Shakespeare, it’s been said, is the single greatest playwrite of all time. So many of the movies that audiences have enjoyed since Hollywood’s golden age have been at least loosely based on his works. In its most basic roots, this remake of the 1950 movie by the same name is itself based on Shakespeare’s Taming of The Shrew. One could easily go into a long drawn out history lesson, explaining those roots. But suffice to say that while it’s true that this remake is anything but original, perhaps understanding that its roots are in Shakespearian literature will get audiences interested in the bard’s classic work. that being noted, those who would instantly criticize this movie should take into account that it’s not the first work to ever rip off another work.
Now that being out of the way, this update of Taming of The Shrew, Pygmalion, and of course 1950’s Born yesterday may not be the best remake ever crafted. But it is still a good escape for the course of its near two hour run time. Anyone who has ever seen Pygmalion or My Fair lady, or even The Taming of The Shrew will enjoy seeing Billie (Griffith) become a more self assured woman, from the ditzy character that she started out as. And being that John Goodman is so known for good guy roles, it was nice to see him take a heel turn for once. And female audiences will cheer Billie for her reaction after she’s beaten by Harry at one point. Her reaction is one that so few battered women have, and should serve as an example of what they should do. It showed that she had become a truly empowered woman. That final moment of her growth is perhaps the most powerful.
The budding romance between Billie and Paul (Johnson) is cheesy to say the least. But when placed against her treatment by Harry, it makes Billie that much more of a sympathetic character. Both male and female audiences will find themselves cheering for her, not wanting her to give up on herself, although they know that Paul won’t let her give up.
Perhaps the funniest part of the movie isn’t so much in the story or its romance subplot. It’s in the spoof of Washington politics. When Paul teaches Billie what to say at a gala, he reveals just how little most beltway insiders really know, and how they let political jargon do all the talking, rather than themselves. Even fans of National Public Radio will laugh at how the story pokes fun at NPR and the talking heads in the media as a whole. There is more than just a grain of truth to this joke.
Born yesterday is a remake. There’s no getting past that. There are those who would throw jabs at the entire thing simply for the sake of being a remake. But as shown, it does have its share of high points even with its general lack of originality. Given, it’s not exactly original. But in its defense, those who would criticize it shoudl also criticize Reese Witherspoon’s 2001 movie, Legally Blonde. That movie is a near direct take off of this remake. At least in the case of this remake, audiences are given a means to actually do what movies are meant to do for viewers. It gives its viewers the ability to suspend their disbelief and escape into the story if only for the single watch.
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