Bad remakes are a dime a dozen. Less frequent, but more interesting to contemplate, are remakes that missed the point. Anybody can do a bad remake, but making one that utterly misunderstands or ignores the elements that made the original popular is far harder. It requires a very special kind of cluelessness.
Of course, no one ever sets out to make a clunker. And, to be fair, some of the movies on this list are good on their own terms. They simply don't seem to understand what the original films were intended to be about. They mimic the plot, yet fail to recreate the soul. From the redone RoboCop to Downhill to, yes, The Lion King, this list will put these most unusual films under a microscope to look at where they got off track.
Which of these remakes most totally missed the point? Your votes will determine the answer.
- Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Dudley Moore had what was arguably his definitive screen role in 1981's Arthur. He plays a lovable yet irresponsible millionaire who perpetually has a drink in his hand. He's faced with losing his family fortune unless he marries a socialite he doesn't love. Arthur is willing to do it, but then he falls in love with a waitress (Liza Minnelli). Suddenly he has to decide whether to follow his heart or keep his bank account happy. John Gielgud won an Oscar playing his tell-it-like-it-is butler.
Casting Russell Brand in the Arthur remake - and getting Helen Mirren to play the butler - was a masterstroke on the surface. No one else was better suited. It was on the screenplay and direction levels that the updated Arthur failed. Rather than being the observant, sharp-edged comedy the original was, the 2011 picture goes goofy and broad. As a result, it's a forgone conclusion which woman the character will choose, whereas in Moore's version you weren't really sure until he made his final decision.
In other words, the "love or money" conundrum at the center of the story is downplayed. It's unclear why anybody wanted to remake Arthur without realistically dealing with the idea at its core.617Missed the point?
- Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
There have been two excellent versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The 1956 Don Siegel-directed original set the template, telling a story about extraterrestrial plant spores that fall to Earth. They are capable of generating "pod people" - exact duplicates of human beings, minus emotions. The film was widely read as a metaphor for '50s-era fears, such as the dangers of McCarthyism and the threatened encroachment of communism.
In 1978, Philip Kaufman did a remake that many consider even better than the original. His Invasion of the Body Snatchers explored the concept of dehumanization by shifting the setting to San Francisco. This allowed him to examine the impact of an army of regressive pod people in a city known for progressive values. Like its predecessor, it was political, albeit in a different way.
That brings us to The Invasion, the 2007 version directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. Rather than sticking with either of the perfectly viable ideas generated by the '56 and '78 iterations, this one focuses on star Nicole Kidman racing around Baltimore trying to save her son from pod people before he gets turned into one of them. Unlike its predecessors, The Invasion chooses to abandon sociopolitical intent in order to focus on just trying to be scary.515Missed the point?
- Photo: Vertical Entertainment
Hollywood studios didn't exactly shy away from dramatizing the Vietnam War - even when it was still going on - but many of the movies produced were reluctant to delve into the true existential toll the conflict had on the nation as a whole and the soldiers themselves. In 1986, Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning Platoon laid the groundwork for a new generation of thought-provoking examinations of the war.
When Adrian Lyne's spooky Jacob's Ladder came out four years later, its depiction of the psychological aftermath of that war was bold and provocative. Audiences had not yet been confronted by what the picture had to say about post-traumatic stress disorder and the spiritual crises faced by those returning home from Vietnam. That made it as chilling as it was provocative.
The war in Afghanistan was awful in its own right, but - thanks to 24-hour cable news and the internet - people were able to learn about it and digest the harsh realities almost in real time. The remake of Jacob's Ladder mistakenly thought it could just substitute a more recent conflict to address the same subjects. Both versions deal with a veteran experiencing dissociation as a result of trauma, but the 1990 iteration of the tale had a built-in punch that the one released 19 years later was never going to be able to achieve.422Missed the point?
- Photo: United Artists
The Hustle is a remake of 1988's Michael Caine/Steve Martin comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which was itself a remake of the 1964 Marlon Brando/David Niven film Bedtime Story. This version has a gender twist, casting actresses Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in the roles of, respectively, a suave con artist and a less polished but more streetwise one. They're working together - and then competing - to bilk a rich mark out of a lot of money.
The whole point of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was to show how the scam worked and how each con artist approached the prospect of "reading" a mark. The Hustle, on the other hand, rushes through its central sting so that it's never quite clear what their plan is. Not knowing that just leaves Hathaway and Wilson floundering through a bunch of dumb, unfunny slapstick scenes. The entire idea of delving into "the art of the con" is ignored.4510Missed the point?