It’s the middle of the night and I’m cranky. Myrtle and I sat down to watch a video we rented. It was the wretched 2006 remake of the 1963 “Pink Panther” movie starring comedy genius, Steve Martin. It’s unlikely that an unfunnier film exists in the history of cinema. Although the rental was free (we got it from our local library), I still felt cheated– if only of the one-and-a-half-hours of my life spent watching it.
After the movie, I went to bed. Sleep was difficult in coming. I lay there pondering Hollywood’s propensity to remake classic motion pictures as third-rate “bombs.” We’ve seen so many of them: “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “Psycho,” and “The Nutty Professor,” to name just a few.
Eventually, I dropped off into a fitful slumber. And I awoke the next morning in a cold sweat, fresh from a nightmare wherein, like Scrooge visited by the ghosts of Christmas, I saw visions of our entertainment moguls “re-imagining” some of our dearest classic films- mutating them into monstrosities beyond all recognition. I vowed to reform by never again watching obviously bad remakes. And I want to write this down while it’s still fresh in my mind, if only to warn the world before it’s too late:
First, I saw Adam Sandler announce his update of 1967′s “Cool Hand Luke” which starred the irresistibly charming Paul Newman as a southern chain-gang member rebelling against authority. We remember it for Strother Martin’s sadistic warden, who utters the menacing line, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” Any possibility of wit or subtlety was abandoned by Sandler, the most witless and unsubtle man ever to grace the big screen, as he surrounded himself with a cast composed of his usual no-talent sycophants performing phony tough-guy strutting punctuated with toilet humor. The southern chain-gang storyline was updated to a modern-day Los Angeles prisoner roadside-litter clean-up program. This allowed the crude action to be accompanied by an ear-splitting hip-hop music soundtrack (available from Sony BMG Music) along with Hispanic-characature jokes. Keven James (of “King of Queens” fame) reached new lows as Luke’s buffoonish sidekick.
Next, the new version of Woody Allen’s sophisticated 1977 romantic comedy, “Annie Hall,“ was butchered by the replacement of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton by flavor-of-the-month celebrity couple (insert their names here). The new romantic duo exhibited no on-screen “chemistry,” no intellectual rapport, and no acting skills beyond the range of a “Scooby Doo” cartoon. And they could not breathe life into a script that had been dumbed-down to the level of an eleven-year-old adolescent. The icing on the cake is that the off-screen romance of (insert their names here) fizzled-out before the movie could even be released.
Then, Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 satirical masterpiece of the Cold War, “Dr. Strangelove” was ruined by magalomaniac Eddie Murphy. Murphy chose to top Peter Seller’s three role tour de force by playing eight characters in the updated movie- three of them women, and all eight in horrendous “fat-suit” makeup. Murphy’s delusions of grandeur caused him to jettison the passe nuclear holocaust theme in favor of a weak story about a global warming cover-up. Hard-edged sarcasm was deemed too challenging for today’s American audience, so toothless ribbing, gross-out humor, and swearing are substituted. Iconic actor James Earl Jones debased himself by taking over George C. Scott’s former role as General Turgidson. Although the world and all human life was destroyed at the end of the story, plans were quickly announced for a sequel starring Steve Martin.
There you have it. Frightening as it was I have no doubt that the Hollywood braintrust plans remakes that are even worse than these. So be prepared and please don’t save me an aisle seat.