Pride & Prejudice (2003) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG for thematic elements
Running Time: 104 min.
Cast: Kam Heskin, Orlando Seale, Lucila Sola, Ben Gourley, Henry Maguire, Kelly Stables, Amber Hamilton, Rainy Kerwin, Hubbel Palmer, Honor Bliss
Director: Andrew Black
Screenplay: Anne K. Black, Jason Faller, Katherine Swigert
Review published November 29, 2005
A recent trend in screenwriting has been to take the plot of a time-honored work, usually a literary classic, set it in modern times, and inject a sense of hipness to attract an audience that may not be as familiar to the story to care how unoriginal it all is. Sometimes it can work, provided that the storyline works well enough on its own that the constant allusions to the original work don't get in the way of enjoying it on its own terms; Clueless is a prime example of such a movie. Pride & Prejudice falls into the category of movie where it does help to know the original story, although Jane Austen purists will most likely find the reminders of the original story to render itself weaker by the comparison.
Kam Heskin (Tomcats, Blackjack) stars as Elizabeth Bennett, a student/bookstore clerk with a mind of her own, very different from her four other outgoing, man-hungry college-age roommates. Although she is attractive, she is also complex, and even if she is attracted to a man, she usually sends them mixed signals and subsequently drives them away. Enter arrogant British snob Darcy (Seale, Hysteria), who seems to think himself better than everyone else, and yet, finds himself drawn to Elizabeth for the very reasons she can't seem to land a man -- she is smart, independent and headstrong, just like him. He too sends out mixed signals, and between the two of them, it's one misunderstanding after another keeping them apart, despite their mutual attraction.
With a tagline of "A Latter-Day Comedy", its Utah setting, and its numerous references to the church, I suppose it's worth at least a mention that this version of Pride & Prejudice has Mormon leanings. I personally don't think it's that important to the story, as it never really preaches to the audience, although Mormon viewers may like the approach that hits close to home.
Austen fans may be curious, but I tend to think that they probably won't like much of what they see here. The story just doesn't work in the modern day, though they may try, and without the 19th-century standards, customs and unique sense of property-based value system, all we have are two uncouth individuals that may or may not become an item. Contrivances become necessary to set up alternate conflicts, and in this fashion, Pride & Prejudice loses its way, both as a cheeky update of a classic as well as a stand-alone comedy.
Although it is colorful, and the actors are all very likeable, even if their characters do come across as shallow and dim-witted most of the time, Pride & Prejudice isn't particularly funny, witty, or romantic. It's innocuous fare that will only appeal to viewers just looking for something pleasant, but not nearly clever enough to make it worth seeking out, even for those obsessed with all things Austen, or perhaps even Mormons. Cute, but forgettable, and therefore, strictly for the insatiably curious.
-- Austen's novel was made previously in 1940, made for TV in 1967, and theatrically released again in 2005. Also made into a television mini-series in 1958, 1980, and 1995. Inspired a mock Bollywood reworking in 2004's Bride & Prejudice.
©2005 Vince Leo