Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Weekly Top Tens Part II: The Ten Worst Remakes of the Decade

Like last week’s worst of list, you had to be remaking a good movie that I had seen to be able to qualify for this last. As terrible as a movie like The Hitcher was, it was actually an improvement over the even more terrible original. Also, I saw no point in adding The Invasion to this list, as I already ripped to it shreds last week in the novel adaptation entry. Anyway, here are the 10 worst remakes of the decade.

10. Planet of the Apes (Tim Burton)
If I’m going to praise Burton when he does a good remake (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), then I have to tear him down when he makes a bad one. Burton turned an intelligent, science fiction masterpiece into an inane action movie that drained the original of all its ideas and focused instead on mindless escapism. Not only that, the movie lacks Burton’s usual visual flair. The film feels like it could have been directed by any old hack, not one of the more original directors of his generation. A true disappointment in every sense of the word.

9. The Fog (Rupert Wainwright)
This film would rank even lower (higher?) on this list if I thought that the original film was the genre masterpiece that many seem to think it is. I don’t however. While John Carpenter’s 1980 original was a good film, compared with the films he made surrounding it (Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween before, The Thing and Escape from New York after), it just does not compare. However, it was creepy and effective, and featured some fine performances and some truly frightening performances. The remake however has none of those – not even from Selma Blair who I love in everything. The remake takes everything good about the original and jettisons it, while keeping all of the bad stuff, and heaping on a pile of crap on top of it. One of the worst films of the decade.

8. The Pink Panther (Shawn Levy)
Peter Sellers was a comic genius, and Inspector Clouseau was one of his greatest creations. However, even Sellers was only ever to make two truly good movies about this character (the original and A Shot in the Dark), before the series devolved into downright buffoonery. As good as Steve Martin is, he is no Peter Sellers. Not only that, he is surrounded by cast (with the exception of Emily Mortimer, who is as adorable as always) of people who either cannot act, or at least show no evidence of talent in this movie. The plots of these movies have always been silly – it’s part of their charm – but here it goes beyond silly into downright dumb. An unfunny mess.

7. Poseidon (Wolfgang Petersen)
The original Poseidon Adventure is cheesy good fun, with well drawn characters that we truly care about, so we don’t want to see die. The remake is full of cookie cutter characters, and replaces all the tension with special effects. I like Kurt Russell quite a bit, but he is wasted here. And even if Josh Lucas, Jacinda Barrett and Emmy Rossum may never win any Oscars, they both deserve better than this. And poor Richard Dreyfuss. Only Kevin Dillion seems to realize that he’s in a crappy movie, and at least decides to have fun with it. Petersen used to be a reliable director of action movies. But Poseidon is just plain bad.

6. All the King’s Men (Steven Zallian)
I’m not sure how this movie went so bad. A talented writer/director in Steven Zallian, one of the best ensemble casts (at least on paper) of the decade – Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Jackie Earle Haley and others, terrific source material, that once yielded a movie that won the Best Picture Oscar that is also relevant to the modern political landscape. But this remake is nothing but a thudding, plodding bore. Penn is completely miscast in the lead role, and the other actors flail around madly trying to make it all work, but they can’t. Just a piss poor excuse for a “prestige” movie.

5. Mr. Deeds (Steven Brill)
Adam Sandler taking over a role made famous by Gary Cooper was always a horrible idea, but even I was not prepared by just how badly they would screw up this movie. The movie is actually strangely faithful to the events of Frank Capra’s classic, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), and yet gets the tone all wrong. Instead of Longfellow Deeds being an inherently decent guy who simply gets in over his head, Sandler plays him with his typical blend of sweetness and psychopathology. Winona Ryder, in her only significant role this decade, is completely wasted. I can still not figure out why John Turturro and Steve Buscemi keep making these movies (unless they are really that hard up for cash). An insulting immature remake of a classic.

4. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Scott Derrickson)
Robert Wise’s original sci-fi masterpiece was a warning about nuclear annihilation wrapped in a classic B movie formula. It was, quite simply, one of the very best sci-fi films of the 1950s. So what happens when over 50 years later they decide to remake the film? They strip the entire film of its meaning, replace it with subpar special effects, and put the characters through the most inane road movie plot imaginable. Keanu Reeves should be good as a clueless alien – since Lord knows he’s no good at playing realistic characters – but he isn’t. Jennifer Connelly, one of my favorites, is also painfully bad. Just a terrible film.

3. The Wicker Man (Neil LaBute)
I’m just realizing now that this is the third time I’ve picked on this film in my weekly top ten – following my post about Neil LaBute is wasting his talent with films like this, and how it contains perhaps Nicholas Cage’s worst performance. But trust me, this movie deserves all the derision I have thrown its way. The original British film about a cop who is lured to a remote island by a strange hippie cult, is one of England’s best films, and really should be able to make an effortless transition to modern day. I even like the idea of changing the cult from hippies to some sort of proto-feminists led by Ellen Burstyn. But the execution of this film is ridiculous. By the time you get to Nicolas Cage in a freaking bear suit, you’ve lost all interest.

2. Rollerball (Jon McTiernan)
Okay, so Norman Jewison’s 1975 original is by no means a masterpiece, but it is a hell of a lot of fun from start to finish, with James Caan at his manly man best. McTiernan’s film loads the film up with crappy special effects and casts three actors – Chris Klein, Rebecca Romjin and LL Cool J – who have no charisma or chemisty together. Not only that, by McTiernan, usually one of the best at directing action sequences, seems to have forgotten how to do it this time around – or been replaced by Michael Bay. (I take that back, Michael Bay has never directed anything anywhere near this bad). Truly awful.

1. The Heartbreak Kid (Peter & Bobby Farrelly)
The Farrelly Brothers are great comic filmmakers and the Elaine May original, with Charles Grodin, Cybil Sheppard, Eddie Albert and Jeannie Berlin is one of the best comedies of the 1970s – and is still relevant today. It’s about a man who marries the “right” girl, and realizes even before they reach their Honeymoon destination that he has made a mistake. When he meets the gorgeous Shepherd, he tries to seduce her. He ends up getting just what he wanted – and being completely miserable. The Farrelly’s turn this terrific comedy into an non-stop grossout comedy. Worse still, I cannot think of a more misogynistic film in recent years – as it shits all over poor Malin Akerman, and turns Michelle Monahan into some sort feminine ideal of perfection. Ben Stiller is painfully bad as well. All in all one of the biggest disappointments, and worst films, of the decade.

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