad thing.
Keaton's film, his character was a decent young man who just hadn't
learned enough about the world; in THE BACHELOR, O'Donnell's Jimmie
comes across as a crumb who's used women all his life, and who doesn't
give a tenth of a damn about anyone else. There is a wising-up scene --
in fact, the best moment in the movie, when a friendly priest (James
Cromwell) tells Jimmie what a happy marriage is really like. But
O'Donnell cannot make Jimmie's conversion convincing.
As in the original, at the end Jimmie is taking a nap in a church that
fills up with hundreds of would-be brides, greedy for the hundred
million smackers. But what was amusing in 1925 simply seems coarse and
obvious in 1999 -- and then the big chase lasts all of two minutes.
The movie looks great as shot in Panavision by Simon Archer, and it
makes excellent use of scenic San Francisco locations. There's a
certain kind of surrealistic fascination to the shots of hundreds of
white-clad women wandering the streets, but there's no payoff. The
score by David A. Hughes and John Murphy is mostly awful, full of
"funny" music -- always a terrible idea.
The DVD doesn't have many extras -- at least for playback on a DVD
player. Used as a CD-ROM, more extras come up; you can read the script
while watching the movie play back on your monitor, though it's hard to
imagine who'd really want to. It also links to the Internet Movie
Database, where you learn that the $21 million movie made only $21
It takes a certain amount of sheer brass to consider remaking a classic
like SEVEN CHANCES; unfortunately, brass is about all THE BACHELOR has
to recommend it.