Director Charles Shyer has transplanted the 1966 original film's lothario (played by Michael Caine) from gray London to an upwardly mobile Manhattan tricked out with '60s touches like split screens and Blowup editing. Where the original Alfie seduced an array of profoundly ordinary women, here the girls are all knockouts, crafting eye-candy comedy out of the far gloomier classic.
This Alfie feels like Bridget Jones with a sex change or "Sex and the City" from the guy's perspective. According to chick flick formula, Alfie's Englishman chauffeur in New York learns various life lessons as he progresses from a playa seducing every woman in sight to a vulnerable charmer who's been schooled and chastened by all the girls he's loved before.
How to update the cautionary tale about a misogynist sexual predator who fucks married women, fathers a child out of wedlock and sets up an illegal abortion for another mistress in his dingy apartment? In the original Alfie, Caine's life-altering a-ha moment is a gander at the aborted remains of his child, the kind of grotesquerie it's hard to imagine in the sunny, energetic world of this Alfie.
Shyer has made every effort to keep his hero unsullied by life's gutter, recognizing that the antihero of the old days would probably not wash with the morally black-and-white demands of today's audience. In many ways, this Alfie feels engineered for an audience of women who will identify with Alfie's transformation from relentless cad to confessional, repentant romantic asking, in the film's coda, "What's it all about?"
Despite its breezy charm, there are some inescapable contradictions that make Alfie go down a little less easy, like Law's own offscreen consorting with hot new co-star Sienna Miller and the disingenuous caterwauling of Mick Jagger's soundtrack, the original British ladies man whose presence hardly adds a properly introspective air. Opens Fri., Nov. 5.