The new Russell Brand-fronted Arthur is, in my humble opinion, a mediocre update of a wonderfully funny time capsule of ’80s hedonism starring Dudley Moore. I can’t say I was all that into it. (Nor was EW critic Owen Gleiberman.) There are plenty of things wrong with the movie (like the ghastly lack of chemistry between Brand and his love interest Greta Gerwig) and I don’t think I’ll be encouraging any friends to rush out and spend their hard-earned money on it. But does it rank among the worst remakes of all time? This was the question I asked myself as I watched a graffiti-covered billboard for it whiz by me on my subway ride home Friday night. (Some expressive New Yorker with a Sharpie thinks Mr. Katy Perry is a “TOOL.”)
My answer? No, Arthur does not rank among the worst. Not when there are true cinematic atrocities like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, Frank Oz’s The Stepford Wives, and Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away — all of which make Arthur look like a the comedic equivalent of a perfectly landed triple-axel-salchow-quadruple-lutz-quintuplet-backflip-while-simultaneously-performing-the-Moonwalk. There’s also Planet of the Apes (I love you, Tim Burton, but no), The Truth About Charlie (Marky Mark, you are no Cary Grant), and what could be the single worst remake of the last decade, Diane English’s pseudo-female empowerment gagathon, The Women (starring Meg Ryan). And let’s not forget the many fine foreign movies that Hollywood excels at bastardizing. (Do not) see: City of Angels and, as my colleague Karen Valby reminded me, The Last Kiss.
We all know why remakes irk. They take a beloved original piece of filmmaking and attempt to recreate its brilliance while simultaneously updating or rebooting or screwing it up in every imaginable way for today’s audiences. Harumph. (In an effort to counterbalance the griping nature of this post, I shall now take a moment to praise the rare remake that was actually excellent: The Departed. My favorite movie of 2006.)
Back to complaining.
Other appalling redos that have offended the cinephilic sensibilities of EW staffers? Behold:
From the desk of Keith Staskiewicz:
Breathless: Yeah, because what made Jean-Luc Godard’s movie so revolutionary was the plot. Just stick Richard Gere in there, how could you go wrong?
Bad News Bears: How is it possible that 30 years later, this version is far tamer and lamer than the original? In the words of Tanner Boyle, “Hey Linklater, you can take your remake and your PG-13 rating and shove ’em straight up your a–!” (Also, whereas Walter Matthau was gruff but lovable, Billy Bob Thornton was intolerable.)
The Day the Earth Stood Still: Klaatu barada whoa.
From the desk of Darren Franich:
You’ve Got Mail: Oh god, I already didn’t really like You’ve Got Mail, but I recently saw The Shop Around the Corner and then I realized that I utterly DESPISE You’ve Got Mail. The original movie is so funny, so smart, so romantic, and just so fast. It’s also, weirdly, very dark — there are subplots about marital indiscretion and an attempted suicide. Conversely, You’ve Got Mail is one of those modern rom-coms that floats along on a cuteness bubble for two hours. Even when Meg Ryan loses her bookstore, it’s not really that sad, because the rich d-bag played by Tom Hanks is waiting to sweep her off her feet. Here’s the real test, I think: The Shop Around the Corner hasn’t aged a day, and You’ve Got Mail already feels incredibly ancient.
How’s that for some strong opinions? I’m sure you’ve got a few of your own, so let loose in the comments below and tell me: What are your choices for the worst remakes of all time?