Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Movie Mulligans

So I came across this trailer for the upcoming The Amityville Horror, a remake of one of the crappiest horror movies to emerge from the 1970s.

Also on the remake horizon, from Disney, will be a new version of Tron, a landmark (and under-appreciated) 1982 sci-fi flick that predated computer wizardry now taken for granted. Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal have been tapped to crank out the screenplay. Disney, following up its litany of great business moves -- letting Pixar go, letting Miramax go, not letting Michael Eisner go like a wet sack of potatoes off the top of Cinderella's Castle (magic taters, of course) -- notes that the gussied-up Tron will factor in the Internet. Gosh, that's clever. It'll be like ... like a whole new ... Tron!

Currently in the theaters, of course, is Assault on Precinct 13. For those not familiar with the original, Assault was a low-budget John Carpenter thriller that, for its part, was a slight remake of the great 1959 western Rio Bravo. In other words, Hollywood is now remaking remakes. And a remake of a movie by a director whose career (The Thing, The Village of the Damned) included its fair share of reconstituted celluloid.

And that's not all -- not by a long shot. Other remakes on the horizon include The Longest Yard, Fun with Dick and Jane, The Bad News Bears, The 39 Steps and Steve Martin (whose apparent pact with the devil includes an annual number of remakes) in The Pink Panther. And let's not even get into the whole cottage industry of recycling TV shows into cinema.

As my Uncle Morris once said through a mouthful of dirt while being buried alive (long story - don't ask): Enough already.

Consider that over only the past few years, we've seen remakes of Alfie, Around the World in 80 Days, Charade (remade as The Truth About Charlie), Cheaper by the Dozen, Dawn of the Dead, Father of the Bride, The Flight of the Phoenix, Freaky Friday, Get Carter, The In-Laws, The Italian Job, The Ladykillers, Manhunter (remade as Red Dragon), Ocean's Eleven, Rollerball, The Stepford Wives, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Walking Tall and Willard, to name a few. There is even a growing glut of Hollywood remakes of foreign films scarcely more than a few years old, with The Grudge (2003's Ju-on) and The Ring (1998's Ringu) being the two most celebrated examples as of late.

Not that I have any particular gripe against remakes, mind you. I don't believe in many things, but I do believe there is a finite number of general storylines -- a screenwriting guru by the name of Jeff Kitchens claims there really are no more than 40 -- and that each successive generation of storytellers finds slight variations in which to tell them.

But this latest onslaught of remakes smacks of laziness, cynicism and ... well ... brutishness: You liked it once, you'll like it again ... only this time with fast cars, or horses, or a cool glass of lemonade. Just buy the goddamn ticket.

There are good remakes, of course, and plenty of them. But the whole mindset that spurs an undertaking as massive, exhausting and expensive as a movie remake bespeaks to smug quasi-sophistication. Manners and cultural touchstones change, but it's debatable whether they change enough over the span of a single generation to justify a paint-by-numbers remake.

For instance, we very much enjoyed the 2004 version of The Manchurian Candidate. But did it really have to be redone simply to replace Korea with the First Persian Gulf War, or to make big business the bogeyman instead of the Communists? Was there not another avenue for exploring the Persian Gulf War? Was there not another way to lambaste the connections between multinational corporations and war profiteering? The original Manchurian Candidate remains a blistering political satire and edgy exercise in paranoia. Had some studio bonehead deemed it irrelevant for modern-day appreciation simply because it was in black-and-white?

To borrow from a movie that has yet to be remade (give it time, of course): The fundamental things still apply.


At 2:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're remaking the Bad News Bears!!! That's sacrilegious!!! I have now lost all faith in the world.

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous RamboP said...

what remade movies do you think are worth anything?

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