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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bubbly 'Sabrina' Loses Fizz In Pollack's Clumsy Remake

"Sabrina," it must be said, is a great movie, as light and effervescent as a glass of the best champagne (Sovietskoye on a late Friday night). Even after half a dozen viewings, it never fails to charm. It's a bit cornball, of course, but then it's meant to be, and the fun lies in the amount of snap and deftness the cast brings to the implausible plot.


And even if the dialogue were not so witty, the direction not so fast-paced and sure, the sheer acting amperage of the cast alone would make the film a delight to watch. What a roll of honor: Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden ...


Unfortunately, you won't see any of them in the "Sabrina" opening Friday at the Renaissance Moscow Hotel's Dome Theater. Nor will you see the master hand of director and screenwriter Billy Wilder at work. Nor will you feel you have downed a flute of fine champagne when it's over. What you will see are several competent actors flailing through a flaccid script under the increasingly unsteady hand of director Sydney Pollack. And what you will feel, at best, is that you've barely gotten down a milkshake that's been left in the sun too long: It was kind of sweet, it reminded you of something that tastes a whole lot better, and you wonder why you gorged yourself for so little reward.


"Sabrina" is the fairytale story of a chauffeur's daughter (Julia Ormond) who grows up on the estate of a fabulously wealthy family. From childhood, she has loved the family's wastrel younger son, David (Greg Kinnear) and feared the stern eldest son, the hard-nosed businessman Linus (Harrison Ford). A young caterpillar, she goes off to Paris for a year and comes back -- you guessed it -- a butterfly. David finds himself drawn to this newly blossomed beauty, and this dalliance threatens his engagement -- and Linus' plans for a major merger with the fianc?e's family business. Linus steps in with an elaborate plan to save marriage and merger by pretending to woo Sabrina for himself. The denouement of this design will surely come as a shock to everyone under the age of 3.


But such is the nature of farce. Plot is a thin string on which to hang fine pearls of playing: bright wit, great timing, and the occasional glint of insight. But in Pollack's clumsy hands, only one pearl emerges: Harrison Ford's performance.


Ford is one of the very few modern stars who could step into a Bogart role and not be shamed. Indeed, he may improve on the original in this respect: It is easier to believe Ormond being tempted by Ford than Hepburn falling for Bogart, who was well past his prime in the 1954 version. (He then had little more than two years to live.) But Bogart's gravitas, perhaps abetted by his failing health, helped the farce by making the contrast between the brothers even greater, and thus more comic, even as it added depth to the original's few -- but moving -- heartfelt scenes.


At any rate, Ford's performance is excellent, and the only interesting thing in the entire film, which simply dies when he is not on screen. Kinnear is game enough as devilishly charming David but he lacks both devilry and charm.


It seems unfair to put Julia Ormond in one of the seminal roles of one of the icons of Hollywood; she can only suffer in comparison with 40 years of memories. She doesn't do much to make the role her own, but then again, she's given little to work with. Pollack drags out the Paris "transformation," larding it with pointless excursions into high fashion and dull dollops of Gallic wisdom that add nothing to the character. (Nice scenery, though.) Since Kinnear is so bland, her obsession with him makes her appear shallow, even stupid. In one scene only -- a dinner with Linus in a Moroccan restaurant -- do Ormond and Pollack manage to recreate some of the original magic, and we believe, for those few moments, that Sabrina is as fetching and as special as she is clearly meant to be.


Pollack has made several excellent movies, and his work on "Tootsie" shows that he knows how to make great comedy out of spare farce. But this touch has utterly deserted him here. The new "Sabrina" is not a total waste of time -- especially in film-starved Moscow -- but its pleasures are largely confined to Ford's performance, and to the echoes of greatness past.