Last Holiday (2006) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual references and language
Running Time: 112 min.
Cast: Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Giancarlo Esposito, Alicia Witt, Gerard Depardieu, Michael Nouri, Smokey Robinson (cameo), Emeril Lagasse (cameo)
Director: Wayne Wang
Screenplay: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman (based on the 1950 film)
Last Holiday remakes the 1950 classic in typically contrived Hollywood fashion, ratcheting up the cuteness factor, while plausibility and any sense of subtlety is largely absent for the duration. What it
does have is yet another likeable character performance by Queen Latifah (Beauty Shop, Taxi), who single-handedly saves the picture from being a complete waste, although the shoddiness of the material eventually does the film in.
Latifah stars as Goergia Byrd, a retail sales clerk for Kragen’s, a department store chain that doesn’t always look out for the welfare of its employees, which only comes to light in Georgia's mind when she is diagnosed by the company doctor as having a rare and fatal brain disease. Despondent, but not completely out of it, Georgia decides to live out the remaining three weeks of her life doing something she’s always wanted to do, cashing in all of her bonds and other savings, flying off to the Czech Republic to stay in a garish hotel where her favorite chef (Depardieu, Bon Voyage) prepares world renown meals.
In between meals, she treats herself to all of the finest things in life, which draws the attention of some of the other well-to-do guests staying in the hotel, who mistake her for a woman of great wealth and power. One such guest just so happens to be the big boss of the company she worked for, the egotistical Matthew Kragen (Hutton, Kinsey) himself, who grows to despise all of the attention the charismatic Ms. Byrd is drawing to herself, particularly among the party that is staying with him.
Wayne Wang continues his more recent string of pat and predictably cute comedies, coming off of Maid in Manhattan and Because of Winn-Dixie, all of which are innocuous fare for those that just want a smile at the end of a film, willing to overlook overcooked shenanigans, egregious product placements, and inherent predictability. Somewhat infectious in some small part while they last, but you’ll be unable to remember much about them mere days after seeing them.
Last Holiday is, at its heart, a very conventional and borderline insipid mainstream release that might bring joy to my grandmother, but left me with an empty feeling that so much more could have been done with the same premise. I suppose one must dig through the rental aisles to see it done right in the 1950 version, unless you are a very forgiving Queen Latifah fan. Admittedly, the movie’s engine does run on the heart, but the head is nowhere to be found.
©2006 Vince Leo