Movie review: 'Shaft' a pleasant diversion

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Shaft is back on the big screen now in the fifth movie to feature this character. Old meets new in the 2019 version of "Shaft" and the result is a pleasant diversion.

The word "icon" is used far too often these days, but it surely applies to the private detective named Shaft, played first in 1971, by Richard Roundtree. "Very strong black man who plays by his own rules," is how the veteran actor described him at the premiere of the new movie, in which he is featured.

This is the second movie to feature Samuel L. Jackson as the nephew of the original character who Jackson says was, "Someone you wanted to be. Someone you wanted to emulate." But, time has made us less tolerant of Shaft's retro ways. He is hardly politically correct, and his son "J.J." Shaft, played by Jessie T. Usher, calls him to task. "You can't beat up a woman," he admonishes his father. "Why not?" asks his dad. J.J. replies by stating the obvious, "Because she's a woman." Even if she is wielding a bat at the time!

This movie has less action than I expected and more comedy - thanks to Kenya Barris, who created ABC's "Black-ish," and co-wrote this script, to give African Americans, "The most authentic voice possible, but at the same time make sure that at the same time it spoke to everyone."

I liked seeing three generations of "Shaft" working together, and I really liked Regina Hall as the ex-wife of John Shaft II (Jackson). He greets her by asking how long has it been since they saw each other? "Hmm," she replies, "never long enough."

I most enjoyed the echoes of the original movie I loved as a teenager. To hear brief riffs composed by the late Isaac Hayes again made this worth seeing.

What you want in a remake are enough reminders of what you loved about the original mixed with enough new characters and situations to keep you interested. By that measure, the new "Shaft" is good enough.

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