That was the case on Monday, as three new revamps of familiar titles were announced, updates of 'American Pie,' 'They Live,' and 'The Harder They Come.' People say Hollywood has no new ideas, but they seem to be creative in deciding which old and seemingly dormant properties to resurrect.
How might these remakes work? And do audiences really want to see them? Read on.
Of the three deals announced Monday, the biggest no-brainer is probably 'American Reunion,' which Deadline reports will fall into place now that 'How I Met Your Mother' star Alyson Hannigan has agreed to return, along with the other principals from 1999's 'American Pie.' At least this franchise has kept going, with two theatrical sequels so far and several straight-to-video sequels. Most of those have involved new characters, but 'Reunion' would bring back Hannigan's Michelle and Jason Biggs' Jim (now married parents) for the first time since 2003's 'American Wedding.'
'They Live,' John Carpenter's cult sci-fi film from 1988, doesn't sound popular enough to be an obvious candidate for revision, but then, just about anything with a recognizable title is fair game nowadays. Besides, this update is being billed as an adaptation of '8 O'Clock in the Morning,' the Ray Nelson short story that was the basis for Carpenter's alien-invasion movie. According to Deadline, Universal (also the studio behind 'American Reunion') has signed as writer and director Matt Reeves, who was behind last year's 'Let Me In,' the re-do of Swedish vampire movie 'Let the Right One In.' That was a remake that was both praised for its fidelity to the original and derided for being superfluous, since the original was only a couple years old and hard to improve upon.
As for 'The Harder They Come,' the original 1972 movie seemed to catch lightning in a bottle, with a charismatic lead performance by Jimmy Cliff as an aspiring singer who turns to a life of crime and a now-classic soundtrack from the exploding new reggae stars of that era, including Cliff, the Maytals, the Melodians, and Desmond Dekker. It's hard to imagine such serendipity a second time, though producer Justine Henzell might be the person to make it happen. According to Variety, the daughter of original 'Harder' writer/director Perry Henzell is the driving force behind the remake.
Still, are young audiences today even aware of these titles? And are these movies' fan bases large enough to make the updates hits? The current 'Arthur' seems to offer a cautionary answer to both questions. Young moviegoers didn't remember the 30-year-old comedy, and viewers who did remember it didn't think Russell Brand and Greta Gerwig measured up to Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli in the original. If anything, 'Arthur' proved that remakes are not an automatic license to print money.
Still, Hollywood considers them less risky than original titles with no pre-existing brand awareness, which is why we'll see a record 27 remakes and sequels in 2011. Some are cult titles, like 'Fright Night,' a remake of the 1985 vampire horror comedy that has the potential to alienate fans of the beloved original without attracting newbies who don't remember the 26-year-old title. Most of this summer's remakes, however, are updates of well-known movie franchises long assumed dormant, like 'Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World' (starring Jessica Alba and two new kids), which comes seven years after the previous installment, and 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes,' a prequel that's the first new 'Apes' movie since Tim Burton's disappointing attempt to reboot the franchise a decade ago.
It's been a full 27 years since the last 'Conan' movie, from a series seemingly tailor-made for Arnold Schwarzenegger, but this summer will see a new 'Conan the Barbarian' starring the little-known Jason Momoa.
In fact, three of these remakes ('Conan,' 'Spy Kids 4' and 'Fright Night') are due in theaters on the same day (August 19), leading to a new complication Hollywood may not have thought of: that the marketplace is now so overrun with remakes that they will inevitably cancel each other out at the box office. Which leaves moviegoers with a choice: Which of these remakes do you least want to see?
•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.