Old vs New: True Grit
June 14, 2011
NC: Hello, I’m the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don’t have to, and welcome to another rendition of Old vs. New.
(The “Old vs. New” title card is shown, featuring an old man crossing his cane with a little boy’s baseball bat, as dramatic music plays and lightning strikes)
NC: I hate Westerns. Well, except for “Tombstone.” (The poster for that movie is shown briefly) That was pretty good. Oh, and “Unforgiven.” (Accompanying movie poster is shown) That’s not bad. Oh, also “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” (Accompanying movie poster is shown) That was pretty awesome. Oh, dude, “The Searchers.” (Accompanying movie poster is shown) Now that’s a classic. But luckily, this film has nothing to do—fucking “Maverick,” man. (Accompanying movie poster is shown) That was a funny movie! OK, OK! There’s a lot of good Westerns out there, but nevertheless, this review has nothing to do with Western—(The title screen for 1969’s “True Grit” is shown) Fuck a monkey!
(Clips from “True Grit” (1969 version and 2010 version) play out as NC speaks)
NC (voiceover): Yep, it’s “True Grit,” the film that launched a dozen Oscars. Twice! This timeless tale of a girl seeking the help of a one-eyed cowboy won audiences over in the late 1960s. But then all of a sudden, the Coen Brothers came along and made what many consider to be a damn good remake. And of course, we all loved it.
NC: Why? Because it’s the Dude playing a cowboy! How fucking awesome is that?
The Dude (from “The Big Lebowski”): The Dude abides.
NC (voiceover): But which film holds up the best over time? Which one is stronger, more poignant, and—for a lack of a better word—grittier?
NC: Well, in this rendition of “Old vs. New,” we’re gonna look at “True Grit,” or—as I like to call it—(He spreads his arms out as the following caption appears below him with a “Ding!”) “How many Big Lebowski jokes can I make in one review?”
(The opening sequence features pictures of the characters from both movies, playing snippets of the musical score from each of the films, ending with the title card “True Grit (1969) vs. True Grit (2011)”*)
*(NOTE: The remake was released in 2010 rather than 2011)
NC: First, let’s look at our main character of the film…Mattie! (The image of 2010’s Mattie is shown) Yeah, “Best Supporting Actress”, my ass! She’s the main character, and we all know it! You’re going first!
The Dude (from “The Big Lebowski”): Man, come on!
NC: Shut up!
Round 1—Best Mattie
NC (voiceover): Something you’re gonna hear me say a lot in this review is they’re both really good, and both these performances are no exception. But they are different. The original was played by Kim Darby. She offers a determination and a great need to overcome her fears to get justice for the death of her father.
Mattie (1969 version): When we locate Chaney, we can jump him in the same way, hit him on the head with sticks and knock him insensible.
NC (voiceover): In the remake, it’s Hailee Steinfeld. She’s also determined as hell, but maybe to an extreme level. I mean…really extreme.
Mattie (2010 version): When Chaney is taken, he’s coming back to Fort Smith to hang
Mattie (2010): I am to get Chaney, and if you’re not game, I will find somebody who is.
Mattie (2010): I’m afraid nothing’s going to be done about Chaney except I do it.
The Dude (from “The Big Lebowski”): …Jesus.
NC (voiceover): To the point where she doesn’t even seem human. She’s like an unstoppable vengeance machine!
Mattie (2010): When I go back, not without Chaney dead or alive.
NC (voiceover): So this creates an interesting split. You have one performance that’s determined, but also realistic, and even slightly frightened by the dangers she’s going into.
Mattie (1969): His name is Tom Chaney. He’s a whiskey drinker like you, and it led to killing in the end. Now if you’ll just ask the marshal’s questions, he’ll help you.
NC (voiceover): And then you have the almost crazily obsessed little girl version of The Terminator.
Mattie (2010): If I had killed Cheney, I would not be in this fix; but my gun misfired.
NC: Which one is better?
NC (voiceover): Well, the original version seems more realistic. We know that women, especially girls back then, were not often trained to go on man hunts, so her reactions to a lot of these grisly situations seems more believable. She overcomes her fear, but she shows that there is fear to overcome. The remake shows her almost as bitter and cold, and her lust for vengeance blinds her to anything else. She doesn’t care what’s in the way; she just wants to find the bastard who killed her daddy and see him hang. Nothing else can scare her, and nothing else seems of any importance.
NC: And to be honest…that’s what makes her more interesting.
