Remarks on Remakes

Last night, after sitting in front of my computer for forty minutes trying to string a few coherent thoughts together for Top Sites Tuesday # 86, Two Thoughts on Tuesday, I gave up and turned on the TV.  The sports selection was bleak … a rout of the Redskins led by former dog-killer, Michael Vick and a Phoenix Suns game … so I resorted to the movie channels.   On AMC, Monsters, Inc. was just ending, with Next: The Karate Kid promised in the lower right hand corner.  The Karate Kid is one of those old movies that I’m almost sure to watch for the umpteenth time, so I made myself a peppermint tea and settled in, even though it was late.

So today, I’m thinking about movies and especially remakes.  Not too long ago, I saw Harold Zwart’s remake of The Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan.   Loving the original and skeptical of Jackie Chan in the Pat Morita role, I didn’t expect much but the remake was surprisingly enjoyable.   Jaden Smith was charming and, under Zwart’s direction, Jackie Chan doesn’t try to recreate Mr. Miyagi, the karate master of the original film but creates his own common-man karate master, Mr. Han.  In fact, while the film was true to the theme of the original … teenage boy, forced to move because of his mother’s job, tormented by bullies … the changes in the cast and locale made the remake more than a flawed copy.  Still, watching last night, I felt that it didn’t have the heart of the original.   In the original, Daniel’s tormentors were simply bullies, with the tension between rich and poor played out between Daniel and his girlfriend, Ali (Elizabeth Shue).  By moving the locale to China and making the teenage boy African-American, the bullies became racists, giving the movie an edge that took the theme to a higher plane sociologically.  Maybe by adding a cause (cultural equality) to the film made it more serious.  Or maybe I’m just a sixty-six year old white guy who can relate more easily to the white kid facing bullies than the black kid facing racial prejudice.  I have to admit, Elizabeth Shue sure looked like every white kid’s teenage dream to me.   But mostly I think Pat Morita’s iconic performance as Mr. Miyagi (not Miyaji) makes the original the comparative winner.

Lying in bed this morning, composing this post in my head, I began thinking about other remakes.  Are any of them better than the originals?  I couldn’t come up with any but, then, I’m not a fan of remakes.   So I popped out (well, crawled out) of bed and Googled movie remakes.  No surprise, I suppose … Wikipedia (a great resource that needs your support, here) lists hundreds … there are so many it required two web pages!   In addition to remakes under the same title, like The Karate Kid and The Goodbye Girl, there are others that are remakes of foreign films (The Bird Cage from La Cage aux Folles) and remakes with entirely different titles (Cabaret from I am a Camera).   I found lists of the worst remakes and of the best remakes.  From the best list I’d choose Martin Scorsese’s incredibly chilling 1991 remake of  the 1934 Cape Fear, a film not for the squeamish.  For worst, I’d pick Steve Martin’s unfunny reprise of Peter Sellers’ classic Officer Clouseau in the 2006 remake of The Pink Panther, which made a lot of money in spite of providing few laughs.  Maybe costar, Beyonce, had something to do with that.  With or without Beyonce, it’s not a film for the squeamish either.

Do you have a favorite … or least favorite … remake you’d like to share?  And while you’re at it, push my button below … gently … to make me your favorite Top Sites Tuesday #86 blogger (definitely not a remake!).

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12 Comments on “Remarks on Remakes”

  1. granny1947 Says:

    Hello Bud…not being a movie buff I can’t add too much…I DID,however, see the Steve Martin movie…was so disappointed I gave up half way…he was not a patch on Peter Sellers.
    Have a great week.

  2. Liggy Says:

    Hey, Bud…I had the same thoughts about the Karate Kid movies. You compared the two movies (Ralph Macchio’s original and the new Jaden Smith version) perfectly. I would have said the same things! Both were great and enjoyable but the points you mentioned were my thoughts exactly, too. Awesome post as always!


  3. Wolfbernz Says:

    Hi Bud
    I haven’t seen the new karate kid but I can’t imagine it could be better than the original. I am not one for remakes and the Steve Martin Pink Panther didn’t come close.


    Clicks for a great post 🙂

  4. Trina Says:

    Oh! Remakes! I’m not usually a fan of remakes but I found the Steve Correll “Get Smart” to be great! The original series was in black and white and aimed at a different generation so maybe others found the remake awful – but you know what they say about opinions 😉

    I do enjoy some music remakes although not often – sometimes things are never as good as the original.


  5. I’m with you. I’m not really a fan of remakes. In fact, I actually *refused* to go see The Karate Kid remake!

  6. territerri Says:

    A couple of my favorite remakes – The Parent Trap and Miracle on 34th Street. Least favorite remake – Yours, Mine and Ours.

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