In this weekend's battle of the '80s remakes, "About Last Night" was the clear winner over "RoboCop" and "Endless Love." The updated version of the 1986 romantic dramedy opened in second place (behind returning champ "The Lego Movie") with a healthy $27.0 million, according to estimates. That was around the high end of what was predicted, but really, no one should be surprised. After all, "About Last Night" offered a textbook primer of how to remake a movie from the '80s and make it a hit. For example:
Pick a movie people liked the first time. Seems obvious, but does anyone really hold great nostalgic fondness for "Endless Love"? Critics and audiences alike snubbed this one back in 1981, when it starred the much-hyped Brooke Shields. Who was going to want to see it again, but with no buzz-worthy stars this time?
Pick a movie that fans of the original won't nitpick to death. "RoboCop" was a movie that everyone liked the first time, and that's the problem. When you're remaking a sci-fi, horror, or other film beloved by genre geeks, they're going to keep a sharp eye out for deviations from the original they loved. But slavishness to the original can also be death to creativity. Better to go with a romance, where fans of the original will probably be predominantly women and less geeky about fidelity to the original.
Get Will Packer to produce it. Packer may not be a household name, but his formula of low-budget movies with predominantly black casts has been generating box office hits for seven years, from "Stomp the Yard" to "Think Like a Man" to last month's "Ride Along." Not only is he adept at packaging talented casts on a budget -- "About Last Night," which reunites much of the cast of "Think Like a Man," cost a reported $12.5 million, a pittance by Hollywood standards -- but he's also very social-media savvy, picking actors who themselves are social-media savvy, who can generate early fan interest by interacting with their own Internet followings.
Get Kevin Hart to co-star in it. The stand-up comic is appearing in his third movie in three months, but audiences clearly can't get enough of the star, whose "Ride Along" is still riding high on the chart after a month in release.
Update freely. Swapping the lily-white cast of the 1986 movie for four African-American rising stars is a start, but so is recognizing that romance and courtship in the Internet era are different beasts from what they were 28 years ago. The new film acknowledges this. It also updates standard romantic comedy formula by boosting the stock cynical-best-friends-who-give-bad-advice roles (played by Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins then, and by Hart and Regina Hall now) from sidekick status to co-equals, giving the film more balance.
Make it for grown-ups. Let's face it, they're the only moviegoers old enough for the remake to have some emotional resonance and nostalgia value. Young people don't care. Keeping older viewers in mind doesn't just mean casting older (although Hall, Michael Ealy, and Joy Bryant of the new "About" are all close to 40, while the original's Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, and Perkins were all in their 20s). It also means adult content. Like the 1986 "About," the new film is rated R for sexual frankness. (That puts it one up on "RoboCop," where the extreme violence of the R-rated original has been toned down to PG-13, much to the dismay of fans of the 1987 original.) According to exit polling, some 57 percent of the moviegoers who saw "About" this weekend were over 30, which is something studios should embrace, not shy away from. After all, are the over-30s going to want to see the obsessive teens in "Endless Love," or will they flock to a movie that actually treats them like grown-ups?
categories Box Office