Tuesday 21 January 2020

Back to the future: Where are all Hollywood's original ideas?

As film industry executives consistently green-light remakes of 80s classics, our reporter looks at why the decade's culture is so easy to mine

Nobody remakes a classic: Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey are set to be replaced by Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes
Nobody remakes a classic: Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey are set to be replaced by Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes
Abigail Breslin
Colt Prattes

Tanya Sweeney

The gender-swapping reboot of 'Ghostbusters' may have failed to set the box office alight, yet if white-hot hype and column inches maketh the movie, the remake of the adored 1980s classic may well go down as a stone-cold classic.

Between Twitter trolling, YouTube commenters and an adorable picture of young 'Ghostbusters' girl-fans that went viral, the Paul Feig movie, starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, has been the most talked about movie event of the summer.

And now, the remake of Disney classic 'Pete's Dragon' - albeit with a few 21st-century twists - is likely to charm young audiences.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the floodgates have opened to reveal an entire slew of 80s remakes on the Hollywood slate.

There are several likely reasons for this: with executives' heads rolling at the mere sniff of a flop, the industry has become more risk averse than ever. The days of putting one's career on the line to back a 'maverick' new director or 'experimental' script are long gone. It's meant that the film industry now comprises of two camps: the micro-budget little wonders that could, and the tentpole blockbusters.

Cinematically, we've had every superhero in the book. We've done vampires, fairies, crime thrillers, and sometimes, vampires in crime thrillers. So what happens when Hollywood is fresh out of ideas? Why, they go back to the perceived golden age of cinema, of course.

Now that we're done pummelling the endless sequels and comic book adaptations, it's time to look at those projects that were sure-fire bets the first time around, and became much loved through the annals of time.

Still, the bigwigs know that savvy audiences aren't likely to lap up any old clumsy reboot. These days, you're more likely to find that your favourite 80s movie is due to get a modern-day makeover. Between mixing the genders of the lead characters to throwing away the script altogether, we've unearthed the remakes that are being mooted in Tinseltown offices at this very second.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

The original: Directed by Frank Oz, Michael Caine and Steve Martin starred in the hit 1988 caper that finds a seasoned conman (Caine) and a brash rookie (Martin) competing against each other in the picturesque French Riviera.

The reboot: Rebel Wilson is being eyed up as the cocky newbie trying to make a name for herself. There's no shortage of older actresses that can shine as a high-end swindler. While no director has been attached, the script by Jac Schaeffer is already taking shape (and, according to insiders, isn't yet a dud).

We say: Put Halle Berry in the Michael Caine role and we'll see you down the front for opening weekend.

Viability rating: 4/5

Private Benjamin

The original: One of the biggest box offices smashes of the 80s, 'Private Benjamin' starred Goldie Hawn as a socialite widow who gets duped into joining the Army Corps by a recruiter who sells the experience to her as a fun holiday.

The reboot: A remake, starring Rebel Wilson (again) has been in development for many years. However, its journey has been somewhat laboured; Nancy Meyers, the original film's writer and producer, is set against a remake. "I like the one with Goldie Hawn," she has said. "I thought it was good."

We say: Rebel Wilson has the comedic chops to carry a film like this, but given its dubious beginnings, should the film really go before the cameras at all?

Viability rating: 2/5


The original: Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah play star-crossed (well, sea-crossed) lovers in this 1984 film: she is a mermaid that saved his life off the coast of Cape Cod when he was a child.

The reboot: Well here's a turn-up: Channing Tatum is poised to take on the role of the mermaid (or merman), while Jillian Bell will play Channing's love interest. Ron Howard is also mooted to be the man behind the camera, which is an encouraging development.

We say: This is a slice of cinematic revisionism that should be easy enough to get behind. Will it 'ruin' as many childhoods as the manbabies of Twitter said that 'Ghostbusters' did? Unlikely.

Viability rating: 5/5

Dirty Dancing

The original: Chock full of one-liners, 'Dirty Dancing' (1987) was a coming-of-age tale to last through the ages, where Jewish princess Baby (Jennifer Grey) gets a sexual awakening from the resident bad boy Johnny (Patrick Swayze) in a Catskills holiday centre.

The reboot: It would take a hardy type to mess around with this remake, yet Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes have taken on the roles of Baby and Johnny. Debra Messing will play Baby's mother. Jennifer Grey has turned down a role in the updated version saying that it "didn't feel appropriate". Oh.

We say: Can Patrick Swayze be replaced in the role of his career? Unlikely.

Viability rating: 2/5

The Naked Gun

The original: In 1998, Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin was exactly the kind of clumsy cop the world needed.

The reboot: Ed Helms ('The Hangover') dragged 'National Lampoon's Vacation' into the 21st century, and looks set to the do the same with this comedy cop caper. Thomas Lennon and R Ben Garant ('Night At The Museum') are working on the screenplay.

We say: No word yet on when the film will finally drag itself into production. No time soon, we hope.

Viability rating: 1/5

Road House

The original: Another much-loved turn from the late Patrick Swayze, 'Road House' is the steamy tale about a tough bouncer hired to tame a roadhouse dive.

The reboot: Yet more gender swapping: back in 2013, UFC fighter Rhonda Rousey was thought to have nabbed the lead role. Rob Cohen, of 'The Fast and the Furious' fame, was on board to direct, but the project has lost traction of late.

We say: Rhonda Rousey bringing order to a dirty bar? It's the role she was born to play.

Viability rating: 3/5


The original: Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a retired elite commando who wages a one-man war against a group of South African criminals who have kidnapped his daughter.

The reboot: Fine, this sort of film has been made many times over, and better, but writer David Ayer, working for Fox, has promised a film that is "less brawny, but more skilled in covert tactics and weaponry".

We say: Brawn is no bad thing.

Viability rating: 2/5


The original: Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell play an heiress and a wily carpenter who keep screwing each other over. After he is the first one to find her after she gets amnesia, he wastes no time in convincing her that she's his wife.

The reboot: Jennifer Lopez has reportedly signed onto this remake. Garry Marshall, who died last month, was signed up to direct, but the project now hangs in the balance.

We say: Would the amnesia storyline fly in a world where there is Facebook?

Viability rating: 3/5

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

The original: Who can forget two spectacularly daft slackers who are forced to prepare a historical presentation with a time machine?

The reboot: Keanu Reeves and Alex Winters are set to reprise the roles they excelled in back in 1989. Time machine or not, we sense a problem here…

We say: Bill and Ted amid a mid-life crisis. No thanks.

Viability rating: 1/5

Three Men & A Baby

The original: Three enthusiastic bachelors - Ted Danson, Steve Guttenberg and Tom Selleck - find their footloose lifestyle is cramped by the arrival of a baby belonging to one of them.

The reboot: Rumours abound that a project helmed by Adam Sandler has surfaced, with Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider poised to take the roles as three gay men struggling to take care of an unexpected infant visitor.

We say: It has box office flop written all over it. Turn around and walk away slowly, gents.

Viability rating: 1/5

Honey I Shrunk The Kids

The original: Rick Moranis shot to fame as the madcap scientist whose home experiments result in the shrinking of his own children.

The reboot: For now, not much more than a wistful internet rumour. Unofficial sources attached Mike Myers to the project.

We say: If a project were to benefit from developments in CGI, it's this one.

Viability rating: 3/5

Irish Independent

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