'Funny' remake polarizes American audiences

Michael Haneke wanted to provoke American auds with his “Funny Games” redo — and by all accounts he has succeeded.

Critics have railed at the shot-by-shot remake, pointedly questioning the need for its existence, and auds have been quick to voice their displeasure as well, loudly complaining during overtly manipulative portions at some screenings.

The heated response — unmatched since Gus Van Sant‘s shot by shot re-creation of “Psycho” a decade ago — is all the more remarkable given that many of the same critics savaging the American version of “Funny Games” lavished his last film, “Cache,” with affection.

But it doesn’t surprise Warner Independent, which picked up multiple territories for the Naomi Watts starrer knowing its potential to offend Stateside auds. “We always expected it would have a polarized response,” says WIP topper Polly Cohen, who admits she was both repulsed and compelled by the film. “It’s for a very specific audience.”

The story, about an affluent couple kidnapped by sadistic killers, has elements that might appeal to horror and arthouse auds, but it isn’t really either, Cohen notes.

What’s most galling to some reviewers is Haneke’s decision to remake virtually the same movie as his German-language version.

“In addition to being borderline unendurable, ‘Funny Games’ is inexplicable, and I don’t mean in any philosophical sense,” Wall Street Journal critic Joe Morganstern wrote.

The pic did resonate with a certain aud, generating $520,000 at 289 theaters for a $1,799 per-screen average in its opening weekend. And Cohen expects it to resonate even more with Europeans. “We realized with American tastes it could go either way,” she says.

Even some of the harshest critics acknowledge Haneke’s skills — while wringing their hands at his choices.

“It’s this moralistic finger-wagging — scolding us for lapping up what he’s serving — that makes ‘Funny Games’ so infuriating,” Newsweek’s David Ansen opines. “That this relentless barrage of psychological and physical torture is extremely well made and powerfully performed… somehow makes it worse.”

Ironically, Haneke could soon get a taste of his own medicine: A Ron Howard redo of “Cache” is in development at U.

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