The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

I have fond memories of my childhood, including the television shows that were part of it, that have become part of our cultural experience and inheritance. To me it seems somewhat sacrilegious to remake those classics, to update them for the 21st century.

Therefore I have avoided a lot of recent movies that have delved into the North American cultural canon, knowing they were bound to disappoint. The technology and special effects may be better, but the story can’t possibly. Of course I am horribly biased.

I avoided Get Smart, for example, when it came out in 2008. Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway are probably better actors than Don Adams and Barbara Feldon – but I don’t care. I don’t want Hollywood tampering with my childhood memories.

So why would I go see The Man From U.N.C.L.E.? My movie viewing is usually limited to Netflix and whatever is playing on the plane on the occasional flight I take. I don’t think I had been inside a theatre since 2014. Which is kind of embarrassing when you realize I live across the street from a 12-screen complex. I should be going to the movies more often.

The review I heard on the radio, from a reviewer I respect, suggested that this was a movie to be avoided at all costs. Since that was my first impression also, I gave it no more thought. Then a friend, whose opinion I also respect, suggested I would like the film. So I took a chance (and my wife) and headed across the street. It was Tuesday, the day prices are reduced at Canadian theatres, so if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t feel quite as ripped off.

I should say that I remember very little about the TV series, other than its stars, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. I would be hard-pressed to tell you more except to suggest it was a James Bond-like situation, and fairly predictable from week to week. The heroes always prevailed, though not without some adversity along the way. I guess that’s one of the reasons I decided to risk the new film – I obviously didn’t have an emotional connection with the TV series.

This new film didn’t make that big an impression on me either. Except for the music. It did seem like the music was the biggest star, with the volume much higher than for the dialogue. Perhaps director Guy Ritchie misses his days of directing commercials and rock videos. Whatever the reason, the music sounded good. As for the plot, the writing, the acting and the rest of the movie? It was about what you would expect of a remake of an old television show about a couple of spies. There were good guys and bad guys and the whole thing was really very predictable. It was an entertaining couple of hours, but nothing to tax the brain. In other words, a typical summer hit movie.

I thought it was worth what I paid for it – but I saw it on a Tuesday. On Wednesday I would have called it overpriced.

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