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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 10:14 GMT
Singing Detective is off-key
By Caroline Westbrook
BBC News Online

Robert Downey Jr
Robert Downey Jr plays the lead role
Over 17 years since the Dennis Potter mini-series The Singing Detective first graced TV screens, it has been remade for cinema audiences, with Robert Downey Jr taking over where Michael Gambon left off.

The original version of The Singing Detective was widely regarded as one of the best TV series ever made.

However, it's unlikely that this cinematic interpretation, produced by Mel Gibson's company Icon, is likely to be remembered as fondly.

All the original elements are there - from Potter's script through to a seriously surreal set of musical numbers - yet somehow it just doesn't seem to gel.

Downey Jr, in one of his first film roles since his much publicised treatment for drug addiction, is Dan Dark, a writer who is confined to bed with a debilitating case of the skin disease psoriasis.

Fantasy world

While in hospital, he continually escapes into a fantasy world in which he is the lead character of his first novel - the "singing detective" of the title - investigating the murder of a prostitute in Los Angeles while fitting in a spot of crooning (mainly of 1950s rock 'n'roll, updated from the 1940s songs featured in the original).

But things get complicated when the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur.

Downey Jr, while no match for Gambon, is decent enough, and there's solid support from the likes of Robin Wright Penn, Adrien Brody, and an unrecognisable Gibson, nestling beneath a bald wig.

But the best efforts of this starry cast can't stop the film from becoming overly muddled and too weird for its own good.

To its credit, it retains the original script, which should please fans of the late writer - but it's unlikely to strike a chord with those cinemagoers who are more familiar with Harry Potter than Dennis Potter.

Does the newer version of The Singing Detective live up to the original? Tell BBC News Online what you think.

This, although a reasonable effort, fails to compete in any way with the original TV series. To be honest, I didn't feel it would be wise to even try - the TV series was so perfect that trying to improve on it would have been a near impossible task. Take it from a 29 year old Singing Detective fan - stick to the original.
Alexander Smith, UK

No it most defintiely does not. The acting is second rate. How can Robert Downey Jr possibly compare to Michael Gambon? They should have left it alone and spent the money on something a little less ambitious - a superhero remake or something.
Danny Wright, UK

Watching this film was like rereading a beloved novel with three quarters of the chapters removed.
Paul West, USA

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SEE ALSO:
Potter film panned by TV producer
12 Nov 03  |  Entertainment


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