2006, R, 95 min. Directed by John Moore. Starring Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 9, 2006
It seems only fitting that the Devil's true name is Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, a lineal collision of such sprawling implication that the mind reels before even the unspooling of a single reel of this finely honed yet utterly pointless remake. There is, as I'm sure you already know, the origin of Seamus, a fine old warhorse of an Irish name cribbed, somewhere along the line (if the majority of baby-naming Web sites are to be believed), from the English James, meaning "he who supplants." A-ha! Clearly something's rotten in heaven already, and so we move on to Davey, which can only point, conspiratorially I might add, to that beloved series of faith-based, clay animation shorts Davey and Goliath, in which a boy and his dog (not to be confused with the L.Q. Jones' film version of Harlan Ellison's seminal post-apocalypse tale A Boy and His Dog, although, really, at this point, why the hell not?) attempt to circumnavigate the serpentine coils of pixelated early-pre-adulthood. From there it's just a hop, skip, and a jump (over a vast lake of molten human carnage) to factoring in the way-too-obvious-to-ignore fact that Davey and Goliath, chums to the end, aired in syndicated format from 1960-65, which gives us, um, two sixes and a five plus a one, which, of course, adds up to – wait for it! – 666 (obviously the one, the nine, and the dash are erratum and should be discarded from the sum)! Fitzpatrick, well, I haven't had time to figure that one out yet, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the word "tricky." The point of all this is by now lost even on me, although I can safely say that the mystery of this remake of Richard Donner's 1976 demon-child flick is infinitely more entertaining – and puzzling – than anything going on in The Da Vinci Code. The story here is an almost note-perfect reproduction of the original with some minor details cast out (Gregory Peck, for one) in favor of the kind of actorly upgrades you get in nearly all remakes these days (Liev Schrieber, for two), which is to say, not so hot. As the American ambassador to Italy/England and nonsire of the Antichrist, Schreiber musters little of Peck's steely gravitas, although he acquits himself admirably in any case. Stiles, however, is just plain miscast as both his wife and Damien's unwitting human stepmom. Lee Remick was 41 when she tried to raise hell, and at 25, Stiles is still too cheerfully coltish to believably manage the complex maternal terrors at the heart of this character. This Omen's major (and only) coup comes courtesy of Mia Farrow. As Mrs. Baylock, the Antichrist's anti-Mary Poppins, she uses her own whippet-thin frame to gleeful, deviant effect. Having previously acted the part of Catholic girl-turned-Satan's cheerleader, Farrow here achieves a stratum of self-referential cinematic meta-irony that's oddly endearing to watch. She plays it as straight as a scalpel on an umbilicus and momentarily puts Rosemary's Baby clean out of your mind. Momentarily. Apart from the show-stopping third-act demise of Thewlis (very nicely upping the ante on David Warner's original show-stopping last gasp) and the whole Davey-Fitzpatrick what's-in-a-name mindfuck, Farrow's delicately crazed performance is the only real reason to rush out to see the film. And, it goes without saying, only if you've already savored Donner's broodingly tawdry original.