From day one, director Gus Van Sant and others connected to this line-for-line, shot-for-shot remake/duplication/replica of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho have offered about half a dozen explanations—and drawn about as many analogies—for the project. Was it like covering another singer's song, or repainting another painter's painting? Was it a reinterpretation, or a chance to offer color-copied Hitchcock, more or less, to those adverse to watching black-and-white movies? (Never mind that Hitchcock made a conscious decision to shoot his film in black-and-white.) Ultimately, Van Sant's explanation that he did it because it hadn't been done before seems the most satisfying, even if it raises the question of whether that's reason enough to do something. Based on the end result, the answer is probably no. Van Sant's Psycho is much more interesting to think about and anticipate than it is to actually watch. As announced, virtually everything remains the same, and the minor—although in their own way substantial—differences mean something only because they depart from the original. On the other hand, Van Sant has made a film that's in some ways impervious to criticism. It is note-for-note Psycho, after all, so what's not to like? It's easy not to like Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, for one thing. Given the impossible task of rethinking an icon-making role originated by an unmistakable actor, Vaughn settled for doing an Anthony Perkins imitation, and it's not a very good one. Other than that, Psycho 2000 is thoroughly watchable, albeit strangely sterile: Anne Heche, Robert Forster, and others are well-cast in their roles, and Van Sant's Hitchcock imitation is largely convincing. But Hitchcock's Psycho had a lot more than watchability going for it. Van Sant's film impresses only on the level of a cinematic parlor trick, and while that makes it an interesting curiosity, the world doesn't need it.
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