NC (voiceover): While the other version seems more realistic, this version has much more drive. No time for distractions and is extremely fixated on nothing else but getting her killer. It’s kind of fascinating to see a child this intelligent and hungry for blood. I mean, have you ever counted how often she smiles in this movie? It’s close to never. Because she is so different from our perception of what a girl in that time period would be like, that’s all the more reason to find her more engaging to follow, and that makes us all the more interested in what’s gonna happen in the end. While both performances are very good, it’s the remake that gives us the character that we’re simply more interested in following.
NC: Point goes to the new.
Mattie (1969): I hope you go to jail.
Round 1 Winner: 2011 Version
NC: And now we go from cowgirl to cowboy. Who’s better: the Duke, or…the Dude?
Round 2—Best Cogburn
NC (voiceover): Another tough choice is choosing who’s the best rendition of Rooster Cogburn. And to be fair, you can’t really judge the performances unless you judge the actor’s past. John Wayne, for example, is an iconic legend, but he was also best at playing…well, John Wayne. You never saw his films to see him slip into different characters or roles; you saw him to play John Wayne. He did it well. He did it very well. Nobody can play John Wayne like John Wayne.
Cogburn (1969): The first night out, you’d be calling “Mama! Mama!”
Mattie (1969): I’ve left off crying. Now, here’s $25. (She hands him the cash)
Cogburn (1969): (takes the cash to examine them with interest) Oh.
NC (voiceover): But to be honest, it left very few surprises in what you were gonna get. Like could you just see John Wayne playing the Joker anytime soon? (An image of the Joker from “Batman: The Dark Knight” is shown)
(Cut to a Photoshopped image of John Wayne in the Joker’s makeup and both voiced and animated by NC)
John Wayne: (speaks like the Joker from “The Dark Knight”) Why so serious?
(Back to the Old vs. New)
NC (voiceover): Jeff Bridges, on the other hand, has played many different kinds of roles. But, in my humble opinion, I very rarely see the character as much as I do Jeff Bridges playing the character. It’s kind of like Kevin Spacey’s acting; I’m always aware he’s playing a part. It doesn’t mean he’s bad or anything; it’s just I’m always aware he’s playing the role, with the exception of a few parts.
The Dude (from “The Big Lebowski”): I’m the Dude!
NC: And obviously, that goes without saying.
NC (voiceover): Luckily, though, this is one of those roles he totally gets lost in. Bridges is perfect as the drunk but still relatively badass gun slayer. He’s sad and pathetic in many ways, but also likeable and threatening when he needs to be. He was a perfect choice.
Lawyer (2010): With revolver in hand?
Cogburn (2010): I did.
Lawyer (2010): Loaded and cocked?
Cogburn (2010): Well, if it ain’t loaded and cocked, it don’t shoot.
NC (voiceover): But which one is truly the better character? Well, taking out the fact that we know we’re gonna be watching John Wayne playing John Wayne, it’s still a good performance. He’s tough, he’s cunning, and he does whatever the hell he wants, which means when he really does care for somebody like Mattie, it’s all the more meaningful.
Cogburn (1969): They must all been married men that loved their families. ‘Cause they scattered and run for home.
NC (voiceover): Bridges is much more of a downer. When he gets drunk, he really gets drunk. And when he gets angry, he really gets angry. Nothing is really glorified about him, apart from maybe his gun slinging; it’s just more of a lost soul who tries to do what’s right. That is, when it’s convenient.
Cogburn (2010): I don’t believe in fairytales or sermons or stories about money, baby sister, but thanks for the cigarette.
NC: But again…that’s what makes him so interesting!
NC (voiceover): His character is so confident in his abilities, yet so hate-filled when it comes to his life. He constantly abuses himself and cares little about his actions. Again, that’s what makes his conviction to Mattie’s case more engaging. But at the same time, he flip-flops, like anyone who’s insecure and drinks as much as he does.
Cogburn (2010): Take the girl. I bow out, and when I bow out, I work my hands.
NC (voiceover): John Wayne is the hero. Sure he’s flawed, but we all know he’ll do the right thing in the end. This guy (2010 Cogburn) is just all over the place, which makes him much more unpredictable. We don’t always know if he’s reliable or even sober. When John Wayne gets drunk, it’s cute. When this guy (2010 Cogburn) gets drunk, it’s scary. The remake truly gives us the more uncontrollable hero, and because of that, it’s more fun to see what’s he’s gonna do and how he’s gonna do it. Sorry, dude, but in this contest, Bridges plays the more entertaining role.
NC: Point again goes to the new.
