Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #702: Remake Rationale

As you probably remember, my dander was up last night over the news that Disney was bastardizing re-imagining elderly village spinster detective Miss Marple into a young urban hot single detective to be played by Jennifer Garner.

As I said yesterday, Disney gave a lot of money to the Agatha Christie Estate for a character with a commercially viable track record, then they tossed away everything about that character, to make it fit something probably cooked up by a marketing focus group consisting of unemployed chimpanzees wit
h head injuries.

They could have made their movie, called it "Miss Maple" and the Christie Estate wouldn't even notice it enough to sue.

But then they'd be missing the key rationale behind 99% of Hollywood remakes. That rational has nothing to do with trying to take a flawed work and make it better, or apply a new vision to a pre-existing story, no, that might make something worth seeing and involves creativity. The rationale behind Hollywood remakes has nothing to do with creativity, and everything to something studio executives learned between naps during their business administration and marketing classes.

That is "branding."

Branding is all about having a familiar name, or "brand" and trying to get people interested in it by making is seem somehow "hip" and "sexy." If it sells tickets, the executives can breath a little easier and keep their jobs another day without taking any of the risks inherent in using their imaginations.

Another classic example is the upcoming remake of the comedy Arthur starring the appropriately named Russell Brand and guess who, Jennifer Garner. The original Arthur starred Dudley Moore as a high society scion with too much money and too little maturity with a drinking problem who falls in love with a lower class waitress, a development that threatens his inheritance. It made around $82 million in its domestic release in 1981, which was pretty good money at that time. That means it would eventually be remade in the vain hope that a modest hit would somehow mutate into a major blockbuster if they spend a hell of a lot of money on it.

Yet here's why I think the remake will probably suck financially and critically.

1. Arthur was about an alcoholic and was made before the society as a whole saw alcoholism as a tragic disease. People could still laugh at the antics of someone with no impulse control and slurred speech.

2. Because of the whole tragic disease thing they appear to have removed the booze from the story, and attempted to remake Arthur Bach into a geeky man-child, and this is where miscasting comes into play. Russell Brand carries the vibe of being interested solely in drugs, whores, or doing drugs with whores. I can't buy him as a lovably geeky man-child.

3. Brand himself has only a middling box office record when it comes to starring vehicles. In fact, his only starring vehicle Get Him To The Greek, made about $90 million internationally, but probably cost closer to $100+ million to make, market, and release worldwide. The appeal of his "comedian who acts like a 70s rock star" image inside Hollywood is without dispute, but his appeal to a wide audience is still highly questionable.

4. The plot-line about Arthur having to marry an heiress in order to keep his fortune sounds way out of place now. High society is no longer the rarefied, mysterious, and impenetrable world it once was. We are now inundated with stories of various "debutards" doing everything from making sex tapes to being caught snorting lines of cocaine off the bare buttocks of dead transsexual prostitutes. Any high end patriarch should be logically relieved if their son wants to marry anyone who doesn't have a 10th trip to rehab is free punch-card.

5. The reports about the film say that the father of Jennifer Garner's character, played by Nick Nolte, is supposed to be some sort of strict religious fundamentalist. Yeah, that's not going to annoy and alienate the mostly Christian American audience. Especially since most Americans seem to know, thanks to the gossip sites and tabloid media, that the modern American upper crust is rarely the prime example of pious sanctity. It also makes his overweening desire to marry off his daughter to a total spaz extremely illogical. The original at least had the excuse that the character of the fiancee's father was a raging snob obsessed with some sort of upper crust version of eugenics.

I get the feeling that the amount of thought put into Arthur, and Miss Marple, like most remakes could fit on the head of a pin, and still leave room for more. Maybe if the audience started a movement declaring a boycott of remakes, then Hollywood might at least stop and actually try to use their remaining functional brain cell to drum up a little imagination for a change.


  1. The New Arthur looks like crap, They might as well just make WINNING! the Charlie Sheen story.

    This movie looks like it should be made for TV dreck on Comedy Central not a theatrical release.

  2. Another Thought, does this Arthur remake means we are going to get his wife Katy Perry to do a remake of Christopher Cross' Arthur's Theme.

  3. Imagination and originality cost...much better to pull out something tried and tested (in a different century) rather than use the collective hollywood brain cells (all three of them) currently in rotation. The industry has it's head so far up it's own arse it's about to turn inside out. And that I'd pay money to see.