We Can Remake Them. Stronger, Faster, and Newer!

“If it made money the first time, maybe it will make more the second time.”

That seems to be the prevailing thought in the movie business, which is why a plethora of remakes and sequels are on the way. Live action versions of cartoons (Pan, Cinderella, and the upcoming Beauty and the Beast), ill-conceived follow-ups (another Chipmunks? A sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life?); if you have seen it before, odds are that you will see it again.

And so I suggest we take a gander at some of the remakes out there and judge them accordingly. This will obviously not be a comprehensive list, but I will try to give you your money’s worth. But please, make sure to take out any popcorn with you as you go.

(Note, we are not going to dip into franchise films just yet. I define franchise as, “A series of films made, usually with more than one actor in the role, with the intent to continue on with multiple sequels.” No Batman, Harry Potter, Fast & Furious, Lord of the Rings, James Bond, or Robocop films here.   Perhaps another time.)

Red Dawn (’84)/ Red Dawn (’12)

It seems a bit harsh to start off with two movies that I have never seen. However, I really feel that the silly trailers tell us all we need to know. Young upstarts in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. With guns, naturally. The time of each will dictate who the invaders are, (80’s= Russia, 2012’s= North Korea) but not much else changes. I have been told that the remake is nowhere near as good as the classic 80’s movie. (I offer that 80’s classic is often an oxymoron, but to each their own.) Look, if the fun of watching Adrianne Palicki in an action role cannot save your movie, then we are all in trouble.

Psycho (’60)/ Psycho ’98

I admit that this leans a teeny-bit towards the franchise border (how many sequels did they make?), especially now that they have a television prequel show going on. Yet, if we focus on just the two films with the same title, the focus is narrow enough. Also, I feel this is the most self-indulgent film ever cranked out by a studio and it still irks me that it exists.

It is, literally, a shot-by-shot remake of the original. There is a different cast and crew, and it was filmed in color. Also, for some modern-day realism, Norman Bates is seen (and heard) masturbating as he looks through the hole in the wall. Sigh. Apparently the director was very keen to figure out how Hitchcock framed each shot and wanted to recreate it perfectly.

If you ask me, that is all well and good… if you are shooting a film for your college thesis. Self-indulgence is fine in film school, but for the movie-going public, it is going to let your little adventure fall into relative obscurity; which it did.

The only welcome change was bringing in William H. Macy as the sheriff. Sadly, how long do you think a character actor in a supporting role is going to last in a suspense film? Poor guy.

Footloose (’84)/ Footloose (’11)

Another “classic” movie brought back to the screen by 80’s nostalgia. (They really should invent a pill to cure that disease. If sequins come back, I am moving to a cabin in the woods somewhere.)

Here is where I show my complete irreverence for 80’s cinema. Ready? I like the remake better!

I know. I know. No really, I know. Sacrilege. Calm down. I actually do have reasons.

I think the characters are more complex. I like John Lithgow, but Dennis Quaid’s version of the father was more complex.  He seemed more invested in his daughter’s life, he seemed more conflicted, and he was not simply, “The Man” who was throwing out edicts without concern. Julianne Hough comes across as more enticing, more complicated, and more interesting.

Then there is the dance in the garage. I am no dance expert. I have taken two dance classes in my life and have very little appreciation for ballet. So maybe I do not have the voice of authority when I say that I do not get the Kevin Bacon dance. When he dances with others, it is all quite fun. But the solo, “angry”, loner-dance? It has never worked for me. I cannot follow the reasoning behind the choreography or had any sort of emotion conveyed. The remake gives me a garage dance that I understand. The high school dance that takes place in a bar is rather perfect to me, and I find myself thinking, “Woo-ee! Them thar kids is havin’ a good ol’ time. Dadgum!”

As a bonus, you get to see Miles Teller before he picked up a drum stick or tried to be Fantastic as a redneck who cannot dance.   It is cute. (Now I have a picture of J.K. Simmons as the head of the town yelling out new rules and edicts. But that would require a remake of a remake…)

The Shop Around the Corner (’40)/ You’ve Got Mail (’98)

I do not really understand this one. Supposedly they are based on the same story. But Nora Ephron’s version is wildly different than the original. I assume you have all seen the recent one, so we shall focus on the black and white a little more. Besides, it has Jimmy Stewart.

The romantic leads do not really lead the story; they are more of ensemble characters. Theirs may be the prominent storyline, but it does not drive the plot the way the newer one does. The other characters have plenty to do without watching Stewart adopt his “aw, shucks” demeanor around the pretty lady. They have face time together the entire movie, so the plot is less dependent on “e-mails from mystery New Yorkers”. Also, they are not mentally cheating on their significant others of several years while flirting, using the other as emotional support, and setting up evening dates with strangers they have never met. In the moral high ground department, the original is very much the king of the castle and the Hanks-Ryan version is the dirty rascal.

However, Jimmy Stewart simply is not as charming in this movie as Tom Hanks. I mean, it is Tom Hanks. You root for the jerk he portrays because he is so darn likable. He is also sincere when the occasion calls for it (the e-mails, the sick-in-bed scene, and of course, the “I would have asked for your number” moment outside Ryan’s apartment. There is not a moment in Stewart’s movie that makes me think he is the crème de la crème. I always root for Jimmy Stewart, even in westerns, but Tom Hanks has more to work with in his role than Stewart does.

Need I say it? Dave Chappelle! Being a rom-com version of Dave Chappelle, yes. I could watch a whole movie with Chappelle and Hanks going back and forth in the workplace. Fun times indeed.

Sabrina (’54)/ Sabrina (’95)

I think this one is a tie. It really is the same movie. None of the actors put in their utmost efforts in, but they all do fine.   You would expect a little more effort from Harrison Ford, but this was about the time he was making Six Days and Seven Nights. He was the go-to older man for gals to fall for. With that you would hope for a little more ruggedness to sneak in, but he really is the modern-answer to Humphrey Bogart.

I think a tie is perfectly fair. I can watch either of them and be content. They updated a few things (investments, cars, dresses), but there really are not many noticeable differences. Pair it with You’ve Got Mail if you need a “Greg Kinnear never gets to keep the girl” double-feature.

I am sure that there are plenty other examples we could attack.  However I like  the idea of ending  on a tie.  Just remember, if the plot strikes you as familiar, it is not just you.

About Cosand

He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.
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