Posted by Greg Ferrara on January 22, 2014
There’s an unwritten rule that I stick to, and I hope and believe most other critics do as well, that basically says “Review the movie that’s in front of you, not the one you wanted to see.” In other words, even if you really wanted this movie or that movie to go in this or that direction, stick to where the movie went and discuss whether it worked or not. Now, it’s perfectly valid when doing so to say, “Well, it may have worked better if” or “I think the better choice would have been” and so on. After all, offering a counterpoint to the film is a part of the process. What the rule is all about is not saying, “This film didn’t do what I wanted it to do, therefore it’s bad.” It may not have done what you wanted it to do but still be excellent and that’s kind of the point. But today, for one day only, I’m throwing that rule out the window and presenting my Viewer’s Cut guide to a wishlist of movie changes throughout the decades.
This goes without saying, and yet I’m going to say it anyway, all of the original choices are better than these (well, maybe not all) but sometimes, don’t you just want…
Fredo to kick Michael’s butt in The Godfather, Part II? Or at least have some sense of impending doom? I mean, I’ve seen the movie, what, twenty times by now, and every time Fredo gets into the boat with Al Neri I think, “Fredo, come on! You’re going fishing with Al Neri?! You believe he’s there to protect you? How stupid are you? At least offer to drive the boat so Neri can be in front of you. Something, just don’t happily speedboat out to your death.” My Viewer’s Cut: Fredo pulls a fast one and drives the boat out, shoots Neri which Michael thinks is just the opposite. Fredo drives the boat back, walks into the study where Michael is, who turns white upon seeing him, and says, “Hey, Mikey, I forgot to give you this before I left,” and then he plugs him right in the gut.
King Kong is another favorite, an all-time favorite, that I’ve seen dozens of times in part or all the way through and every time, even though I know it has to be the way it is for the story to work, I wish Kong would knock every one of those airplanes down, descend the Empire State Building, use a barge for a raft, and head back to Skull Island, safe and free. My Viewer’s Cut: After the planes fail, the authorities have a change of heart and decide the best thing for all concerned is to get Kong back to his home as fast and safely as possible. Then Carl Denham says, “That was close. It was beauty almost killed the beast but then it didn’t. Who wants a beer? My treat.”
It’s a Wonderful Life is one that has an ending that a lot of people already would like to change, or I should say, add on to. After the final shot, most people would love to see Potter get what’s coming to him and, years ago, Saturday Night Live obliged by doing just that (seen here). But the Viewer’s Cut I’d really like to make? I’d like George Bailey to punch Tom right in the mouth, close his account and tell him to hit the road. Who’s Tom? Maybe this will jog your memory:
God, I hate that guy! George just said – he just said! – he’s only got two thousand to tide everyone over until the bank reopens and Tom demands more than 10 percent of the stockpile. What. A. Jerk. Here’s what I’d like to see instead:
[crowd cheers, catcalls, snippets of dialogue can be heard - "Don't ever come by my shop again, Tom", "Remember I said you could borrow my tools anytime? Well you can forget that now!", "You should be ashamed of yourself! Don't bother showing up at the Founder's Picnic next summer!" and so on]
Does that go against the spirit of George Bailey and the movie itself? Of course it does. Do I care? No, I hate Tom more than you can know.
Okay, too many more to go, not enough time. Let’s start listing:
Casablanca: Don’t you want Rick to just get on that plane sometimes?
Citizen Kane: Okay, this one’s major, but sometimes, I kind of want the Susan Alexander affair to go undiscovered and have Kane elected Governor. A part of me has always been curious about Kane as a politician beyond the campaign, when he suddenly has to deal with the fact that he isn’t the overlord of everything and no matter what his plans, bureaucracy keeps stopping them from coming to fruition.
The French Connection: Yes, it goes against the whole perfectly pitched and sustained nihilistic atmosphere of the movie, but dammit, sometimes I really want the movie to end with Doyle walking Charnier away in handcuffs.
Midnight Cowboy: I swear, I just want Rico to get to Florida and get better. Is that too much to ask?
It Happened One Night: Sometimes, I wish those walls of Jericho would come down before they get married?
The Crowd: Every time I watch it, I think, don’t tell the kids about the presents! Just don’t tell them. When they come home after being out, they’ll find out and everyone gets to live. But that never happens.
The Birth of a Nation: Without fail, I think, end the movie after the Civil War. Just make the story about the two families on opposite sides, then end it. But they never do.
The Bride of Frankenstein: Don’t scream. He loves you. Don’t scream.
The Magnificent Ambersons: After the camera pulls back from George praying at the side of the bed, end the damn thing!
Suspicion: Can we just make Cary Grant a killer? Please.
Well, that’s it for now. I realize, of course, that many of these come from my desire to not see good characters suffer but, for some of these, I also want some bad characters to get their due. The strange thing is, sometimes, when I’m watching a movie I’ve seen several times, like Midnight Cowboy, I kind of think, “Maybe this time he’ll make it,” as if the film is alive and changing and not locked into what it is forever and ever. But it is. And at times, that feels like the unkindest cut of all.
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