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— Depending on whom you listen to, there are as many as 90 remakes, sequels, prequels and reboots in various stages of production. These range from yet another installment of the Alien franchise - it looks like a prequel, with Ridley Scott attached in some capacity - to Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture version of the Beatles’ cartoon Yellow Submarine (probably out in 2012).

There’s no real mystery why Hollywood loves to recycle old ideas - it’s a lot riskier (and expensive) to develop new ones. Hollywood is a factory town, not a laboratory, and the latest business model involves sinking lots of (hopefully other people’s) money into effects-driven 3-D movies that will become must-see touchstones for a lucrative demographic. Lots of artists work in Hollywood, but they generally work for people witha vested interest in saying “no” to projects that demand more from an audience than they sit there and be stunned or grossed-out.

But if it’s easy to understand why Hollywood remakes successful films, like Henry Hathaway’s True Grit (which Joel and Ethan Coen are busy with) or the exquisite Norwegian vampire film of 2008, Let the Right One In (the Hollywood remake, which will star Richard Jenkins, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz, reportedly will be called Let Me In and is tentatively scheduled for an October release).

Relatively few members of the potential audience for the Coen brothers’ True Grit are likely to have seen its 1969 precursor, and however much we might lament it, a great many Americans who go to horror movies simply won’t put up with subtitles. So it makes a certain amount of sense to remake these movies - they are to some degree, proven quantities. At least, their stories are sound, one variable is eliminated.

So, while we might deplore it, we understand why there are remakes of Barbarella, Arthur,Hitchcock’s The Birds, Death Wish, Westworld and Red Dawn coming our way. It’s harder to understand why Hollywood remakes movies that flopped at the box office and/or were considered artistic disasters. (My colleague Joe Riddle thinks they should only remake bad movies, which is an interesting idea we might explore at some other time. There are certainly plenty of scripts and ideas that deserve a second chance. But we’re not talking about what Hollywood ought to do - we’re talking about what it does.)

Why is David Gordon Green working away on a remake of the old (and largely forgotten) Kenny Rogers’ 1982 NASCAR movie Six Pack? (Wait a minute, that actually could be good, given Green’s sensibilities and the right casting - say DannyMcBride in the Rogers role of the driver who adopts six kids to be his pit crew.) Of course, the movie may never happen, given that, according to the Internet Movie Database, Green has eight projects in development and his long-rumored remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 Italian horror classic Suspiria seems to have finally gotten off the ground.

Maybe more discouraging is the news that Overboard, a 1987 comedy about a difficult rich woman (Goldie Hawn) who suffers amnesia after falling off her yacht, is being remade for release in 2011. If that’s not dispiriting enough, consider that Jennifer Lopez, a sometimes useful dramatic actress whose work in comedies has been at best uneven, is assaying the Hawn part. (A somewhat better Hawn movie, 1980’s Private Benjamin, is also being remade for release in 2011. Anna Faris will star.)

Similarly, Todd MacFarlane is apparently looking to remake 1997’s Spawn - a genuinely wretched film based on hiscomic book - as a low budget independent feature. Whether it will ever make it to the screen is another question (that any movie makes it to the screen is a small miracle that deserves tobe respected).

Also in the works are remakes of the original Police Academy (1984) and Bob Clark’s Porky’s (1982), both of which were sizable hits in their day despite the general opprobrium of critics. Still both those movies are more than a quarter-century old - it’s harder to understand why Universal is considering a “reboot” of the raunchy American Pie franchise, which kicked off in 1999 (and over the past few years has been reduced to a trickle of straight-to-DVD releases).

Of course, while even those who appreciated the R-rated humor of Porky’s the first time around might be wary of a 21stcentury do-over, those movies were relatively low-budget affairs that made lots of money. But why Disney is remakingThe Black Hole, a movie that, in 1979, was billed as the most expensive film of all time and ended up as one of the studio’s biggest disappointments. Or why the 1994 Alec Baldwin flop The Shadow is being retooled for a new century. So is Dune, David Lynch’s 1984 science fiction head-scratcher, that only gained a cult following years after its release (and after Lynch himself disavowed the film).

Maybe the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that Hollywood was a creative center.


MovieStyle, Pages 37 on 04/16/2010

Print Headline: ON FILM Tried-and-true trump new in U.S. film industry model


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