Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Remake the Bad Films Not the Good Ones

I was thinking recently about something Roger Ebert said many years ago. He and the now late Gene Siskel (both with whom I has the opportunity to speak) were reviewing the remake of a well known film (I can't remember it now) and Ebert made an extremely valid point. Why does Hollywood, he said, keep remaking the good films, films that were well-made and successes the first time around? Why not remake the bad ones? Aren't those afterall the ones that need improving? I couldn't agree more. I certainly understand the business sense behind making a hit from years ago and adding well-known actors of today for a new generation. But doesn't that kinda also defeat the point? I mean, if the audience is too young to even remember the original, what brand value does it really have? Might as well make a film from new material. Right? Case in point. In December, a highly touted remake of All the King's Men will be released. It's based on an Oscar-winning Best Picture, which in turn is adapted from a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. But why do it? It's been done! Some would argue the pedigree. But novels win Pulitzer Prizes every year. Plays win Tonys every year. There's new stuff to explore. Now, on the flipside I was in Blockbuster recently and on the shelf of new releases I saw a remake of The Toolbox Murders directed by Tobe Hooper. This, I thought to myself, is what Ebert was talking about!! The first version (which I saw) was horrible. So my expectations for the remake were low, but I must admit, for what it was, Hooper did a great job and a bad film in the horror genre was vastly improved. Ironically, all the slick additions to the recent remake of Hooper's own masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, did nothing to improve it. As Ebert said, why remake films that worked well the first time? Is Hollywood truly out of good ideas? I don't think so. But I do think it operates out of fear. Remake things people know. Keep it safe. If a western worked make more westerns. If a musical worked, make more musicals. If a TV was popular, even if it's so old few remember it, remake it. But even when the industry tries to do that it doesn't give it its all. Examine this year's remake of The Honeymooners. Why redo this beloved Jackie Gleason gem (a show very much of it's time and place) if you have no understanding of what made the original work? The film bombed; the only true bomb of the Summer of 2005. And I was pleased to see it bomb. If Hollywood MUST remake films, then remake the films that NEED remaking. Or better yet, make NEW ones. Hundreds of talented screenwriters never see their work produced because millions of dollars are being put into the Dukes of Hazzard and Bewitched. Come on!

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