Cogburn (1969): I oughta paddle your rump!
Round 2 Winner: 2011 Version
NC: (speaks in a cowboy drawl) But what good is a rip-roarin’ adventure if you don’t have a bunch of little doggies—(speaks normally while looking closer into the camera) Dear God, did I really write that? (He holds his head and rubs his forehead) Oh, God, I hate Westerns. This is Best Supporting Cast.
Round 3—Best Supporting Cast
NC (voiceover): Now, you think because this is a Coen Brothers movie, there’d be a lot more interesting side characters in this film. Hell, their movies practically star those side characters! But the original has some good ones as well. For example, we do see the relationship—though brief—between Mattie and her father, and he seems like a nice enough guy to go and be avenged. In the remake, you don’t even see her father; he just shows up D.O.A.! Characters like the banker are great in both movies, as they both give deservingly over-the-top performances.
Banker (2010): I would not pay $325 for a winged Pegasus.
Banker (1969): I wouldn’t pay that for a winged Pegasus.
NC (voiceover): But of course, the big focus is on LaBeouf. (“Labeouf” is shown onscreen as NC tries to pronounce the title correctly) “Labuff”? “Laboof”? “LaBouf”? Shia LeBeouf?
NC: I don’t know. The other cowboy.
NC (voiceover): The original is played by Glen Campbell while the remake is played by Matt Damon. Now, Campbell looks like he belongs in a cowboy movie. He looks naïve, but nonetheless has some idea how to take care of himself. Look at that big dumb grin; how can you not like this guy?
LaBeouf (1969): And you, dear lady, I find a sweetened distraction as I suppose most men do. Will you excuse us?
NC (voiceover): While he does have his tough moments, his chipper attitude shows he’s clearly in over his head. In the remake on the other hand, Damon plays it a little different. He’s in over his head, too, but not in the same way. He’s very by the book, and I get the feeling that he wants to be taken seriously. He wants to be the heroic leader, but he is nevertheless out of place.
Mattie (2010): And why did you not catch him in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, or Monroe, Louisiana?
LaBeouf (2010): He’s a crafty one.
Mattie (2010): I thought him slow-witted myself.
LaBeouf (2010): That was his act.
Mattie (2010): It was a good one.
NC (voiceover): Both are very effective and serve the story great. However, many argue that Matt Damon didn’t belong in this movie; that he didn’t look like the traditional cowboy character.
NC: But, oddly enough, I think that works to the film’s advantage.
NC (voiceover): In many ways, he shouldn’t be there, and when he takes off, it actually seems very fitting adding character. And I think that because someone like Matt Damon is playing him, that comes across much stronger. Again, kind of a tough call, but I think I’m gonna go with the remake.
NC: Why? Because it has the Bear Guy in it!
NC (voiceover): I mean, who was that?! Where did he come from?! What’s his story?! We’ll never know, and by God it’s killing us trying to find out!
Bear Man (2010): Now I have taken his teeth. I will entertain an offer…for the rest of him.
The Dude (from “The Big Lebowski”): …Far out.
NC: That guy was awesome! Point goes to the new, I love the Bear Guy!
LaBeouf (1969): I’m of a mind to give you five or six good licks with my belt!
Round 3 Winner: 2011 Version
NC: And now it’s time for the bad guys. (talks tough) The varmints that started this whole—(speaks normally) Oh, God, just segue with the “Big Lebowski” joke.
The Dude (from “The Big Lebowski”): Human pair of quat!
NC: Thank you. This is Best Villains.
Round 4—Best Villains
NC (voiceover): Now, something that I love in both of these movies is the killer that Mattie is going after is not a mastermind. He’s not a diabolical genius, he’s not charismatic, he’s not even very smart. He’s just some idiot drunk, and you know what? That’s actually kind of refreshing! Let’s face it: a lot of killings in the Old West happened because…well, there were a lot of idiot drunks, and they had guns! And if anything, he’s actually following the more charismatic smarter villain. That makes the story seem much more real and unlike traditional Westerns. One is played by Jeff Corey…
Tom Chaney (1969): I know you. Little Mattie! The bookkeeper!
NC (voiceover): And the other is played by Josh Brolin.
Chaney (2010): I don’t think you would do it.
Mattie (2010): Well, what do you think now?
Chaney (2010): Now I am shot by a child!
NC (voiceover): Again, both are good, but I think Corey’s is a little bit more pathetic. I think the more low the character is, the more in vain the murder is, which again makes for a different but much stronger story. But if we’re gonna look at him, we might as well look at the leader, too. This is Ned Pepper, played in the remake by Barry Pepper…
The Tick (from “The Tick”): (in French) El coincidence!
