Movie review: ‘Last Holiday’
Both holidays and remakes are supposed to freshen things up. “Last Holiday,” a revision of the 1950 film by the same name, doesn’t do much to renew the spirit.Yes, it has nice sentiments, and Queen Latifah infuses her character, Georgia Byrd, with vitality. The movie has some great moments – particularly when Georgia looks in the mirror and says to herself, “Next time, we will laugh more, we’ll love more, we’ll see the world; we just won’t be so afraid.”But overall, “Last Holiday” is a slow mover.
I expected it to make me fight off urges to walk into my boss’s office, quit and buy a one-way ticket around the world. Instead, I left the movie and went straight to work to write this review. And I don’t regret it. But I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed, because a movie about a dying woman who decides to follow her bliss should compel me to at least consider chucking it all to spend a winter skiing the Alps. “Last Holiday” reminds me of a vacation at Walt Disney World: Some moments caused my spirit to soar with joy, and I wished the ride could continue, but it ended in about two minutes. The rest took a mostly formulaic approach, involving waiting around for the next delightful moment – and in between, there were a lot of ridiculous shenanigans.For a while, “Last Holiday” borrows from the outrageous ski and snowboard scenes in “Out Cold,” but not before delivering a rousing gospel music performance reminiscent of “Sister Act.”
Then it takes a serious turn before relying heavily on the time-honored tradition of forcing lovers into a (nearly) impossible scenario to see if love conquers all.Nevertheless, the snapshots you take home from “Last Holiday” are of the feel-good nature. For the price of a movie ticket, it’s not a bad, little holiday.
Maybe I wished for more from Wayne Wang, but to be fair, I probably expected less from Queen Latifah.In the middle, on the big screen, there’s “Last Holiday.” It’s an odd troika, combining the director of “The Joy Luck Club” and “Smoke” with a boisterous former hip-hop star and a largely forgotten movie from the 1950s. As a remake, it seems pretty much unnecessary and uninspired, but certainly not as grating as some recent retreads.Instead of Sir Alec Guinness in the 1950 movie of the same name, we get Queen Latifah. Instead of George Bird, a (British, I assume) salesman of agricultural machinery, it’s Georgia Byrd (Latifah), who sells cookware in New Orleans and has never been north of Alabama. Like George, Georgia finds out she might not have long to live and decides to pursue an adventure.
After her brassier roles, Latifah is pretty enjoyable as Georgia. Remember, she achieved most of her fame as an actress playing Matron Mama Morton in “Chicago” and a measure of infamy as Gina in the grating “Beauty Shop” – her first name’s Queen, for God’s sake (actually, it’s Dana, but who cares). To flesh out Georgia, who starts out shy and grows into a bigger persona as “Last Holiday” progresses, Latifah tones it down, and it works out well.That’s not to say she can carry a movie, though, and there’s so little else to “Last Holiday,” that’s exactly what she has to do. Most of the cast is at best lame, at worst cardboard stereotypes walking around a chic Czech resort. Gérard Depardieu, Ranjit Chowdhry (as Georgia’s physician, Dr. Gupta) and Alicia Witt (who randomly has one of the most interesting biographies I’ve read on imdb.com) are a little livelier, but it’s not enough.Wang’s not much help – at least not as much as he should be. Nor are the madcap-comedy pratfalls that probably seemed off the wall in the ’50s but looks tepid now. Viewers probably don’t need prior experience with the original to see the final twist coming.Not only is “Last Holiday” a remake, it’s a whole lot like a whole lot of other movies as well.
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