Remakes: Friend or Foe?

I was looking online the other day for “Lost”, wondering when the new season would start (I never found out, exactly, though I seem to remember it’s January or February of 2009), when I came across the little tidbit that Land of the Lost is being made into a movie, coming out in 2009.  I know this labels me as lame forever, and my brother was embarrassed at the time to be related to me, but I LOVED “Land of the Lost” when I was 8 years old.  Oh Holly, how difficult to have to grow up without your mom, in a land of dinosaurs and Sleestack…the danger always present, the fight to survive strong in this small family.

I don’t know if this is a good idea or not.  We won’t know until the movie comes out.  I thought I might put together a Thursday Thirteen, though, about other remakes, and whether I think they were a good idea or not.  I’m limiting my list to remakes where I’ve seen both versions, the original and the new.  So though I saw Cape Fear in 1991, I never saw the original, so I can’t include it.

  1. Charlie/Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
    I didn’t think I would like the remake.  Why try to improve on the genius of Gene Wilder in the original?  He was crazy funny. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp succeeded by NOT trying to improve on the original, and instead re-imagined it, following the book much more closely, and making a Willy Wonka that reminds you of no-one so much as Michael Jackson, though not nearly as scary.
  2. Planet of the Apes
    I thought I would like this one, because I like Tim Burton, and I liked the original so darned much.  It was campy fun meets sci-fi at its best, so what’s not to love?  Turns out, blah, boring, dumb.
  3. Father of the Bride
    I liked the original a lot better than the remake.  I liked all of the actors in the remake, but for some reason, the poignancy of Spencer Tracy’s fear of losing his daughter came through better than Steve Martin’s.  I don’t blame Steve Martin.  I blame the script and direction.
  4. The Wizard of Oz/The Wiz
    Please don’t hate me.  I really liked the Wiz.  Better than the Wizard of Oz.  Ouch! That brick you just threw at my head really hurt!
  5. King Kong
    I didn’t see the most recent in this franchise, but I saw both the 1933 and 1976 versions.  I don’t really like these movies.  There’s a racial and mean undertone to them that gives me a bit of the willies.  But it was fun watching the 1976 version while my mom was in the other room, also watching Fantasy Island.  Flipping back and forth, and Richard and I confusing my mom about what stupid show we were watching.  No, it’s really not that funny.  But it was fun at the time.
  6. Lolita
    This film gives me the creeps a lot more than the book does.  Though the book is worse.  The beauty of the writing kind of lulls you into a stupor where you start to perhaps maybe sympathize with Humbert Humbert, even while your skin crawls and your heart genuinely goes out to poor Lolita.  The films never quite manage that.  I don’t know that they ever can.
  7. Wings of Desire/City of Angels
    I liked Wings of Desire.  It had heart, it was beautiful, it meant something. I hated City of Angels.  It was almost a caricature of Wings of Desire.  When Meg Ryan is riding her bike on the side of a mountain with no hands and her eyes shut, I’m just thinking, “Die, you idiot, who rides a bike that way?  No one with a frikkin’ BRAIN!”
  8. Shop Around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail
    I thought Shop Around the Corner was cute, and I thought You’ve Got Mail sucked.  I know, people loved it.  But Meg Ryan bugged the crap out of me, and I didn’t think that Tom Hanks had any charm either.  I loved them in Sleepless in Seattle.  Maybe they work better together when they don’t have many scenes together?  I don’t know.
  9. Against All Odds/Out of the Past
    Out of the Past was one of the original film noirs, and it took place in my very favorite city, San Francisco.  I want to love it.  I feel like it will make me seem smart if I love it.  But it’s kind of boring.  But Against All Odds was at least interesting, and Rachael Ward was smokin’ hot, and I love me some James Woods in all his creepy ickyness.  Loved it.  I know, Out of the Past is better.  I don’t care.
  10. Star Trek (from TV to movie to TV again)
    This isn’t so much a remake as a sequel, so I shouldn’t count it.  But it’s so famous, I’ll include it.  Loved the original series, the movies were good (the even ones, the odd ones sucked), and the series were varied.  Loved Next Generation, and they kind of got slowly worse from there, to the point where we got to Enterprise, which was just so-so and fairly boring.
  11. Bedazzled
    We saw the remake of this, and it was actually pretty funny and cute.  But there’s no way in hell anyone can top Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.  No way.
  12. Henry V
    I loved loved lurved both versions of this, both Olivier and Branagh.  Maybe it’s the genius of Shakespeare.  I suspect, though, they’re both gifted actors and directors.  I loved them both.  Glad it was remade so I could see another, excellent version of this wonderful play.
  13. A Little Princess
    I liked the ’95 version so much better than the Shirley Temple version (though I love Shirley Temple, do not get me wrong).  But neither one comes close to the compassion and depth of the book. The stupid dad in the hospital thing, which is in both movies, just ruins it for me.  The whole heart to the book was that Sara’s father was actually dead, and that she was able to befriend and forgive the man who was (inadvertently) involved in his death. Also lost in the films is Sara’s strength of character in staying kind and giving no matter what the odds (starvation, neglect, cruelty, abuse), because of her desire to live her life like a princess.  Hence the name.

How about you?  What remakes do you love or hate?

17 thoughts on “Remakes: Friend or Foe?