NC (voiceover): And in the original by Robert Duvall.
Ned Pepper (1969): I never busted a cap on a woman or nobody much under 16, but it’s enough that you know that I’ll do what I have to do.
NC (voiceover): Even though Barry Pepper does a really good job as the leader and seems totally legit, well, he’s going up against Robert Fucking Duvall! I’m sorry, that’s a really hard act to follow! This guy (1969 Ned Pepper)—much like the Bear Guy—you really wanna know more about. Something about the way he speaks and holds himself just demands presence.
Ned Pepper (1969): I’m happy he done what he done, but he should have kept his head and looked out for himself. Goes for your good friend Rooster.
NC (voiceover): Like, this was the main villain from a different movie but somehow got roped into this one, like this guy really wanted no part with these people. Like he had much bigger stories he was involved with but then somehow got mixed up in this bullshit that one of his henchmen started. Again, that sort of adds to the “Shit happens” effect of these movies. It’s great. It’s absolutely great.
NC: So, let’s give credit where credit’s due, the original really did have the better villains.
NC (voiceover): (referring to the remake villains) Sorry, guys, you did good, too, but just not as good.
NC: Point goes to the old.
Tom Chaney (2010): Let’s think over my position and how I may approve it.
Round 4 Winner: 1969 Version
NC: And now, the defining point that always settles it, the story.
Round 5—Best Story
NC (voiceover): What fascinates me about this film and its remake is how different they are and yet how almost identical they are. Sure there’s little changes, like the Bear Guy and the hanging person, but when you’re walking through, it’s almost scene for scene the same. The only major difference is the beginning and the ending. In the original opening, we see Mattie interact with her father, but in the remake, he’s already dead. And the ending…well, we’ll get to that in a minute. The other core difference really is in style and tone. The original is a basic revenge story where good wins in the end and justice has its way. In the remake, it’s much more dark and empty. Mattie is obsessed from the beginning with getting her man. That’s the focus of this version: the obsession. In the original, she gets her revenge and everything seems great. She’s happy her dad’s avenged, John Wayne gives a little smile and he rides off to more adventure, just like most John Wayne movies. In the remake, it’s not so simple. Mattie loses her arm from the snake bite—which, by the way, I really feel sorry for the snake in the original. Look at this thing! Somebody call Fucking P.E.T.A.! Well, anyway, Mattie loses her arm, Rooster leaves after dropping her off to safety—keeping in character—and she doesn’t ever see him again. We cut to years later when she grows up bitter and cold, finding that her revenge is actually filled very little. She only finds out later where and when Rooster died and even then, it’s not so heroic. She visits his grave, walks away…and that’s it! There is no grand ending, no riding on the horse, no cowboy music playing. It sucks all the romance out of it and shows the emptiness that such an obsession will ultimately get you. It’s not a happy ending, I guess, but it’s not a sad ending, either…I guess. It’s just very, very hollow. But that seems more fitting for this story. And let’s be honest, a child that grows up with that kind of thirst for violence probably won’t lead a normal happy life. She probably would be a lonely stick in the mud with little to smile at. And again, it’s a very refreshing take from the “kill the bad guy and everything is fine” motif that most Westerns follow. So because of that, even though the stories are very similar, we got two different versions.
NC: And the better one, as you’d probably imagine, is the one with more complexity and depth, the newer version.
NC (voiceover): I have to admit, I feel bad that I’ve given most of the points to the new version even though the old one is really good, too. They’re both great movies for what they are and deserve to be watched and recognized. It’s just when you put them back to back, the new one really does have more to offer. It’s darker, grittier, and leaves much more of an impact.
NC: So, as you can guess, the best story also comes from the best version, the new “True Grit”; the superior film.
Round 5 Winner: 2011 Version
NC: So thank you all for watching, I hope you had a good time, and…well, if there’s anything I know how to do, it’s how to end a Western. I’m the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don’t have to. (He gets up to leave)
(Cut to NC appearing in front of a desert sunset and gives a salute to the audience with his black cowboy hat before walking off toward the sunset; eventually, we see that the bottom half of him is cut off, and he looks down to notice this before reacting in surprise, so he motions with one hand to camera left to have a pair of animated shoes come out to appear under him; he resumes walking off toward the sunset with the animated shoes doing the “walking” for him)
Channel Awesome Tagline—Bear Guy (2010): Now I have taken his teeth.