HTF REVIEW: "Brian's Song" (2001) - Not just another remake!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 9, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Brian's Song (2001)

    The greatest victories in life don't
    always happen on the field

    Growing up, I was never a fan of football or
    sports in general. Other than some fine movies
    like The Natural and Field Of Dreams,
    I never really bothered to watch many of the movies
    that deal with sports players. But as a kid, I
    distinctly remember this one movie that never ceased
    to inspire me or bring me to complete tears no
    matter how many times I watched it. I think this
    is the same experience of anyone who has watched
    the original Brian's Song (1971).
    I knew that a new television remake had been
    broadcast late last year. As much as I loved the
    original movie, I didn't want to shatter those
    memories with a remake that I felt didn't need to
    be remade. However, when Columbia offered me a
    screener to review, I thought that perhaps I'd force
    myself to watch it.
    For anyone who has grown up with the original,
    watching this new remake of Brian's Song can
    be a little difficult at first. How can you possibly
    replace the talents of James Caan and
    Billy Dee Williams with the likes of
    Sean Maher (Piccolo) and Mekhi Phifer
    (Sayers)? My first reaction was that none of these
    guys have the charm of the original actors.
    A little further into the film, I found that I
    was nearly getting my feet wet. I really started
    to enjoy the way these two actors were playing off
    of each other.
    This is the true story of the friendship between
    two football players that begins in 1965 at the
    Chicago Bears training camp. A quiet, reserved black
    Gale Sayers is befriended by arrogant, white
    fellow rookie Brian Piccolo. They both compete
    ferociously against each other until it is discovered
    that Brian Piccolo has cancer. As Brian's sickness
    worsens, the bond between the two deepens. This
    story of an unlikely pair of individuals is one
    of true friendship, courage and inspiration.
    Director John Gray has taken the old formula story
    and revitalized it into something a little more
    modernly hip. With the aid of a terrific classic
    rock and roll soundtrack and some stylish editing,
    this story seems totally fresh. There are also
    some very noticeable changes when comparing this
    remake to the original. This remake gives us a
    little more insight into Gale Sayer's shy personality --
    one that Piccolo had such a hard time understanding.
    And although the original film sort of glossed over
    the subject of cancer, this film takes us much deeper
    into the descent of Piccolo's illness. We know much
    more about Brian's condition and treatment and see
    the physical deformities caused by the cancer.
    Something else I noticed. The racial aspect of
    this movie has been greatly toned down. The original
    film had many references to skin color. The coffee
    cup scene (You aren't so white) has been removed
    from this remake. Another famous line as Brian
    thanks Gale for the blood transfusion has been
    watered down to omit the Fried Chicken reference.
    I'm a little bothered by this, because if this is
    all based on true events, we shouldn't change what
    was said in order not to be offensive.
    Columbia has done their usual job of putting out
    an exceptional digitally mastered anamorphic transfer.
    Though the print shows a few specks of blemish in a
    few minor areas, I was in awe as to how great the
    transfer looked -- especially the football scenes.
    In fact, these scenes have such a near hi-def look
    to them, that I could immediately spot how fake the
    snow on the ground looked. This is just a wonderful
    transfer all around.
    I need to hesitantly point out that a Full Screen
    transfer is also included on side two of this disc.
    The digitally mastered 2-channel Dolby Surround
    track sounds very good. Sound was very strong in
    the front soundstage, with a bit of supplemental
    activity in the rears -- especially in crowd and
    music sequences.
    Two trailers are included: The original
    Brian's Song trailer as well as The Natural.
    This new Brian's Song is not just another
    remake. It actually takes a story that was great
    and makes it even more enjoyable a second time
    around. Once you get past the new faces, you soon
    appreciate how well the movie was cast. You'll
    realize this most when you find yourself choking up with
    tears during many points of the film.
    Be proud to put this remake on your shelf next
    to the original. I will!
    Release Date: January 22, 2002
  2. Jeff_A

    Jeff_A Screenwriter

    Mar 6, 2001
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  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    I can see how that was poorly worded -- a
    trait that is not too uncommon in my reviews [​IMG]
    Actually, the original is the better film.
    I just felt that the material was taken,
    modernized and thus, made it more enjoyable not
    necessarily better.
  4. Gavin_L

    Gavin_L Second Unit

    Aug 24, 2001
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    thanks ron for the wonderful review, this film is one of my favorites of 2001, i thought they did a wonderful job with the remake, I'll have the new and old in my dvd collection when they come out on jan 22.

