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Once More With Feeling | Remakes You Want to See

By Sarah Larson | Comment Diversions | March 24, 2010 |

By Sarah Larson | Comment Diversions | March 24, 2010 |

I used to have a roommate who wouldn’t eat or drink anything blue. Which is insanity to me, because blue is totally my favourite flavor. I also once worked with a woman who wouldn’t eat anything red. Pause for a second and think about all the foods that are red. Yeah, she wouldn’t eat ANY of that. Trying to plan a menu for a company event was tons of fun with that wacko hangin’ around.

That has nothing to do with anything, but I bet all of a sudden it doesn’t seem so weird that I don’t believe in pie, huh?

So anyway, let’s talk remakes. Of films, dummy. Jeez, try to keep up! My intro segued so smoothly right into this topic (that’s a lie). As you are no doubt aware, various studios are currently planning to remake every film you’ve ever seen or heard of. In most cases, of course, this is a baffling waste of time and effort. As an example, have you heard there’s a remake of Clue in the works? Supposedly, they’re aiming for a 2011 release, although I don’t think they even have a cast yet. This might possibly be related to the fact that there is no way in hell they can top (or even equal) the cast of the 1985 original.

Look, Clue is my favorite movie ever (no, seriously, EVER). I watch it at least once a week, and even I am willing to admit that the story itself is not exactly a mindblowing work of genius. It was cutesy and goofy more than it was clever, and the real backbone of that movie was the cast. Clue had a sublime cast consisting of Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan, Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKeon, Christopher Lloyd, and Martin Mull, and every last one of them was pitch-perfect and hilarious in their role. I can’t even fathom who might have the unmitigated gall to try and fill Madeline Kahn’s shoes as Mrs. White, but whoever that poor soul may be, they are likely doomed to abject failure.

The problem with most remakes is actually the same as with films in general, and that is lazy storytelling. The average film has a shoddy-to-mediocre plot cobbled together with spit tape and a prayer, and it’s left to either sheer blind luck or big budget effects to try and patch the holes. Sometimes lightning strikes with the cast, their performances elevate the material and you get a gem like Clue, and other times nine squibillion dollars is spent on special effects based on Cylon technology, and you get a shiny turd like Avatar that diddles the audience’s eyeballs whilst making them exponentially dumber. Either way, trying to duplicate the result is crazy, because you’re either hoping lightning strikes twice or betting on the public’s willingness to be dazzled by (and pay for) a stupid story they’ve already seen done 500 different ways. A remake of either Clue or Avatar would have little real chance of success because the story being told is nothing new or special, so by default a studio must stoop to gimmickry or stunt casting in a halfhearted effort to catch anyone’s attention. The probable result is the same heap of crap that comes out of nearly all remake attempts.

Every once in a blue moon, however, the remake concept works. The Magnificent Seven is, of course, probably the best example of a truly successful and high quality remake. Okay, so that was 50 years ago, but the point is that a good remake is more than just theoretically possible. The Magnificent Seven was an excellent remake of an excellent film, but Ocean’s Eleven, for example, is a good (as in fun, not as in particularly brilliant) remake of a boring (though star-studded) movie.

So we know that remakes can work. They can be enjoyable instead of painful. They can occasionally succeed, rather than become a spectacular embarrassment for all involved. The key, of course, lies in showing discretion when choosing what to remake, and then making smart decisions about the cast and script. This is usually where Hollywood fails, with both original films as well as remakes.

My question for you, my pretties, is what movies you would actually want to see become remakes? Either because the original was a sack of crap that couldn’t possibly end up worse (and might even turn out fun), or because there’s a story that could be re-told from a different perspective or with a creative twist? Which films would you genuinely like to see remade?

Sarah Larson lives in Minnesota, where she is usually up to no good. Her newest random food obsession, for those of you who like to keep track of such things, is crispy rice noodles. She eats them the way normies eat potato chips. She only updates her blog when bullied into it, but you can read the archive here if you’re bored enough.

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