Picks and Pans Review: The Magnificent Ambersons
Consider this more of a reclamation project than a remake. RKO Pictures did such violence to Orson Welles's 1942 version—cutting it to 88 minutes, changing the ending—that a new screen adaptation of Booth Tarkington's 1918 novel seems necessary and long overdue.
Working from Welles's script and the book itself, director Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate) has fashioned a handsome but oddly uninvolving film that drags somewhat at three hours minus commercials. Bruce Greenwood radiates decency as Eugene, the automaker who returns to his Midwest hometown and reconnects with his old love Isabel (Madeleine Stowe), daughter of wealthy Major Amberson (James Cromwell). But Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Velvet Goldmine) offers a mannered, relentlessly high-pitched portrayal of George, widowed Isabel's spoiled son. Why is Eugene's charming daughter Lucy (Gretchen Mol) attracted to this creep? It may take another remake to answer that.
Bottom Line: Worth trying but not magnificent