Steel Magnolias (2012)

When I heard Lifetime was remaking the 1989 classic chick-flick Steel Magnolias with a nearly all-black cast, dude, I was so in. It just so happened I was in a hotel room with cable the night it premiered. Fate was beckoning. I accepted the invitation.

I wish I hadn’t. Oh, man was this remake disappointing! I’d never thought I’d be one of those people to describe an actor’s performance as “anemic” but the word is all-too fitting here, for nearly everyone in the movie.

I think they spent more energy on these photos than on the actual film.

Steel Magnolias is about strong country ladies dealing with life’s ups-and-downs. How many of you are rolling your eyes? But the original delivered a lot of really strong performances, particularly from Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field and, though I never thought I’d say it, even Julia Roberts. The performances in the remake are underwhelming to the point where the characters are nearly invisible. It seemed at times the new actors were delivering lines in a screen test.

Now, let’s talk about casting. I don’t mean to pigeonhole actors, but Phylicia Rashad played the awesomest mom ever. Snappy, sassy, passionate and brilliant, Clair Huxtable is seriously the coolest mom ever. Why, then wasn’t she cast as M’Lynn, frail Shelby’s mother who sees her own daughter die? Instead, she’s cast as Clairee (originally played by Olympia Dukakis), who I’m sure has kids, but you don’t see the mom side in her in this film at all. Even cast as Clairee, there were plenty of opportunities for Phylicia to let her sass shine through, but everything here was delivered as flat as a pancake. 

Speaking of sass, what about Queen Latifah? Even a little bit of her sassy side comes through in her Cover Girl ads, but here, again: nothing. Serious personality wasted here. I certainly never thought I’d say Sally Field played a role with more snap than fucking Queen Latifah, but SHE DID! I’m talking about the woman who played The Flying Nun (and  Gidget for chrissakes!) vs. the chick that sang U.N.I.T.Y. Something here doesn’t add up.

Perhaps the worst offense, though, is Alfre Woodard’s performance as Ouiser, originally played by Shirley MacLaine. Ouiser is a snappy, sarcastic, miserable old lady with attitude from here to Sunday. One would have thought Woodard would be great in this role, but again, nothing. I’m wondering, did the director supply the cast with quaaludes before filming?

All this film made me want to do was watch the original. And gods help Q, I’m taking him with me.


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