‘Fargo’ Reviews Are In: How Does The Show Compare To The Movie?

FX aims to re-create the genius of the classic movie on the small screen.

It was the movie that made “You betcha” a catchphrase before Sarah Palin did and made Steve Buscemi synonymous with a wood chipper. Now, it’s coming to TV.

“Fargo” the movie was released in 1996, the brainchild of Joel and Ethan Coen, and went on to garner incredible critical praise and two Oscar wins, becoming one of the most acclaimed films of the 1990s. The darkly comic film is funny, heartbreaking and thought-provoking and also features seminal performances from Frances McDormand as the brave, pregnant police officer Marge Gunderson and William H. Macy as the slimy Jerry Lundegaard. And it all takes place in the snowy vistas of Minnesota, where everyone is as polite as anything, even in the face of darkness.

FX has had some bold series before, but this might be the boldest stroke of all, taking a cherished property, repopulating it with a completely new cast of characters, and hoping it can walk the same tightrope of comedy and drama that the Coens do better than pretty much anyone.

The new cast certainly doesn’t seem like it’ll be a problem, as the all-star ensemble includes Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Key and Peele, Oliver Platt, and Alison Tolman as Deputy Molly Solverson (which seems to be an adaptation of McDormand’s role).

But can the series recapture the dark magic of the movie? This is what critics have to say about “Fargo,” which premieres tonight on FX at 10 p.m.

This Is Not A Reboot
“To be clear: This is not a ‘reboot’ or ‘retelling’ of ‘Fargo.’ This series features an entirely new cast of characters inhabiting a unique story that delves into the violent undercurrents that boil just beneath our polite exteriors. Full of all of the wicked appeal, grounded sentiment, intermittently delicious and horrifying violence, and humor you’d expect from a project that’s bold enough to call itself ‘Fargo,’ this TV adaptation grabs our attention from frame one and does not let go.” — Roth Cornet, IGN

Plenty Of Easter Eggs For Movie Fans
“This ‘Fargo’ has plenty of callbacks to the original — listen for the reference to ‘unguent’ — and it begins as the movie does, with a disclaimer that the events (here set in 2006) are based on a true story. That story centers on Lester, whom a convincingly accented Freeman plays like Bilbo Baggins’ unhappy, stammering American cousin. He’s 40 and looks 50; he sputters through unpersuasive insurance pitches by day and gets berated by his disappointed wife by night. ‘Sometimes I tell people you’re dead,’ she tells him, and to look at him, who’s to say she’s wrong?” — James Poniewozik, Time.com

Fargo Is Like ‘No Country For Old Men’
“What’s most interesting in this permutation, conceived by Noah Hawley, is how the narrative, despite its basis in truth, seems to draw from a variety of Coen brothers movies. The implacable contract killer played by Billy Bob Thornton, for example, feels like a close cousin to Javier Bardem’s philosopher-murderer in ‘No Country for Old Men,’ down to his sadistic streak and tendency to engage prey in casual (if inordinately uncomfortable) conversation.” — Brian Lowry, Variety

Funnier, But Not The Masterpiece The Film Was
“Since comparisons are inevitable, let’s go ahead and make more: ‘Fargo,’ the series, is funnier than the film, more bleakly so. … But the film was a masterpiece of storytelling economy that didn’t spill over into side-stories, a few of which are patently ridiculous in the series (four episodes were provided for review). The film’s essential weirdness felt real. The TV series’ weirdness is more often just comical (or disgusting. One word: Spiders.)” — Verne Gay, Newsday

The Series Has The Film’s Spirit
“Like the movie, the series is peculiar, with an irregular rhythm and lots of black humor, and it is also oddly winning … ‘Fargo’ isn’t the movie; it’s a television adaptation that lives up to the spirit of the original by straying.” — Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times