  1. Love the Willie Wonka/Charlie remake, but I was so appalled by Planet of the Apes. Why mess with perfection. Although, truth be told, the remake was more faithful to the book in many ways, but that didn’t necessarily make it better.

  2. First Guadalajara and now YOU’VE GOT MAIL?? See? I adore you so much, I can over look it. haha The most recent disaster for me was the Halloween Remake or rather Reimagining. I should have known Rob Zombie would EFF it up. I just love the original flick. I’m making J watch it this weekend with a bunch of other scary stuff. Mostly I think remakes stink. Pink Panther? Superman? Blech


  3. I hated planet of the apes, but didn’t really like the original. King Kong was pretty good, even though I have a slight loathing of Jack Black.

  4. This is such a creative list! I personally did not like the remake of Miracle on 34th Street. I almost never get to see the old original that I fell in love with as a kid!

  5. I thought City of Angels had such a neat couple of scenes,(like when they all stand and face the sun), but then it degenerated into such a piece of unmitigated crap that by the time Nic Cage bit into his Maggie Memorial Pear at the end, I was laughing SO HARD I had to leave the theater. I MEAN IT. It was so mawkish and horrid. Loved the main song from it, though. And the lead singer…cute.

  6. You missed one–there was “Shop Around the Corner,” then “In the Good Ol’ Summertime” (Van Johnson and Judy Garland) and THEN “You’ve Got Mail.” And Meg Ryan bugged me in that one, too, but I still love Tom Hanks.

    Both movie versions of “A Little Princess” bug me, too, because it’s not the right ending! Not only do they have her father being miraculously alive, but she has hysterics. One of the things that made me love Sara so much in the book when I was little was her calm self-control. Her little speech to herself about how holding her temper makes her stronger than people who lose theirs was one I practically memorized and chanted to myself when I was feeling close to losing my own temper. So, the fact that they had her completely give in to her hysterics (however justified by the AWFUL plot point of her being dragged away by the police), just irritates me to no end. No matter hwo beautiful the 1995 film was to LOOK at (and it was). (And, don’t even get me started on the reasons they switched it to 20th century New York…)

  7. Deb, I’m so glad you had the same reaction to “A Little Princess”! I thought it was just me.

    I never saw “In the Good Ol’ Summertime”, and didn’t know it was a remake of “Shop Around the Corner”. As Maya likes to say, the things I don’t know could fill a library. She means me when she says that, not herself, and she means a mighty big library. Like the Library of Congress or something. 😉

  8. To borrow a phrase from Siskel and Ebert, you get two thumbs up (way up) for this T13! I loved your insightful and humorous analysis of these films. Although I haven’t seen either of the King Kong movies all the way through, I’ve heard about the distasteful racial undertones. Also, I have to give you props for publicly admitting to liking “The Wiz” better than “The Wizard of Oz”.

    Personally, I think some people get too worked up in a negative way about movie remakes. Not all of them are bad. The challenge I would issue to producers/directors is to do a remake of a film that was mediocre or downright awful and try to improve on it. To me, the best remake is “The Maltese Falcon” starring Humphrey Bogart. Although the 1931 original and the 2nd version (1936’s “Satan Met A Lady”) aren’t bad, they can’t touch the 1941 Bogart version.

  9. Malcom, I’ve never seen “The Maltese Falcon”, can you believe it? Seems like perhaps it’s about time, doesn’t it.

    I thought I was going to get skinned alive for saying I liked “The Wiz” better than “The Wizard of Oz” (much like when I said that Battlestar Galactica was far superior to Grey’s Anatomy), but I guess my readers are a kind and gentle sort. I had a little crush on Michael at the time, so of course, that’s a factor too.

  10. Oh my goodness! I loved Land of the Lost too! I actually rented it a few months ago thinking my son who loves sci fi would enjoy the series. Well I have to say as an adult the show didn’t quite live up to my memories. My son wasn’t too keen on it either. Oh well. Maybe the movie will be fun to see.


  11. I have to admit, I haven’t seen the majority of the films you mention (for example, neither the Wiz or the Wizard of Oz). I saw the 1976 remake of King Kong and thought it was crap. We actually went to see the remake of Planet of the Apes in the cinema, not on DVD (I can’t remember why) and loathed it.

    I love both Henry Vs, though they were products of different times. Branagh’s was more complete, and took advantage of 1980s technology. Olivier’s was made during the war and as well as an entertainment, it did duty as a patriotic flag waver. Have you seen Olivier’s Richard III? and Sir Ian McKellern’s remake? Again, two completely different treatments, and both excellent

  12. Let me think.
    I like all three versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, although the first one’s still the best.
    Hated the Apes remake, and wasn’t too keen on Depp’s take on Wonka – too freaky. He’s supposed to be a nice guy under all the weirdness, no?
    Oh god – I just found this list. I’m going to be here all day…

  13. Wings of Desire – one of my favourite films ever and the scene with Peter Falk before Bruno Ganz’s (?) character commits to an earthly life – unbelievable. Remains a touchstone for me whenever I’m a bit down (though I quit the smoking part ten years ago or more).

    Bedazzled – I enjoyed the remake a lot more than I thought I would. Lolita – I’ve never seen the remake but the original…well, James Mason!!! The book is one of those elegant literary running sores. But isn’t that always the way with awkward questions with only nasty answers? Dudelet loves the Tim Burton remake.

    When oh when will Peter Jackson do Moby Dick?

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