When Bad Remakes Happen To Good Movies

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I know lots of people in Los Angeles who love to hate movies. Rare is the film they even vaguely appreciate – and when you ask them what they do like they mutter something about Scorsese or The French Connection, smirk  with exasperation, climb into their Prius, and coast down Critical Lane. You can count on them to be negative – like it’s some kind of Cool Badge. I wonder then, why on earth they keep going to the movies if they never like what they see. Me? I love to see movies and I absolutely hate to not like them. I want nothing more than to love a new flick. If I can find the tiniest fibre of goodness (or humor) in one, I will cling to it like a barnacle amid the rest of the movie’s crashing waves of badness.

Arthur is just such a film. It is of course based on the super-beloved original that starred Dudley Moore. It’s gorgeous, nothing was spared, it’s got an amazing pedigree – and, all the Premise Power in the world going for it. While I think that Russell Brand is a great choice (as is the supporting cast – most notably Helen Mirren) you might just come away from it wondering how a dish prepared so expensively and with such top notch ingredients – smart, award-winning ingredients – could be so singularly untasty. Now, if you find Russell Brand at all funny you’ll probably get more than a laugh or two here –  as I did. He’s a great egomaniac and there’s something feline and fascinating about him strutting around like Mick Jagger through mishap and controversy. Undoubtedly, the sheer lunacy of his big kid antics will amuse for a teensy bit. Jennifer Garner is grating but that’s okay because I think that may also be her birthright. Nick Nolte has been reduced to the Blustery Fool (and I imagine we will see lots of this part) and Greta Gerwig is really starting to come into her own as a fresh new face with real acting chops and an unpredictable way about her. Helen Mirren is superb but she’s given very little to do. And here’s the problem: the writing isn’t inspiring, the plot’s been done before and you can no longer make a movie about falling-down-drunk people without dire consequences (which tends to ruin the whole “comedy” part). Despite Brand’s rightness for the Rich Boy Comeuppance Role, the whole thing falls flat – and then it tries to be a morality tale and finally winds up sort of a benign mess. They’re nice people, they’re occasionally funny people – but in the end you just don’t care what happens to them. I wanted nothing more than to be transported – and wasn’t.

Still, Hollywood is crazy about remakes. It seems no-brainerish to seize on something that once worked and then bank on the familiarity/nostalgia draw to get audiences. Thus, Arthur seemed like a good idea. One of today’s top headlines is all about It actor Bradley Cooper – who’s currently in talks to star in The Crow remake.

Meanwhile, my cousin is off to New Orleans to go work on the movie version of TV’s 21 Jump Street which will star Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and I will see this because I loved the original show. Will it begin to compete with the Johnny Depp original? Not a chance, but it might be fun.  Plus, we also have sequels (and threequels) coming up for Transformers, Sherlock Holmes, Spider Man, Happy Feet, X Men, etc. Hmmm. Do we have any new ideas? Or are we sticking to what we know? And more importantly, if you were given a jillion dollars to make a movie, would you go with something brand new or would you remake something you loved as a child?

Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of these 2011 remakes you’re most excited about:

1) The Bodyguard

2) The Crow

3) Daredevil

4) Total Recall

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