There"s really only two words to describe remaking cult classic The Omen: Not necessary.
This Omen update follows the 1976 original to the letter, opening itself up to endless comparisons and scrutiny, and ultimately doesn"t measure up. Of course, the basic premise is the same: Unbeknownst to his lovely wife, Katharine (Julia Stiles), future U.S. Ambassador Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) adopts a baby in a Rome hospital after their own child "dies" in childbirth. Said child, Damien (Seamus Davey Fitzpatrick), grows up and at the age of five, quickly starts to develop evil tendencies his mother can"t understand--such as making his nanny hang herself, watching as the monkeys in the zoo go crazy and having a violent reaction to going to church. The usual antichrist stuff. There"s the priest (Pete Postlethwaite), who warns Thorn that his child is the son of the devil, the photographer (David Thewlis), who inadvertently gets involved--and the new nanny, Mrs. Baylock (Mia Farrow), who vows to "protect" the little one, with a Rottweiler in tow. You know the rest.
One of the only things this remake gets right is casting Schreiber and Stiles as the younger, more tortured Thorns. Their love for one another seems genuine, and Stiles especially adds some nice touches to portraying a mother who is growing more and more afraid of her own little boy. Thewlis (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) is sufficiently bedraggled as the doomed shutterbug, while Postlethwaite (The Constant Gardener) decries the end of the world with aplomb. But Mrs. Baylock is suppose to be a tough and scary lady (played in the original by Billie Whitelaw), and Farrow instead plays her meek and motherly, someone who could easily be defeated. And then there"s Damien, who is just all wrong. The original has him as a cherubic little British boy, who"s just beginning to get an inkling on who he really is. In other words, he doesn"t glower and shoot demonic daggers every time he looks at someone, the way the young Fitzpatrick plays him. There"s no need to show us again and again he"s evil. We get it.
The idea of revisiting this story about the antichrist must have seemed good on paper. The film tackles a lot of juicy, topical matters about global unrest, tied into religious beliefs, much like The Da Vinci Code. And under the guidance of director John Moore (The Flight of the Phoenix), the film looks and feels very menacing. With Prague standing in for London, this Omen is dank, cold and unforgiving. But in doing a nearly shot by shot replica, a few things are missed that might have helped: The creepy choir music which plays every time Damien is about to do something really awful, for one; and the monkeys going nuts at the sight of Damien in a zoo isn"t nearly as effective as the baboons attacking the car in the original. Honestly, all this movie made me want to do is watch the original Omen again (which is being released on DVD as a collector"s edition June 20). Sometimes is just better not to mess with a classic.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 1/2 stars.