NEW YORK – Those Madonna fans running screaming for the exits this weekend after subjecting themselves to the abominable Swept Away are just the latest victims of Hollywood's obsession with remakes.
While Guy Ritchie's retread of Lina Wertmüller's 1975 Italian film is merely pointless (it made a grand total of $375,000 on its opening weekend), the worst clone-rangers are those who make the arrogant mistake of thinking they can improve upon perfection.
This Friday sees the release of The Ring, a remake of the immensely popular Japanese horror film Ringu.
Following that, in quick succession: Solaris, a remake of a 1972 Russian film; The Quiet American, based on Graham Greene's novel, which was previously filmed in 1958; and yet another adaptation of Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby.
What's next? Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with politically correct Oompa Loompas?
Herewith, why Hollywood should leave well enough alone.
-- No one does Audrey like Audrey: Many have tried; all have failed (sorry, Jennifer Love Hewitt). English actress Julia Ormond labored under the delusion that she could pull off an Audrey Hepburn in Sydney Pollack's 1995 remake of Billy Wilder's classic Sabrina. We await with trepidation The Truth About Charlie -- a remake of Charade with Thandie Newton daring to follow in Audrey's dainty footsteps.
-- We can read subtitles: Wim Wenders' breathtaking metaphysical masterpiece Wings of Desire was reimagined by Brad Silberling 11 years later as a formulaic, dumbed-down, New Agey piece of hackery starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage. A travesty.
-- Don't mess with a master: Steven Brill committed sacrilege by remaking Frank Capra's classic Mr. Deeds Goes to Town as Mr. Deeds with doofus Adam Sandler in the title role. Just because the kids had never heard of Jimmy Stewart doesn't make it right.
-- Don't confuse rip-off with homage: In 1998, Gus Van Sant released his version of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, calling it "a new vision of the classic nightmare." Everyone else called it blatant plagiarism, as Van Sant re-created the original shot-by-shot. The bland Xerox of the iconic shower scene prompted the public to collectively scream: "Why?"
-- A dupe of a dupe of a dupe is still a dupe: The epic 1902 novel The Four Feathers had been committed to film at least six times already, but that didn't stop Shekhar Kapur from having another fruitless stab at it this year with Heath Ledger and Kate Hudson. Just how boring was it? How many grains of sand in the desert?
-- High-tech equals low returns: Way back in 1975, when Norman Jewison filmed the futuristic Rollerball, he set the action in 2018. Believing the future had arrived, John McTiernan remade it this year, employing modern camera techniques to amp up the central rollerball sequences. The original was average; the remake much, much worse.
-- Not everything needs a shiny-happy Hollywood ending: French director George Sluizer crafted a spine-tingling psychological thriller called Spoorloos -- but it was in Dutch! And the ending was a bummer. So, five years later, Sluizer himself directed an English-language remake, The Vanishing, starring Kiefer Sutherland and Jeff Bridges, with a more uplifting dénouement. All together now: Yawn.
-- Don't be seduced by the "ka-ching" factor: Michael Mann already filmed the book in which Thomas Harris introduced uber-villain Hannibal Lecter. Manhunter (1986), was well-crafted and creepy -- but it lacked the star power of Anthony Hopkins. Hence this fall's Red Dragon, whose only improvement was on the original's box-office take.