Why remake “Roman Holiday” (9 tonight, Channels 4, 36 and 39)? Writer/producer Jerry Ludwig and director Noel Nosseck haven’t come up with any compelling reason.
Instead of Audrey Hepburn, who was introduced to America in the 1953 original and won an Oscar for her performance, the remake gives us the blank, anonymous beauty of Catherine Oxenburg. She plays the bored princess who rebels against her routine and goes slumming through Rome with an American, not realizing he’s a reporter who’s after a story.
Tom Conti plays reporter Joe Bradley as a burned-out layabout whose greatest ambition is to retire to Corfu. Contrast this with the original’s cutthroat go-getter (Gregory Peck), who wants to work for “a real newspaper in New York.” This means Joe’s final decision, to put romance over career, is less of a sacrifice in the NBC version. It may delay his retirement, but it won’t torpedo his professional plans as it did in the earlier version.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that Joe’s gesture isn’t as weighty here, for the sparks between Conti and Oxenburg aren’t nearly as intense as those between Hepburn and Peck.
Nor does this version measure up as a travelogue. Much of it was shot in Lisbon instead of Rome. While the earlier incarnation included an action-packed scene at a riverside soiree, concluding with a dunk in the Tiber as our heroes escaped the bad guys, the corresponding NBC scene was shot in a disco that might as well have been in Azusa.
The earlier script is much richer in comic detail, and the entire premise fits 1953 better than 1987. With the original easily available on video, the remake seems especially superfluous and foolhardy.