** SPOILER ALERT ** Do not read if you do not want to know details **
I saw the original in the theatre in 1987 and was hoping for a sequel since then. This film was originally to be released in April 2010, but was pushed back to September 2010 as it was included in the Cannes Film Festival, and the studio probably did not want the film to get lost among the summer flotsam.
That said, this film was worth the wait. If you are an aficionado of the original, you will appreciate the homage that this film pays to it. The soundtrack features David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame, featured in the original soundtrack), Gekko bumps into Bud Fox at a party, and LaBoeuf has the same real estate broker as Fox and Darian used...the lady with the annoying voice. Upon his release from prison, Gekko is also handed his brick-sized cellphone, which gives the viewer a glimpse of just how much things have changed since the original. Would have also been nice to bring back Sean Young or Terence Stamp in some capacity. Eli Wallach had a bit part which also delivered comeuppance superbly to Brolin's character.
I think that Michael Douglas must have a clause in his contracts that require his to give at least one great speech in each of his films. For this film, it was when he addressed the college class. Stone truly delivered here, and laid the blame for the crisis exactly where it belongs, which is to say with the majority of us. The reference to the bartender who owned three houses was perfect.
The film's weaknesses are few, but still significant. Specifically, Laboeuf is miscast and comes across about as threatening as a box of facial tissues. Sheen brought a power and passion for both good and bad to the original. Laboeuf seems out of place and definitely out of his depth next to Gekko. I think James Franco would have been far more convincing. Langella was a great fit as Zweibel, but had a far too limited role. Brolin was superlative and can do evil better than most of his contemporaries. Susan Sarandon was great as Labouef's mother.
The other significant weakness in the film is in how neatly the family issues are tied up and concluded. Not unless your family is named Osmond, is atonement and forgiveness as easy as portrayed in the film. I definitely expected better in this regard.
Overall though, well worth the wait. Stone got the details correct.