Harvey Reviews

  • Dec 27, 2014

    Disappointing remake of the classic Jimmy Stewart movie.

    Disappointing remake of the classic Jimmy Stewart movie.

  • Nov 05, 2011

    What's the Point Again? Actually, we own this now. Graham has a deep fondness for it, and I have a deep fondness for Graham, and it was at Dollar Tree for, well, a dollar. We've owned the Jimmy Stewart version for years, and if I were going to sit down and just watch a version, that would be the one. Why watch the bad remake when you can watch the good original? Or, if not bad exactly, certainly not as good. And not necessary. It's not that films are sacred, and there are some remakes I quite like. Indeed, some remakes became classics when the versions which went before did not. James Whale, for example, was not the first person to direct a movie of [i]Frankenstein[/i], but when people picture the Monster, they picture Boris Karloff. However, I would posit that an important defining characteristic of what will make a worthwhile remake is generally that the original isn't a classic. At the very least, the remake should have something new to say. And this version of the original play does not meet either requirement. Elwood P. Dowd (Harry Anderson) is a genial fellow. Quiet, friendly, and generous. This is hard enough on his snobbish sister, Veta Simmons (Swoosie Kurtz), but then there's Harvey. Harvey is a pooka, a spirit of Celtic folklore, who appears to Elwood--and only to Elwood--in the form of a six-foot eight-and-a-half-inch rabbit. (He's shorter in the original script, but Jimmy Stewart insisted the rabbit had to be substantially taller than he.) Veta and her lawyer, Judge Gaffney (William Schallert), arrange to have Elwood instutionalized at the hospital of Dr. Chumley (Leslie Nielsen). Only Dr. Sanderson (Robert Wisden), Dr. Chumley's assistant, listens to Veta explain about Harvey, decides she's the crazy one, and locks her up instead. Hilarity ensues, with the various characters running all about town in an effort to get Veta and her daughter, Myrtle Mae (Lisa Akey), home and safe and Elwood shut up at the sanitarium. Don't get me wrong. Harry Anderson is a decent enough Elwood, probably the best one which would have been available to the makers at the time. However, you can't watch it without comparing him to Jimmy Stewart, and of course he doesn't merit the comparison. Harry Anderson plays the role with warmth and good humour, but he just isn't an actor on Stewart's level. For most of his career, that was fine and he didn't have to be. But in any case where a person is playing a role once played by a great actor, he has to do it knowing that everyone is going to be comparing the two. I've heard rumours of a planned remake of [i]To Kill a Mockingbird[/i], and I don't worry, because no actor who would be good enough to play Atticus Finch would be willing to suffer the comparison to Gregory Peck. I would imagine that playing this part would be irresistible to an actor of Anderson's particular range, because it's especially well suited to it. But I think he should have resisted, or at least stuck to the stage. I will say that the world of the story is well drawn. The movie is set in some amorphous time in the mid-'50s, or possibly earlier; the original movie came out in 1950. It's pretty clear that this production didn't have a huge budget, but the feeling of the movie is mostly right nonetheless. Elwood comes across as a little old-fashioned, as does Veta, and Myrtle Mae is trying to fit into the new era. This is all completely appropriate. This all works and is right. Elwood's favourite bar, Charley's Place, feels a bit more 1985 or so, but Nurse Kelly (Jessica Hecht) feels like a woman who came of age during World War II. Tough because she's had to be but aware that her authority will never be as great as that of the men who control her world. In love but professional enough not to make a big issue of it, though she's not above feeling incredibly flattered when Elwood compliments her. The time spent watching this isn't a total waste. Especially not if you've already seen the original and aren't watching this instead. Seeing a new take on an old story can be worthwhile, but this is the same take, just with different people doing it. I happen to like the handful of people in it whom I actually recognize from other places--among other things, it's nice to see the late, great Leslie Nielsen do a relatively straight role for once. That pretty much stopped happening after he made [i]Airplane![/i] But over all, there's nothing of interest to this version which isn't done better in the original. I'll admit I give slightly more credit to recreating an era than just being made in it, so there's that about it, but by and large, this is a movie which didn't need making.

