Michael Caine's iconic, blue-collar womanising Londoner of the '60s today becomes Jude Law's sharp-suited Brit in New York, the freshly reinvented Alfie Elkins still employing his ladykilling skills on a variety of women.
As a remake, Alfie doesn't so much invite comparisions with the original as rap on its front door and demand an RSVP. Well, if you wanted a post-new-lad, metrosexual, insert-achingly-trendy-style-mag-buzz-word-here Alfie for the Noughties, then director Shyer certainly doesn't get it disastrously wrong.
Despite some odd visual decisions (like the "message" billboards screaming words like "DESIRE", "WISH" and "SEARCH"), Shyer maintains a respectfully nostalgic style throughout, keeping the to-camera monologues, plonking Alfie on a retro moped and peppering the movie with jump cuts and split-screen montages.
Although, of course, this is supposed to be an update. So we have some inter-racial intercourse and a less heavy approach to the abortion scene (it doesn't require a nip down a backstreet, for one thing), while Alfie's health scare mutates from tuberculosis to a lump on the penis - the kind of thing Caine's '66 gadabout would never have let a doctor poke at.
Shyer shows remarkable restraint by not mentioning 9/11 once and keeping STDs out of the picture. But his decision to sidestep melodrama does mellow the consequences of Alfie's actions for the women he dallies with - a stronger set of characters than their '60s equivalents - which in turn lessens the impact their reactions have on our protagonist. Though, these being more touchy-feely times, Jude Law's slick, pretty-boy reincarnation is less icy and insensitive than Caine's wide-boy original, so we still have all the painfully confused "What's it all about?" soul-searching. Caine's Alfie may not have been as likeable as Law's, but his reality-check was undeniably more poignant, especially considering the period context; where Caine was shagging away under the ever-present threat of nuclear fall-out and trying to square his kid-in- a-candy-shop reaction to the sexual revolution with the impact of Women's Lib, Law is operating in a world of equal opportunity where therapy is everyday. His epiphanies, therefore, smack a little too much of whiney navel-gazing.
Still, the actor is adept enough to keep us engaged even through the more wallowy moments, while the female cast is consistently strong - especially Susan Sarandon and brassy newcomer Sienna Miller, whose topless zucchini-hacking (with a meat cleaver, no less) provides the most memorable scene. Ouch!
A flawed but often well-handled showcase for Law's talents - even if he doesn't quite manage to Caine it.