Remaking Stanley Donen's class-act 1963 caper Charade certainly qualifies as a risk. So does casting mere mortals, Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton, in roles created by Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn at their Olympian heights. Charlie isn't sacrilege; it's playtime for Demme after the heavy lifting of The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and Beloved. The plot is the same jumble of Paris cops and robbers with a mystery man (Wahlberg) offering to help a damsel (Newton) find out who murdered her husband — that's Charlie. But while Charade was old-school, Charlie is directed by Demme in the anything-goes style of the French New Wave (Truffaut, Godard), which redefined film in the 1960s. The handheld camera bounces, the soundtrack bubbles with music from French Africa and the Caribbean, and the actors — notably a Walter Matthau-channeling Tim Robbins as an embassy wonk and a smashing Christine Boisson as a Paris cop — spin the plot. Demme can't sustain the fizz, but seeing a real filmmaker try and fall short is still more fun than watching a hack hit the mark.
From The Archives Issue 909: November 14, 2002