Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Shining

I’d like to wish you all a happy new year. For my new year’s resolution to myself, I’m no longer doing reviews on weekends. Go me! Anyway, onto the review. If you didn’t notice the decade this is listed under, this is actually the 90s TV miniseries, and not the 80s movie by Stanley Kubrick. I had last seen this when it first aired, and actually found it to be superior to Kubrick’s version, but since then I haven’t watched it a single time (unlike Kubrick’s, which I’ve seen two or three times since), so I was curious to see how it held up.

I have to say, while it’s not great by any means, it does still hold up pretty well. It obviously doesn’t pack the visual punch of the film version, partly because Kubrick’s main strength was in his visual flair (indeed, I’d argue that it was his only strength), and partly because, despite coming out 17 years later, it had about the same budget to cover almost double the length of film, so the ability to just build the most lavish sets possible wasn’t there. Director Mick Garris wisely realized this going in, and made his focus the plot and the characters, who had been sadly neglected in the film.

I guess it’s not fair to spend half my review here discussing another film, but I guess it’s inevitable. Steven Weber may not have the talent of Jack Nicholson, but he’s protected by having an actual character with a good deal of depth to him, rather than starting off as a raving madman and unraveling further from there. (Lightning fast recap, for the two of you out there who have never read the book, seen the movie, or seen the TV mini: recovering alcoholic dad, long-suffering mom, and psychic son all go to be caretakers for a haunted hotel in Colorado for the winter, ghosts drive dad crazy, he tries to kill family, fails, the end) The family also fares better than the one-note characterizations they all got in the original, particularly the mom, played by Rebecca De Mornay, who doesn’t have to spend the film looking wide-eyed and panicked.

It does have some problems to it, mind you. I mentioned earlier that it’s no great shakes visually, though still mostly competent. It’s mostly well-directed (rather surprisingly, considering this is from the same guy that gave us the other King films Sleepwalkers and Desperation, and Psycho 4), but there are patches early on, mostly regarding the flashbacks, where the discussions of the father’s alcoholism veer dangerous close to after school special territory. There’s also the problem of its sheer length. Stephen King has a tendency to write lengthy novels, and at four and a half hours this still doesn’t quite manage to include everything, but it certainly gives it the old college try. This approach does provide it with a depth that no movie version could possibly match, but it also has the side effect of making the film start out tremendously slowly. There really isn’t much that happens during the first hour beyond introducing us to the characters and the hotel, so if you need something a bit more fast-paced, you should probably avoid this (and, it should probably go without saying, King’s other minis). However, if you’re willing to take your time with a story, and have the patience for a lengthy story, you should enjoy this.

Rating: ***

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