    i heard people talking about this wonderful movie, i found out why people were talking it, truly a story that will inspire you, Brian never gave up tell the end.
  5. David Tolsky

    David Tolsky Supporting Actor

    Sep 3, 1999
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    I'm afraid I have to go against the grain here and say this remake was a waste of time. Knowing the original film by heart, being born and raised in Chicago, and being a life-long Bears fan, I cannot understand why they bothered to make Brian's Song again. They basically followed the same script, added a few scenes and shot the whole damn thing in
    Toronto, Canada. It didn't even look remotely like Chicago and the football stadium hardly looked or felt like Wrigley Field (where the Bears played before 1971). Some of the 31-year old dialogue from the original script was even left in!
    I honestly believe that if ABC/Disney decided to run the original James Caan/Billy Dee Williams film in prime time, the audience would have been as big or bigger. For it's time, it was the greatest MOW of all time. They even managed to include some real Bears in that one, like Dick Butkus and Ed O'Bradovich. They shot in and around Chicago,
    and at Rensallaer Indiana, where the Bears training camp really was.
    And jeez, how could you have Brian's Song without the Song?
    This tune was as well remembered as the original movie itself!
    I was hoping for a better told story and all I got was a re-hashing of the old script with a few added touches. I'd rather have the old version on dvd than this version any day, but that's me. Thanks for letting me vent [​IMG]
  6. Julian Lalor

    Julian Lalor Supporting Actor

    Oct 5, 1999
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    I realy don't understand this incessant need to remake films. There aren't enough unfilmed, original stories out there that they have to go searching in their vaults for films to re-hash? The original was a fine film, and this remake was entirely redundant. The budgets for these movies have gotten so out of hand that studios and networks are afraid to take risks - leaving the audience with endless re-runs in the guise of remakes, rip-offs and pointless, bloated sequels.
    Thanks, also, for letting me vent [​IMG]
  7. Robert McDonald

    Robert McDonald Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 23, 1999
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    While the remake was OK, but in my humble opinion the original was much better. As Ron noted the remake left out some items which I thought made the story even better; and although the remake actors were good, for me they didn't have the chemistry that James Caan and Billy Dee Williams had. Perhaps to those who haven't seen the original, though, will learn to love the story.
    Julian, I tend to agree. As I am sitting here I am trying to think of remakes which I enjoyed more than the original. There are a few, but mostly not:
    A Little Princess (I thought Shirley Temple was too cutesy); and George C. Scott as Scrooge. Psycho? No way. Father of the Bride? Not for me - although Steve Martin's had some funny additions, I still like the Spencer Tracy/Elizabeth Taylor version. The Blob? I even liked Steve McQueen's more [​IMG] (I wonder if there is a readily available list of remakes)
  8. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer

    Feb 20, 2001
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    Livonia, MI USA
    Real Name:
    Kenneth McAlinden
    Did the remake include my favorite joke from the film. It was during the part where they are converting Piccolo to fullback and went something like the following: Hallas asks Piccolo what he is supposed to do on a linebacker blitz, and Piccolo responds that he is supposed to block the linebacker ... unless it is Butkus, in which case he is supposed to inform the quarterback. [​IMG]
  9. David Tolsky

    David Tolsky Supporting Actor

    Sep 3, 1999
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    Yes, I believe they used that entire joke, nearly word for word. Yep, remakes are certainly on the rise, what with Oceans 11, and The Time Machine on it's way, there is no end to it. On the other hand, there are some movies, like the Time Machine that I would love to see as a remake if they do it RIGHT. If they put HEART, SOUL, and a good story to boot, I'll go for it. As Ron mentioned in a previous thread, PLANET OF THE APES lacked all of those, and I thought that was a complete disaster (with respect to Mr. Staddon).

    I think instead of a remake of Brian's Song, producers should start thinking of making a movie about Walter Payton (R.I.P.). There is a hell of a story there.
  10. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

    Jun 20, 2000
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    I had a few problems with this movie. I agree it was "modernized" which, to me, means they pretty much destroyed the real story. The two actors just were not at all convincing as NFL players. One shot from someone like Butkus and they both would have been taken off on a stretcher. Caan and Williams LOOKED like football players. In the end, my main complaint is that the original was about two very different people who became close friends despite all the cultural and personal differences that would normally drive them apart and what happened when one of them got cancer. The remake seemed to be about a guy dying of cancer who happened to have a close friend who was very different from him.

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