By Adam Shaw
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Remakes are all the rage in the movie industry at the moment. While some retreads manage to introduce classic films to a new generation, others leave theatergoers scratching their heads, wondering why anyone involved bothered. The latter reaction, alas, is likely to be provoked by "Total Recall" (Columbia).
Director Len Wiseman has sanitized Paul Verhoeven’s extremely violent 1990 action thriller — an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1966 short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yet although toned-down, the new version still contains more than its fair share of objectionable content.
The year is 2084. After an apocalyptic war that blighted the global environment, Earth has been divided between the United Federation of Britain on one side of the world and the Colony, a stand-in for Australia, on the other. While people in the Federation live in luxury, the oppressed working classes who serve them are housed in the Colony. The two regions are connected by a transport line through the Earth’s core known as "The Fall."
Unhappy with his boring life and troubled by nightmares, Everyman Colony drudge Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) seeks relief through the services of a company known as Rekall. Rekall specializes in turning fantasies into memories, thus allowing its customers to believe they really are whoever it is they wish to be.
Before Rekall can work its magic on Quaid, however, a routine mental screening uncovers the surprising fact that this blue-collar grunt is, in fact, some sort of secret agent who has had his memory wiped.
Stunned by this revelation — which instantly makes him a wanted man — Quaid goes on the lam with the authorities in hot pursuit. He’s thrown even further off balance when his seemingly devoted and loyal wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) turns against him.
Things take a political turn when an Irish Republican Army-like guerrilla group known as the Resistance reaches out to Quaid in the person of young activist Melina (Jessica Biel), a figure Quaid has already encountered in his dreams.
Clever plot twists and impressive futuristic visuals can’t make up for an ensemble of humorless two-dimensional characters — nor for their favored vocabulary of foul language. The dialogue in Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback’s screenplay, moreover, is bloated with cliched ruminations on the nature of reality, e.g. "The past is a construct of the mind."
One tiresome philosophical diatribe succeeds another. Not only do these speculations quickly stale, they make no reference either to God or to the soul.
So, by the time the infamous three-breasted prostitute from the original film makes her reappearance, viewers of faith may be hoping for a mind-wipe of their own.
The film contains frequent action violence, including gunplay; upper female and brief rear nudity; references to prostitution; occasional uses of profanity; at least one rough term; and pervasive crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Shaw is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.