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9/13/13

THE SHINING: MINI SERIES - REVIEW


It's well known that Stephen King wasn't too keen on Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of his classic novel The Shining back in the day. So much so that, in 1997, a "mere" 17 years after Kubrick's film was released, he even wrote and produced his own mini-series retelling the story but delivering much more backstory and character development.

Well, that was the intention, anyway.

The result was basically an entertaining enough yet completely inferior 3-part TV movie which did bring back some key elements from the book but failed to match the intensity, creepiness and stylistic class of Kubrick's film. The first part of this Shining mini-series sees the Torrance family move in to The Overlook Hotel after a long exposition-heavy tour and several flashbacks showing us Jack Torrance's (a sadly miscast Steven Weber) struggles with alcohol and son Danny's run-ins with imaginary pal Tony, who isn't Danny's finger in this movie, but instead a teenager with glasses. That's literally all that happens in an hour and a half. Honestly, as nice as it was to see the wasps scene from the book in there, these flashbacks and long expositional chats could have been boiled down to a tight, half an hour-long opening to which the whole second part, in which frankly very little happens, could have been shortened by half an hour and added. This did not need to be a 3-parter. As it stands, it feels long and although it remains entertaining enough that you don't mind watching it, you start missing Kubrick's The Shining really, really soon. The final part of the series is easily the most rewarding as Steven Weber is finally allowed to go all-out and you get to finally see those lame (and hilarious) animal topiaries come alive in their full 90's CGI glory. The ending also includes a nifty mini-twist which is kinda cool until you realise it suggests time-travel...

Yup.

The cast tries very hard but sadly just doesn't have the chops for this whole horror thing. None of them, except perhaps the people working at the Overlook at the beginning of the film, ring true: Weber looks too... nice and is too naturally funny to really come off as scary or creepy in any way. Most of the time, his antics end up reminding you of a Tom & Jerry cartoon. That said, he is extremely entertaining and without him, the series would have no doubt been really bland. Well, more bland, anyway. Rebecca De Mornay does a solid enough job and you do feel for her character, especially since she is given much more to do than Shelley Duvall did in the original film, but the script really makes her character quite messy: she's always either asleep or forgetting the kid in some unknown part of the hotel at critical moments. Our new Danny, Courtland Mead, does ok but is given way too many lines and way too much whiny exposition to spout out when a more subtle and internal performance (see Danny Lloyd) would have worked much better. Melvin Van Peebles makes a fun, likeable Hallorann, Pat Hingle, Sam Raimi (yes, Sam Raimi) and Elliott Gould do a great job in relatively short cameo appearances and Stanley Anderson gives his "ghost barman" welcome presence. The film is sadly not scary save for one or two effective jump scares and fails to establish an unsettling atmosphere making a lot of the action way more slapsticky than it should have been. As much as I love the book and as much as I like the parts of it which were added back into the series, it's fair to say that Kubrick got it right. None of that stuff is really all that necessary and the changes made in the 1980 film pretty much all feel justified.

Overall, these Shining TV series aren't essential. By no means go out of your way to find and watch them unless you REALLY love that wasps scene. Having said that, the film is entertaining and, as trashy as it is, it still provides enough lols and decent moments here and there to make it watchable.

The CGI topiaries and Steven Weber's facial expressions alone are worth it, to be honest.

Oh, and in future, if you're gonna say Kubrick's film sucks: don't rip-off his iconic tracking shots and lift moments directly from his movie in your mini series!

Just sayin'...

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