Adrian Lyne's decade-long labor of love, a faithful remake of the Nabokov novel, true to the period of the novel, true to the narrative of the novel, truer than Kubrick, bends over backwards to win sympathy for the infamous Humbert Humbert (in the pity-please performance of Jeremy Irons), the visiting Brit with the yen for the young. Dominique Swain, whose sexual precociousness often seems to border on demonic possession, is slightly younger than was Sue Lyon in the Kubrick version, but she is much closer to Lyon than she is to Lolita (so much for faithfulness to the novel!), and yet it goes without saying that as a legal minor she is too young to take much advantage of the wider latitude in nude scenes since 1962: this is the peek-a-boo of teen magazine ads. Frank Langella, who takes full advantage of the wider latitude (full-frontal advantage, you might say), is no more than a stock Mr. Big bad guy, a less quirky Quilty than Peter Sellers's. And Melanie Griffith, smaller in circumference than Shelley Winters in the mother role, by no stretch of the imagination fits the description of "fat cow." A compelling reason to have taken another crack at the book never does come clear. To hitch a ride on an ever-escalating reputation, to charge fearlessly into dangerous territory in the worshipped footprints of a literary lion, to borrow boldness and to copy novelty, will not suffice as compelling reasons. Kubrick's movie may not have been Nabokov, but it was Kubrick, and it was a movie. And by three and a half decades it was first. (1998) — Duncan Shepherd
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