Vince Vaughn in the Remake of ‘Psycho’/Image © Universal Pictures
Hollywood never gets déjà vu. If a film is successful financially — or develops a following — someone will pitch a remake. But just replacing the cast, changing the setting, updating the technology, and tweaking the language doesn’t put lightning in a bottle. Take this summer’s “Total Recall” or November’s “Red Dawn,” two remakes getting poor reviews for eschewing plot points (such as traveling to Mars) in favor of action and special effects.
Here’s our take on some other films that should’ve left well enough alone.
This 1998 remake of the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic stars Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche in the roles made famous by Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. Critics took director Gus Van Sant to task for copying the original’s look nearly shot-for-shot, just filming it in color. The palette somehow drains the suspense, with Vaughn in a blonde wig looking ridiculous, not menacing, as Norman Bates. Heche is a quirky choice but has none of Leigh’s voluptuousness.
Welcome to the 1994 mash-up/remake of 1939’s “Love Affair” with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne, as well as 1957’s “An Affair to Remember” with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. This time real-life loves Warren Beatty and Annette Bening star as the sweethearts who agree to meet at the top of the Empire State Building, except a car strikes her on the way. She’s disabled; he thinks she jilted him. It takes a loooooong time for them to reconcile, because nobody updated the part where he doesn’t ask and she doesn’t explain.
“The Truth About Charlie”
Jonathan Demme produced, directed, and co-wrote this 2002 remake of Stanley Donen’s 1963 film “Charade,” cycling this classic romantic thriller through the French New Wave. Thandie Newton is lovely, but the repartee and chemistry between her and Mark Wahlberg don’t hold a candle to Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.
This 2002 film takes Frank Capra’s “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936) with Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur and turns it into an Adam Sandler film. Sandler plays Longfellow Deeds, now a pizzeria owner who is heir to a fortune, but he’s really playing the same character from his other films: the simple nice guy who humbles and enlightens everyone else. Add slapstick, a romance with Winona Ryder, and cringe.
The 1954 original film has been called a cinematic achievement, a monster movie full of World War II subtext and fears of nuclear apocalypse. Naturally, the remake transplants Godzilla from Japan to New York City, where the giant lizard becomes pregnant and hatches little ‘zillas in Madison Square Garden. There are scenes of giant feet and a thwacking tail — in the dark, making for lousy visibility — but not much Godzilla and not much beyond a lot of destruction.
The 1975 film stars James Caan as an athlete in a dystopian future fighting for his free will through a violent, corporately controlled sport. The 2002 remake takes place in 2005, focuses more on the bloody antics of the arena than social critique, and casts Chris Klein as the hero. Critics called Klein bland, the action incoherent, and the whole picture a mind-numbing mess.
Director George Sluizer took his eerie and atmospheric 1988 Netherlands film “Spoorloos” to America in 1993, starring Kiefer Sutherland as the boyfriend obsessed with what killer Jeff Bridges did to his girlfriend. It also picked up an improbable happy ending.
“The Taking of Pelham 123″
Director Tony Scott teamed up with Denzel Washington yet again in this 2009 visually slick remake of the 1974 heist film set in the New York City subway system. John Travolta makes for a hammy villain compared to Robert Shaw, and Denzel Washington, as the frumpy transit cop in pursuit, is still Denzel. The original’s Walter Matthau has more realistic grit and humor.
Judy Holliday won an Oscar for the 1950 original as a ditzy showgirl who falls for the journalist (William Holden) her businessman boyfriend hires to educate her. The 1993 remake stars then-spouses Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, but as critics noted, there’s no screwball-comedy energy here, just characters who feel transplanted from another era.
“The Stepford Wives”
This 2004 film tries to turn the 1975 feminist sci-fi/horror film into more of a comedy, with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick as the central couple. The update ditches the original’s unsettling ending, along with several robots.
“Planet of the Apes”
Mark Wahlberg stars in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of the 1968 sci-fi favorite about a group of astronauts who crash on a planet dominated by intelligent, talking apes. Helena Bonham Carter wins points as sympathetic ape Ari, as do some of the visuals, but who can forget Roddy McDowell’s Cornelius — or Charlton Heston and the ending’s haunting reveal? “Damn you! Damn you all to hell!”
Well … what did we miss? What remakes do you wish just never were?