Revisiting one of the other times Harrison Ford starred in a remake.

Harrison Ford has returned to the big screen, headlining the newest film version of Jack London’s classic adventure novel, The Call of the Wild. The movie is flat-out laughable at just about every turn with Ford’s horribly CGI’d co-star hamming it up in this misguided re-telling. With a dog-led intervention an embarrassing supporting turn from Dan Stevens and even a canine wrestling match, The Call of the Wild is just too painful to endure. Unsurprisingly, Ford emerges as the movie’s sole redeeming feature, bringing a true sense of pathos to the story as he bravely puts his own spin on the same role Clark Gable made famous in 1935.

While the movie star has made his name on a number of well-written characters he helped make iconic, it isn’t too often that Ford has taken on a role made famous by another actor the way he has here. However, when he signed on to step into Humphrey Bogart’s shoes, it resulted in what is perhaps one of the most beautifully human turns of his impressive career.

In director Sidney Pollack’s 1995 remake of Sabrina, Ford stars as Linus Larrabee, the overworked head of the Larrabee Corporation. Along with his mother Maude (Nancy Marchand), Linus has turned his late father’s successful company into an industry giant, making him, his mother and younger, carefree brother David (Greg Kinnear) one of the wealthiest families in the country. The Larrabee’s live like royalty with a sprawling mansion and a large staff, which includes the virtually invisible Sabrina Fairchild (Julia Ormond), daughter of the family’s longtime chauffeur Fairchild (John Wood), who has always harbored a secret crush for the playboy David. Hoping his daughter will snap out of her fantasy romance, Fairchild encourages Sabrina to take an internship in Paris. While she’s gone, David meets and falls in love with Elizabeth (Lauren Holly), the daughter of a wealthy rival family, making their union something to celebrate, especially in Linus’s eyes. However the wedding (and the merger between companies Linus is secretly hoping for) looks to be in jeopardy as Sabrina returns looking radiant and instantly catching David’s eye. In an effort to avoid what he feels is a disaster, Linus does everything he can to distract the lovesick Sabrina.

One of the most winning elements of Sabrina has to be the script, which sparkles with wit and sophistication all throughout, never making any character, big or small, look foolish. “You’re talking about my life,” David tells the critical Linus during a brotherly fight. “I pay for your life, David. My life makes your life possible,” proclaims Linus. “I resent that,” David responds. “So do I,” exclaims Linus. With a large part of the movie centering on Linus trying to distract Sabrina from holding David’s attention hostage and possibly wrecking the huge merger about to take place, there are plenty of well-written scenes featuring the two secretly and playfully trying to read each other. “You probably don’t believe in marriage,” Sabrina tells Linus at one point. “Yes, I do. That’s why I never got married. David, however, believes in the tooth fairy,” he says. “That’s why I like him,” replies Sabrina. “Well, I like him too,” adds Linus. “As a matter of fact, I love him. I just don’t know what to do with him.”

Slowly and unexpectedly (at least for Linus), he finds himself being taken by Sabrina; a feeling he instinctively tries to fight off. But moments with her continuously take Linus by surprise, such as the scene in which Sabrina tells how she was named after a water sprite savior in a poem who rescues a virgin from “a fate worse than death.” When asked by his mother how it’s going with Sabrina a little later, he dryly replies: “Lousy. So far, I’m more affected than she is. I damn near cried twice.”

Behind the laughter, at its core, Sabrina is a film about the different sides of romance and each of the main characters’ complicated relationship with it. There’s David who has spent his life dodging any kind of actual romance beyond wooing one socialite after another until he suddenly finds himself taken by it in a way that’s impossible for him to even articulate. The look on his face and the gestures when this realization hits him is so quietly moving. For Sabrina, it’s the longing for romance which has always fueled her, usually to her own detriment. Having spent years pining for David, she’s neglected to discover who she really is to a large extent. “You know, I’ve been to every party you’ve ever had,” Sabrina tells David at his mother’s birthday party. “Right there, in that tree, like a bat,” she says looking up at the tree above them. Now, here we are… dancing in front of God and everyone.”

Linus may have the most complex relationship with romance of the three after having lived his life as someone who felt he had no need for the emotion. His family duty coupled with his guarded nature has left him with little-to-no use for love. “Listen, I work in the real world with real responsibilities,” he tells Sabrina at one point. “I know you work in the real world and you’re very good at it,” she replied. “But that’s work. Where do you live, Linus?” By the film’s end, a transformed Linus has found himself in a new emotional place that is dominated by Sabrina and her effect on him. “Go ahead, say it” he says to Fairchild. You don’t… deserve her,” Sabrina’s father responds. “I don’t. I know that,” replies Linus. “But I need her…and I don’t need anything.”

The cast of Sabrina alone proves the worth behind this remake. Ford has rarely let himself be as prickly as he is here, nor has he ever reached the places of vulnerability he takes Linus to. Because of the nature of the character, Ford finds himself playing the straight man throughout Sabrina, which he knocks out of the park, giving a masterclass in deadpan with every joke he delivers. Ormond is completely luminous as the title character, conveying warmth, depth and curiosity mixed with a sense of romance that has defined a large part of Sabrina’s life. Finally, Kinnear soared in what ended up being his big break in film, stealing every scene with a playful, buoyant energy and charisma that made it virtually impossible to hate his character.

Sabrina seemed like the perfect kind of sophisticated holiday release audiences could savor in late 1995, even though February might have been the better choice given how romance-heavy the story is. Maybe if the studio had gone with the latter, they wouldn’t have had such a bomb on their hands. The movie flopped spectacularly without even coming close to breaking even at the box office. Critics however mostly embraced the movie, even if they couldn’t help but compare it to the original, which by the mid-90s had already become a classic. Sabrina did enjoy some awards acclaim, scoring Golden Globe nominations for the movie, Ford and the gorgeous song “Moonlight,” which, along with the lush John Williams score, made sure the film was represented at the Oscars that year. Kinnear also found himself nominated as Most Promising Actor by the Chicago Film Critics Association.

If there’s one thing I loathe (apart from the bemoaning of purists when it comes to the differences between novels, comic books and their subsequent film adaptations) it’s the questioning of why any film should be remade. This sort of complaint typically comes from fans who loved the original version of whatever film is being reworked as well as movie cynics who feel that Hollywood is incapable of producing anything that didn’t come from something else. Yet remakes remain worth exploring in their own right. Seeing how certain stories can morph and transform between cultures and eras is fascinating to watch as is the inherent universality that transcends each version. Sabrina is the perfect example of this as it carries with it a charm, magic and poetry all its own. While the original’s power hasn’t diminished over the years, its tone and themes squarely belong in the era in which it was made. Pollack’s Sabrina is purely from and for the 90s thanks to the way it carries with it the dreamy fairy tale quality many cling to, while investing in the characters and the life-changing revelations they experience by the time the credits roll.

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