PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 3, 2012

‘Recall’ remake not as memorable as original 

Sean McBride
The Port Arthur News

— I have fond memories of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1990 film, “Total Recall,” so I approached this week’s remake with a fair amount of trepidation. Yes, I know the original film is kind of cheesy and the special effects look rather dated, but it was a very entertaining film that featured one of the biggest movie stars ever at the height of his popularity.

This weekend’s new version certainly features better special effects, but the film feels like just another summer blockbuster. It’s entertaining, but not really notable for being anything other than mindless summer entertainment. I doubt that audiences will have fond memories of this new “Total Recall” twenty-five years from now.

Colin Farrell stars this time around, playing an average guy named Quaid who’s living in a dystopian future somewhat reminiscent of the “Blade Runner” universe. Quaid has a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) but his life is mostly a disappointment. He decides to try out Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories into their customer’s heads. Quaid opts to implant the memories of a super-spy, but the police break down the door before the procedure can be finished. Something kicks in and our average guy suddenly has the fighting skills of a super-spy.

The audience is supposed to be unsure about whether the subsequent action is happening in real life or if it’s just in Quaid’s head. Director Len Wiseman doesn’t worry too much about such nuanced matters. He quickly turns the film into a series of chases and outlandish fight sequences. The Martian freedom fighter subplot is done away with as well in order to keep the story streamlined. The villainous police force is even turned into an army of faceless clone trooper lookalikes lest anybody stop to worry about the carnage up on the screen.

Despite the body count, this “Total Recall” is a fairly bloodless PG-13, which means that the film will be okay for most adolescent audiences, but it doesn’t have much edge. It’s also missing much of the subversive humor of the original, although fans will be pleased to see that the three-breasted hooker does make a return appearance. I don’t think that’s quite enough to justify the ticket price.

I realize that it’s unfair to compare the two films, especially as the first film is fondly recalled by so many of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s. This new film isn’t trying to set the world on fire — it simply wants to entertain audiences looking for an escape from the summer heat. “Total Recall” succeeds at those modest goals, but those of us old enough to remember know that it could have been, and should have been so much more.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.