Top 5 Tuesday: Rotten Remakes

I think most film buffs approach remakes with glaring skepticism. And why wouldn’t we? Most remakes turn out to be pure crap – trying to rebuild/rehash a movie that was perfectly fine to begin with. Successful ones (True Grit, Let Me In, Scarface, The Ten Commandments) are few and far between. This year, we have two that are nothing short of sacrilegious (we already had Arthur, which falls into that very same category). As a product of growing up in the 1980’s (which I am not at all proud of), there is absolutely no reason why we need another Footloose. Yes, the 1984 film is completely dated, campy and oh-so 80’s – but that is part of its charm. This remake, which is based on the stage musical, looks to be a train wreck. And shame on you, Mr. Dennis Quaid for being a part of this…you’re better than that. We also have the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to look forward to – and thank God because it has been over a full year since the original! David Fincher is an accomplished director with loads of talent – so it is shocking to see that he would rather regurgitate someone else’s work rather than bringing us something new and exciting this holiday season. Chances are I will not see either one. I usually stay far away from these remakes, mainly out of loyalty to the original. I can’t give Fincher’s film my $10. Sorry, there’s no way. I’d feel too dirty.

So in the spirit of remakes that should never be made – I thought I’d dedicate this week’s Top 5 Tuesday to five truly shitty remakes. Now, mind you, I haven’t seen all that many. On principle alone, I will look the other way more often than not. I could never cash in any dignity I might have to see remakes like Arthur (2011), The Stepford Wives (2004), Death at A Funeral (2010), or The Women (2008).  I have heard how horrendous they are and I don’t need to waste my time. But here are 5 that I was unfortunate enough to have seen. Please feel free to share your own!

5. Planet of the Apes (2001)

I have to say – I didn’t mind Tim Burton’s remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I enjoyed his Alice in Wonderland too. But this? This was uncalled for. All of the impressive make-up and special effects could not hide the fact that this was a total wash. And the terrible ending? Burton himself said that it wasn’t supposed to make any sense, and to me, that is inexcusable. It strikes me as very odd that most of these abysmal remakes tend to be of classic films that do not need another treatment. That is surely the case here, as the 1968 original starring Charlton Heston is a sci-fi classic. A fine cast assembled here – but the film is too self-involved with its heavy make-up and the story goes every which way. A terrible screenplay in fact – with none of the insight, irony and impact of its predecessor.

4. The Pink Panther (2006)

I will say that I admire Steve Martin – as a comedian, a writer, and as an actor, I have great respect for him. He seems like one very smart guy. But even smart guys make dumb mistakes. This is one of them. I am not a huge fan of the original films starring the enormously talented Peter Sellers, but I have always had a fond appreciation for them. Sellers brought a subtlety to the infamous role of Inspector Clouseau that was quite charming to viewers – we rooted for him, we were always on his side, and yes, many feel in love with this character. This was due obviously to Sellers’ approach, but also Blake Edwards. In this tragic remake, the only thing “funny” about it seems to be Steve Martin doing the French accent without any of the charm or wit of the original films. Everything is so grossly over-the-top and extremely childish in its comedic approach. Yes, the film made money and because of that, garnered an unworthy sequel – a sad statement in itself about what Americans are willing to go and see in the theaters. This may not be the travesty that was Son of the Pink Panther (1993), but it remains unoriginal, unimaginative, and worse yet, unfunny.

3. The Wicker Man (2006)

The original 1973 thriller is a cult classic and is still held in pretty high esteem. With good reason – it was friggin’ creepy! This Neil LaBute remake was just friggin’ funny – and not in a good way at all! Very reminiscent of Wiseau’s The Room. LaBute has potential as a filmmaker, but he hit all the wrong buttons on this one. And Nicolas Cage? Yeah, that guy who once took home an Oscar…he is nothing short of laughable in this. Cage can be really really good (Matchstick Men, Adaptation) or he can be really really bad (insert any of his action flicks here) – but in The Wicker Man, he is simply embarrassing. Every time he yells or begins to lose it here, it is funny to watch, especially when he points a gun at Rose and proclaims, “Step away from the bike!” This is bad stuff, people. It makes for a funny “comedy,” but that surely was not LaBute’s intention – and for that, this goes down as a futile faux pas.

2. Psycho (1998) 

Isn’t the point of attempting to direct a remake to bring one’s own unique vision to the work? To enhance the original somehow? To add one’s own artistic sensibilities? Not for hit-or-miss director Gus Van Sant who decided to re-create an American classic by simply doing a shot-for-shot version of the original. In English class this is called plagiarism. In movieland, it should be called lazy and insipid. First, why even attempt to remake a staple in cinematic history directed by the man known by many as “the master of suspense.” This was an embarrassment and nothing short of pointless. Van Sant was able to assemble a fine cast for his needless experiment, but that didn’t help at all. Critic Leonard Maltin hit it dead-on when he called the movie, “an insult, rather than a tribute to a landmark film.”

