To cleanse the palate. I want to like it, I’m trying to like it, but I just don’t know. It starts well, but once the guitars kick in on the dude-bro cover of “House of the Rising Sun” and Chris Pratt starts mugging for the camera, there’s a certain hammy cornball stink that never quite goes away. I think it’s a problem of expectations. Thanks to “Unforgiven” and “Dances With Wolves” (which reeked, but whatever), we’ve come to expect westerns to be prestige pictures, especially when A-list stars are attached. If you tell me they’re remaking “The Magnificent Seven” and that Denzel Washington’s cast in the lead, I’m expecting epic drama with top-flight acting, an homage to the golden age. Maybe even an all-star cast a la “Ocean’s Eleven.” (Which, actually, was the original idea for this flick when Tom Cruise’s name was being kicked around a few years ago.) Instead this looks like a pure popcorn movie … which, ironically, is a truer homage to the golden age than a prestige picture would be since most westerns were B-picture crap. If you want art, you’ve got Eastwood. If you want pulp dressed up as art, you’ve got Tarantino. This one looks like it’ll be pure pulp, although we’ll see. Nothing wrong with pulp that delivers Denzel as the leading man and Pratt smirking Harrison-Ford-ishly at people, is there? Lotta shooting, lotta explosions, and of course you already know the basic storyline from the 87 or so previous incarnations of this plot. What’s not to like, apart from the dude-bro guitars?
Is it time, by the way, to start encouraging Hollywood to remake old classics? I’d prefer original material as much as you would, but if our choices are limited to Superhero Movie 3,874 and new versions of, say, the entire John Ford oeuvre, that’s an easy call.