“The wistful Queen Latifah comedy Last Holiday opened 2006 as a minor box office surprise, shocking both audiences and critics alike with its intoxicating charms. Sure it didn’t exactly break any new ground or offer whimsical delights too far removed from an average episode of “Will & Grace”, “Everybody Loves Raymond” or “Friends”, but thanks to its star, her supporting cast and some nimble direction by Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) this remake of the 1950 Alec Guinness classic proved to be genuinely sweet fun.
When lonely, shy New Orleans department store worker Georgia Byrd (Latifah) discovers she’s got three weeks to live she makes the decision to stop living her life in fear and start doing all the things she’s only dreamed of. Cashing in her life’s savings Georgia heads to a magnificent hotel in the Ukraine where her willingness to spend money like it grew on tress convinces everyone there, including a United States’ senator (Giancarlo Esposito), she must be an important Louisiana power-player. Meanwhile, while she’s living days as if they were her last, Georgia’s bashful coworker (LL Cool J) discovers her secret and rushes headlong into the Alps to profess his love before it’s too late.
There are no surprises to this tale, no moves we don’t expect or haven’t seen countless times before. Yet, other than being a bit too long and the fact villain Timothy Hutton (playing Georgia’s department store mogul boss) is far too one dimensional, Last Holiday proves to be good-natured fun that made me smile beginning to end. This is a movie just made for DVD, the perfect film for a snoozy mid-afternoon alone or a laid back evening get-together between friends.
There aren’t too many extras, but with a picture as slight as this one you really don’t need too many. There are three different featurettes on the making of the picture, the most interesting concerning the 23 years it took to get this remake off the ground. There are previews of other Paramount releases, two deleted scenes (neither very interesting), the theatrical trailer and two delicious (yes, I already used them) recipes used in the film. Last Holiday is being offered in both Widescreen and Full Screen formats, but why one would ever buy the latter is beyond me as Geoffrey Simpson’s (Under the Tuscan Sun) luscious cinematography is one of the movie’s chief assets.
Don’t get me wrong. This remake isn’t going to change the world or be remembered too dearly by the time we reach the end of the year. But it is fun, Latifah and company (especially a wondrous GÃ©rard Depardieu as the hotel’s esteemed chef) going out of their way to fashion a light romantic comedy that doesn’t belittle an audience’s intelligence or waste their time with inane banalities. It is a perfect rental, a movie sure to make lovers cuddle into one another’s arms and a flick that gets families to sit down as one for a pleasant evening of invigorating togetherness.”
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