I have no doubt that should he make Jaws today, Steven Spielberg would show the shit out of the shark. And if he were to make Close Encounters of the Third Kind today, the amount of maudlin crap with latchkey kid Barry and the aliens would be insufferable. It isn’t that I think Spielberg is a bad filmmaker – I am not even coming close to that statement; he’s one of the masters – it’s just that I think that as he’s gotten older his handle on nuance in FX and in sentimentality has become loose. He’ll drown you in syrup, and will spend 80 million dollars bringing that syrup to CG life.
This is why the idea of Spielberg remaking Harvey - which is what he will be doing next – fills me with such trepidation. Look, the original play and the original brilliant film, starring Jimmy Stewart, will remain. There was a remake starring Harry Anderson and it did nothing to mar the original’s sheen. But what could be marred here is Spielberg’s filmography, already an oeuvre marked by latter day brilliance intercut with pandering tripe.
And the story of a lovable eccentric whose best friend is a six and half foot tall invisible rabbit named Harvey is just ready to be pandering tripe. And it’s also ready to be reimagined as an over-the-top FX fest; where the 1950 film got away with minimalism, who believes that Spielberg will keep the rabbit hidden? Will he actually make a movie where his hero (and does anyone think this isn’t a Tom Hanks role?) talks to nothing the whole time, or will millions of dollars go into creating a photoreal rabbitman?
The brightest news is that Spielberg has tapped novelist Jonathan Tropper to write his first screenplay; the writer is best known for modern lit like How to Talk to a Widower and Everything Changes. I wouldn’t pin Tropper as one of the modern greats, but he’s a real writer.
The film is set up at Fox, which already gives it the stink of death. Harvey is set to begin filming in January of 2010.