REMAKES – ::Shudder::Why does Hollywood always have to spit on my memories?

This month, the members of the Large Association of Movie Blogs are discussing the subject of remakes.  For once, I have a little time where I can actually PARTICIPATE…yay….

Can I ask a question? If the original is so good, WHY do you have to remake it? Doesn't that mean they got it right the FIRST TIME? Seriously, how long will it be before someone announces they're going to remake "Star Wars"? GOD FORBID anyone try…

OK OK, sometimes remakes are ok, but they're not always good. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is a prime example of a recent remake that just isn't any good. It sucked with a capital S from beginning to end.

Don't get me wrong, though. If a classic movie can be remade, and they use the current technology and the state of the world to update the story, sometimes it can be done right, and done so that it doesn't mar the memories of the original. But it hasn't happened very often.

The problem is, many remakes aren't really remakes these days, they're "re-imaginings", where the new producer or director attempts to retell a classic story their way, without alienating the core audience of fans of the original. This is usually what happens when a studio decides to try and bring a classic television show to the big screen, and usually with disastrous results – anyone remember the big screen versions of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, BEWITCHED, or CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU?  Didn't think so. Or they remake a recent movie with new actors and directors, and call it a "reboot" – this is the case of the two versions of Marvel Comics' classic Incredible Hulk character that have come out over the past five years. Same basic story, two different directors, two different leads, and two completely different ways of looking at the same angle.

Some people are keeping their eyes glued to this May, when the J.J Abrams version of one of the most beloved tv series of our time, STAR TREK, hits the big screen. All indications seem to be that Abrams has kept the vision of the late Great Bird of the Galaxy, original creator Gene Roddenberry, in his sights while trying to give the original crew lineup a new lease on life using new actors and a 21st century revamping of the original Enterprise.  It LOOKS good, at least as far as the trailer goes, but will it actually BE good? Time will tell…

Too often remakes just don't cut it – so they try again. And once in a while, a second (or third, or fourth) attempt to remake a classic will work. There were over a dozen reasons why  Peter Jackson's take on KING KONG won my Poppy for Best Picture of 2005. It was well thought out, well scripted, well cast and well acted. I loved his take on the classic girl meets ape story. I especially liked the fact that Jackson designed his version as an homage to the original, right down to retaining the 1930s period.

The same cannot be said about the Dino DeLaurentiis version from 1976, which was actually directed by John Guillermin. Bad story, bad acting (how Jessica Lange recovered from this piece of garbage to become an Oscar winner is still a mystery….), and worst of all, a modern-day update.  Instead of the 1930s where Kong scaled the Empire State building, he pretty much sat his ass on top of the World Trade Center in the finale, and it just didn't work.  At least, not for me.

And how many times has Hollywood attempted to remake THE WIZARD OF OZ? Every time they have tried, they've failed (SciFi Channels "TIN MAN" not withstanding). Even sequels have bombed because they haven't been done very well – RETURN TO OZ is a gawd-awful movie, though like Jessica Lange before her, Faruiza Balk has managed to grow and change with time and has grown into herself as a talented and capable character actress. As Dorothy, she positively was NOT Judy Garland, not even close.

And the less said about the film version of THE WIZ the better…a prime example of how NOT to adapt a hit Broadway play.

Where do movies that base their ideas on an earlier movie fall into the remake category? I'm talking about the recent spate of straight film to Broadway musical to film musical here, like the recent versions of HAIRSPRAY and THE PRODUCERS. Both were based on classic films, both were semi-musicals in their original form, both became Broadway smashes as full-blown musicals, and both were adapted into films using the new blueprint.  And while there's no doubt about HAIRSPRAY, one of the best movie musicals of all time, there is some doubt about THE PRODUCERS.

I'm one of the few people out there who loves both versions of Mel Brooks' classic film. I love the original because of the wonderful chemistry that happens between cast members Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars and Dick Shawn. But I don't have the problems with the 2005 film version of the stage show that many others do. I like this version, up to a point. To be totally honest, I usually start the movie from where Leo and Max are arriving at Roger DeBris' house and end it when Max and Leo return to the office after the show becomes an unexpected Broadway smash. Not because I don't like the whole movie – I do – but because the chemistry between Gary Beach and Roger Bart as DeBris and his "assistant" Carmen Ghia is absolutely HYSTERICAL. They steal this move from the moment they walk on screen, and don't let go. And this 25 minute or so sequence from the movie never fails to lay me out in total hysterics – I watched it several times when my dear wife was in the hospital last summer…it helped a LOT.

And surprisingly, I find that Will Ferrell is an adequate substitute for Kenneth Mars – he's pretty damn funny as Franz Liebkind, which says a lot for me, because i'm not the biggest Will Ferrell fan in the world.

But there are people out there who positively HATE the 2005 version, and that's understandable as well. I can see how some of the numbers would get on the nerves of fans of the original, not to mention the changes to the end of the movie. But that doesn't mean it's a BAD film overall.

In conclusion, here's a list of ten classic or modern classic films that Hollywood should NEVER remake, or even THINK about remaking…and anyone who DOES think about it should be drummed out of the film business forever. In fact maybe we ought to pass a law, making it illegal to tamper with the films in question…because, like I said above, they GOT IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME…

To Hollywood studio types out there: Please, please, PLEASE!  DON'T EVER TRY TO REMAKE….

HAROLD AND MAUDE
STAR WARS (EPISODE IV, A NEW HOPE)
THE MALTESE FALCON
THE BREAKFAST CLUB
VERTIGO
AIRPLANE
SPEED RACER
E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL
JAWS
"THE LORD OF THE RINGS" TRILOGY

This twelve movies (counting all three LOTR movies) all got it right this time around, and there is NO need to remake them EVER. Studio execs: If you want to expose a new generation to these stories, then do the right thing – RE-RELEASE THE ORIGINALS. That's how Disney did it for generation upon generation, and maybe it's how the studios should STILL be doing it…instead of doing an often far-inferior remake…

One final question for you:

Is the 2008 version of SPEED RACER a remake, a re-imagining, a reboot, all of the above, or none of the above? Write to me with your answer at webmaster@popcornnroses.com and we'll discuss it in a future column.

And so it goes….