    What's the Point Again? Actually, we own this now. Graham has a deep fondness for it, and I have a deep fondness for Graham, and it was at Dollar Tree for, well, a dollar. We've owned the Jimmy Stewart version for years, and if I were going to sit down and just watch a version, that would be the one. Why watch the bad remake when you can watch the good original? Or, if not bad exactly, certainly not as good. And not necessary. It's not that films are sacred, and there are some remakes I quite like. Indeed, some remakes became classics when the versions which went before did not. James Whale, for example, was not the first person to direct a movie of [i]Frankenstein[/i], but when people picture the Monster, they picture Boris Karloff. However, I would posit that an important defining characteristic of what will make a worthwhile remake is generally that the original isn't a classic. At the very least, the remake should have something new to say. And this version of the original play does not meet either requirement. Elwood P. Dowd (Harry Anderson) is a genial fellow. Quiet, friendly, and generous. This is hard enough on his snobbish sister, Veta Simmons (Swoosie Kurtz), but then there's Harvey. Harvey is a pooka, a spirit of Celtic folklore, who appears to Elwood--and only to Elwood--in the form of a six-foot eight-and-a-half-inch rabbit. (He's shorter in the original script, but Jimmy Stewart insisted the rabbit had to be substantially taller than he.) Veta and her lawyer, Judge Gaffney (William Schallert), arrange to have Elwood instutionalized at the hospital of Dr. Chumley (Leslie Nielsen). Only Dr. Sanderson (Robert Wisden), Dr. Chumley's assistant, listens to Veta explain about Harvey, decides she's the crazy one, and locks her up instead. Hilarity ensues, with the various characters running all about town in an effort to get Veta and her daughter, Myrtle Mae (Lisa Akey), home and safe and Elwood shut up at the sanitarium. Don't get me wrong. Harry Anderson is a decent enough Elwood, probably the best one which would have been available to the makers at the time. However, you can't watch it without comparing him to Jimmy Stewart, and of course he doesn't merit the comparison. Harry Anderson plays the role with warmth and good humour, but he just isn't an actor on Stewart's level. For most of his career, that was fine and he didn't have to be. But in any case where a person is playing a role once played by a great actor, he has to do it knowing that everyone is going to be comparing the two. I've heard rumours of a planned remake of [i]To Kill a Mockingbird[/i], and I don't worry, because no actor who would be good enough to play Atticus Finch would be willing to suffer the comparison to Gregory Peck. I would imagine that playing this part would be irresistible to an actor of Anderson's particular range, because it's especially well suited to it. But I think he should have resisted, or at least stuck to the stage. I will say that the world of the story is well drawn. The movie is set in some amorphous time in the mid-'50s, or possibly earlier; the original movie came out in 1950. It's pretty clear that this production didn't have a huge budget, but the feeling of the movie is mostly right nonetheless. Elwood comes across as a little old-fashioned, as does Veta, and Myrtle Mae is trying to fit into the new era. This is all completely appropriate. This all works and is right. Elwood's favourite bar, Charley's Place, feels a bit more 1985 or so, but Nurse Kelly (Jessica Hecht) feels like a woman who came of age during World War II. Tough because she's had to be but aware that her authority will never be as great as that of the men who control her world. In love but professional enough not to make a big issue of it, though she's not above feeling incredibly flattered when Elwood compliments her. The time spent watching this isn't a total waste. Especially not if you've already seen the original and aren't watching this instead. Seeing a new take on an old story can be worthwhile, but this is the same take, just with different people doing it. I happen to like the handful of people in it whom I actually recognize from other places--among other things, it's nice to see the late, great Leslie Nielsen do a relatively straight role for once. That pretty much stopped happening after he made [i]Airplane![/i] But over all, there's nothing of interest to this version which isn't done better in the original. I'll admit I give slightly more credit to recreating an era than just being made in it, so there's that about it, but by and large, this is a movie which didn't need making.

  • Sep 21, 2011

    "Words cannot describe, how pleasantly surprised, I was to discover this film." Harry Anderson (Night Court) gives one of the best cinematic performances I have ever seen. Harvey, is genuinely one of a kind and cannot be missed.

    "Words cannot describe, how pleasantly surprised, I was to discover this film." Harry Anderson (Night Court) gives one of the best cinematic performances I have ever seen. Harvey, is genuinely one of a kind and cannot be missed.

  • Mar 09, 2010

    Adequate remake of the 50’s classic, but just doesn’t have the charm of the James Stewart version.

    Adequate remake of the 50’s classic, but just doesn’t have the charm of the James Stewart version.

  • Jun 05, 2009

    I don't know why people don't like this. It's simple, charming, and funny. I haven't seen the original, but with Harry Anderson and Leslie Nielson this remake is amazing. I bought it for a quid in Woolworth's a few years back but it's worth paying much more. " 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant."

    I don't know why people don't like this. It's simple, charming, and funny. I haven't seen the original, but with Harry Anderson and Leslie Nielson this remake is amazing. I bought it for a quid in Woolworth's a few years back but it's worth paying much more. " 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant."

  • Aug 29, 2008

    Entered the rare pantheon of movies I stopped watching in the middle, because I just couldn't take it anymore.

    Entered the rare pantheon of movies I stopped watching in the middle, because I just couldn't take it anymore.

  • Aug 07, 2008

    why? why the fuck would they do this?!? Flat charmless and shallow remake of the classic. Total wank.

    why? why the fuck would they do this?!? Flat charmless and shallow remake of the classic. Total wank.

  • May 22, 2008

    thought this film was actually quite good but it could have been better but still was funny and quite good.

    thought this film was actually quite good but it could have been better but still was funny and quite good.