Deja View All Over Again At The Box Office

By Stacey Harrison

taking_pelham_11As The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 bogarts its way onto screens this weekend — probably sullying the good name of the excellent 1974 original, trading lean, gritty storytelling for bloated excess — it seems as good a time as any to talk about remakes.

We all like to roll our eyes and moan, “Has Hollywood run out of ideas?” every time we see a trailer for the latest remake, reboot, relaunch, revamp or reimagining of a movie aimed at “bringing the story to a new generation.” (Seriously, does every generation need a version of the same story? This is how Kidz Bop happened, folks.) So why do they keep coming? With slasher films, it’s pretty obvious. You can hire some music video director on the cheap to resurrect Friday the 13th, Halloween, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and (coming in 2010) Nightmare on Elm Street franchises and pretty much print your money on opening weekend.

But it’s not just cheap horror movies being redone, as evidenced by Pelham and countless other attempts to brush up old titles. Nostalgia plays a big role, with studios betting on Gen Xers getting all warm and fuzzy for titles from their youth, and maybe at the same time they can catch the attention of today’s kids. Hence the upcoming Kung Fu Kid starring Will Smith’s rugrat as the kid and Jackie Chan as Mr. Miyagi — er, Mr. Han — brought to you by the director of Pink Panther 2. (My God, it hurt to write that sentence.) But if you want to reserve the right to complain every time one of these things is announced, then stay away. Don’t give in to that urge you have to see what your favorite childhood movie might look like with better effects and a bigger budget. Sure, it won’t stop immediately. Remakes are like really tough video-game bosses — they’ll take several hits before they’re defeated. But it can be done.

Truth be told, the problem is probably not as bad as it may seem. Yeah, there are plenty of remakes, but there are also a lot of great original movies out there. It’s like how someone who sees one foreign film a year might conclude that American movies pale in comparison. Well, that’s because if you’re seeing it an ocean away, it’s good enough to have made the trip. There are just as many bad movies made elsewhere, trust me.

Here’s a list of some remakes in various stages. Some are mere rumors, and others are already in production. I’ve added some thoughts — good, bad or indifferent — and hope you’ll do the same.

Arthur — Apparently Russell Brand is in talks to take over the lead role. Well, we know he can play the drunk part, but how about sympathetic leading man?

The Birds — Hitchcock offered no motive for the avian mutiny, but I’m guessing a remake would feel the need to attach some preachy bit about an environmental toxin being behind it all.

Clash of the Titans — Because, you know, there aren’t any other Greek myths we could make a movie about.

Conan — I don’t look at this as a remake so much as a new series. Conan the Barbarian is kinda like Tarzan in that way. Unfortunately, the director is the guy behind the Friday the 13th and Texas Chain Saw Massacre redos. Yippee.

The Crazies — I’m in favor of this one. The George A. Romero original had great ideas, but no budget or real actors.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels — Nah. I’d rather see a sequel with Steve Martin and Michael Caine back together, thank you.

Footloose — Who’s Chace Crawford?

Hellraiser — The director attached was recently fired, so this one may not happen. Clive Barker movies never fail to disappoint me, so I can’t say I’m broken up.

Highlander — Yawn. Unless Sean Connery can get return to get his head chopped off again.

Let the Right One In — You probably haven’t seen this Swedish vampire film, but trust me, you should — NOT for the Twilight crowd. The American version is supposedly going to be a more faithful adaptation of the original novel.

Metropolis — Actually, this is a good idea, but only with the right director. Alex Proyas, maybe? Steven Soderbergh? Ooh, how about David Fincher!

Mona Lisa — Larry Clark (Kids) is redoing the underappreciated 1986 Neil Jordan classic, with Mickey Rourke and Eva Green as the leads. Actually sounds OK, but I’m wondering what a Clark movie without inappropriate teenage sexuality will look like.

Poltergeist — Yeah, good idea. Someone dies after every one of these, so let’s make another!

Red Dawn — Seems like a uniquely Cold War tale to me. Wolverines!!!

red-sonjaRed Sonja — Rose McGowan just doesn’t cut quite the warrior figure that Brigitte Nielsen did.

RoboCop — I was vehemently opposed, thinking any remake would simply ditch the black humor and satire of the 1987 original. Then I heard Darren Aronofsky was on board to direct. Call me curious.

Rosemary’s Baby — Four words that will probably be scarier than anything in the movie: produced by Michael Bay.

Short Circuit — You know who’s really pulling for this one? El DeBarge.

They Live — I could get behind it only if it succeeds in drawing attention to the original, and the greatest fight scene ever put to film.

Total Recall — Without Ah-nuld pulling homing bugs out of his nose and repeating “Get your ass to Mars,” I have no interest.

Valley Girl — The idea is to repackage it a musical a la Hairspray. Like, omigod, who cares? Totally. Fer sure.

Which ones are you excited about? Which ones make you want to die a little? Let me know, and I’ll do my best to keep on top of the unbelievably fertile world of big-screen remakes.

Photo: © 2009 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

2 Comments

  1. Remake of Arthur..at first i was definitely opposed..how dare anyone even think of redoing what Dudley Moore did so brilliantly..but having observed Russell Brand and with Anthony Hopkins in it..if they are
    allowed a little leeway to make it their own, it might be ok…some movies, however, should never, ever, under any circumstances be remade..Gone With The Wind, Love Me Tender, The Seven Year Itch,
    Giant, and too many more to list… some movies are best left alone.

  2. I would totally watch Conan, but only if the title character was played by Conan O’Brien. That’s a fun direction I could get behind. [Starts giggling hysterically at the thought of pasty white guy with 5% muscle tone avenging the land.]

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