1. Swept Away (2002)

I’ve walked out of a movie theater only a handful of times in my life. This was one of them. In my defense, I was “forced” to go and I went unwillingly, knowing of the atrocity which waited for me. And I took my seat — and watched. But I simply couldn’t take it anymore – the pretentiousness, the silliness, the arrogance, the boredom. I had to get up and get out. And really – should I have expected anything more from director Guy Ritchie? What made the original 1974 film (directed by Lina Wertmueller) so amazingly effective was that it managed to make a significant statement as to social classes in society in a very controversial way. It was also sexy and romantic with two remarkably talented lead stars (Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato). Viewed by many as being somewhat misogynistic (which I totally disagree with), I always found it fascinating that it was directed by a woman. This remake was a vanity project from start to finish and never should have been attempted, especially with Madonna in the lead role. She was a disaster. And I don’t give her most of the blame – this is all Ritchie’s inadequacies, as writer and director of this miscarriage.

And 4 More for Good Measure — Because These Stunk Too!

Poseidon (2006)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
Sabrina (1995)
Gloria (1999)

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17 Responses to Top 5 Tuesday: Rotten Remakes

  1. rtm says:

    Hi Peter! I’ve only seen Pink Panther from your list, but will avoid the rest now 😀 I thought Steve Martin was quite endearing in the remake but yeah, obviously the movie can’t top the Seller’s version.

    • Hi Ruth! Yeah, I wouldn’t bother seeing the rest – unless you just want to laugh at The Wicker Man. Loved your social commentary on the morals behind censorship and film. And I see you too are getting some guest writers. very good. Hope you have been well!!!

  2. Pingback: The Open Bar: July 4th Weekend — ANOMALOUS MATERIAL

  3. Castor says:

    I shall thank the movie gods for my good fortune for I have managed to avoid all of those movies!

  4. I haven another dis-honorable mention… “City of Angels”, a lame, big-budget remake of Wim Wenders’ 1988 masterpiece “Wings of Desire”.

    • that’s a great one too! I must admit – I have to give Wenders’ film another shot, especially with the recent passing of Peter Falk. I think I was too young to “get it” all and need to give a fresh watch. Great choice though — that film was L-A-M-E!

  5. Dan Heaton says:

    Nice job. Planet of the Apes is the worst, and Wahlberg is just terrible in it. Totally flat line readings. I haven’t seen your other picks (by choice), but I am morbidly curious about the Psycho remake since it still seems like such a strange idea.

  6. Dont forget the horror genre:
    Prom Night
    April Fools Day
    House on Sorority Row
    The Fog

    All of these were horrible remakes and the original (sometimes campy) versions should be left alone. I also have read rumors of Sleepaway Camp being remade. That would be insane to remake it when everyone who cares would be irked at the thought of a remake.

    • I do not have much knowledge in the genre, so thanks for shedding some light here. That’s what I am hoping the Ludovico page brings to The Lantern. I heard The Fog was terrible. How was I Spit on Your Grave remake?

      • I like the original but the remake was bad. Not everyone agrees though.

        My daughter wanted me to mention that they are talking about remaking Drop Dead Fred. She has made threats if this happens.

  7. John says:

    The one that evokes the most visceral, angry reaction from me is “The Wicker Man”. The original was so amazing in every way. And they re-made it… starring Nic Cage.

    I honestly think there are legit times when you see a movie and think “That movie could use a re-make”. It’s very, very rare, but they exist. And of course, put on the spot, I can’t think of an example.

    Total Recall is another one being re-made. The original wasn’t exactly a classic but I sure enjoyed it. And they’re re-making it. Why bother?

    • I agree. Total Recall wasnt one of those movies you have to watch every time it is on but it is original in its own way. Remaking it just seems senseless.

    • Eww – I had no idea about Total Recall. It doesn’t need one and isn’t really that long ago. What is next – Blade Runner? Wicker Man was just laugh out loud funny. I was thinking of ones that can use a remake. I would think of films that were so-so (not legendary) and try to improve on it.

      • John says:

        I thought of a perfect re-make candidate- and a successful one, at that. “The Crazies”. The original had a nice feel to it and a decent concept. But it fell flat. The re-make, especially within the context of Tea Party mistrust, worked great.

        I bet that the overwhelming majority of films I’d say are “great re-make candidates” are little known, flawed 1960’s and 70’s horrors.

        • I never saw the original “Crazies” – saw the one that was out a year or so ago and didn’t care for it. But yes – I agree that the best remake candidates would be those that fell short and need an obvious reshaping. Is the original “Crazies” worth watching?

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