A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… (well, 24 May 2014 to be precise) I asked people what their three worst movie remakes were as a prelude to my revealing my ten worst movie remakes. The response has been disappointing to say the least, but undeterred by this, I’m still going to inflict my choices on everyone (hey, it’s the least I could do). So, here they are, the ten movies that made me want to go out and kill the people responsible (only kidding – I’d actually make them watch these movies over and over again for the rest of their lives).
10 – Diabolique (1996) – D: Jeremiah Chechik / 107m
Cast: Sharon Stone, Isabelle Adjani, Chazz Palminteri, Kathy Bates, Spalding Gray, Shirley Knight, Allen Garfield
This is the movie that takes Henri-Georges Clouzot’s eerie masterpiece, Les Diaboliques (1954) and drains it of all suspense and tension, leaving little that’s unnerving or scary. Stone and Adjani are miscast, Chechik appears to have directed with a blindfold on throughout, and that scene is about as frightening as an episode of Mork and Mindy. Just completely horrible, Diabolique is like watching an old friend on life support and hoping that it’s going to be turned off so everyone can stop suffering.
“Are we really doing this?”
9 – Rollerball (2002) – D: John McTiernan / 98m
Cast: Chris Klein, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Naveen Andrews, Oleg Taktarov
Where the original was set in the near future and had a well conceived political element to it, this farrago of poorly edited action scenes and unsympathetic characters is set in the here and now, and fails to come up with a convincing reason for killing off its competitors. Klein is completely the wrong choice to fill James Caan’s shoes, and McTiernan directs with all the flair of a disinterested man in a string museum.
“Okay, let’s play dodgeball!”
8 – The Truth About Charlie (2002) – D: Jonathan Demme / 104m
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Thandie Newton, Tim Robbins, Ted Levine, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Simon Abkarian, Stephen Dillane
Hitchcock’s Charade (1963) is the movie trampled on here, and like so many other Euro puddings, The Truth About Charlie struggles to create its own identity and ends up looking like an expensive tax dodge. The real truth is that this should never have been made, and Wahlberg should never be allowed near this kind of material ever again. And all this with Jonathan Demme at the helm? What the hell happened?
“Tell the truth – does this hat make my head look too small?”
7 – Swept Away (2002) – D: Guy Ritchie / 89m
Cast: Madonna, Adriano Giannini, Bruce Greenwood, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Elizabeth Banks
For anyone who has seen Lina Wertmuller’s vastly superior original, this is like a slap in the face with a handful of live wires. About Madonna’s casting, Ritchie said at the time, “she was cheap and available”; he forgot to add “woeful and inadequate”. At least the scenery is beautiful, but it’s the only good thing in a movie that stumbles along like a punch drunk boxer trying to find his way into the ring to fight an opponent who hasn’t shown up.
“I hope that’s just pilates you’re doing behind that rock.”
6 – The Haunting (1999) – D: Jan de Bont / 113m
Cast: Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes, Alix Koromzay, Todd Field, Virginia Madsen
If there’s one horror film that absolutely, positively didn’t need a remake it was Robert Wise’s sublime, 1963 original. Shirley Jackson’s unsettling novel was intelligently handled and still sends shivers down the spine over fifty years later. Under the auspices of de Bont, this tale of the supernatural is an excuse for some lame CGI and the kind of hokey fairground horror that wouldn’t frighten a four year old. Add in a cast who all look like the real mystery is why they agreed to take part, and the recipe for disaster is complete.
Jan de Bont: “Ah, guys, can you all look in the same direction, please?”
5 – The Stepford Wives (2004) – D: Frank Oz / 93m
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, Roger Bart
“What that’s you say? A remake of The Stepford Wives, with that guy who plays Fozzie Bear directing? And it’s going to be a satire about consumerism rather than a creepy thriller? Hmmm… let me think about that.” Even the great cast can’t save this from being underdeveloped, and as funny as a bruise. Painful to watch, and given the premise, destined to end up in bargain bins everywhere.
“What do you mean, Tom Cruise is replacing Matthew Broderick as my husband?”
4 – City of Angels (1998) – D: Brad Silberling / 114m
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Meg Ryan, Andre Braugher, Dennis Franz, Colm Feore, Robin Bartlett
Hopefully, Wim Wenders hasn’t seen this dreary and endlessly disappointing remake of his modern classic, Wings of Desire (1987), with Cage and Ryan both coasting on auto-pilot, and Silberling abandoning any attempt at sophistication or style (two elements the original has by the bucket load). Ill-advised and clumsy, City of Angels also manages to make its colour photography look less attractive than the glorious monochrome of the original. A waste of time, effort, money, and as pointless as hanging a mirror with the glass facing the wall.
“If I stare at it for long enough, hopefully the script will improve.”
3 – Taxi (2004) – D: Tim Story / 97m
Cast: Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, Henry Simmons, Jennifer Esposito, Gisele Bündchen, Ann-Margret
Admittedly, the Luc Besson scripted original isn’t the greatest movie ever made but this version sucks the life out of the material and leaves it lying in the gutter like a blown tyre. Fallon proves his limitations as an actor begin when he opens his mouth, while Latifah is the least convincing racing car enthusiast this side of Shirley Temple, and the less said about Story’s absenteeism as a director the better. Even the sight of Bündchen and her “crew” in skimpy apparel can’t compensate for how bad it all is.
“Smell my finger! Now tell me it smells worse than this movie!”
2 – The Wicker Man (2006) – D: Neil LaBute / 102m
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beahan, Frances Conroy, Molly Parker, Leelee Sobieski
Fact: Robin Hardy’s seminal horror movie, The Wicker Man (1973), is an atmospheric, ominous and disconcerting masterpiece that is as effective today as it was forty years ago. Fact: Neil LaBute’s remake takes its forerunner’s pagan rituals and hedonistic background and replaces it with uncomfortable levels of misogyny and makes Cage’s character too much of a blundering idiot to gain any sympathy. The end result is a movie that barely works on any level, and proves that talent is no guarantee of intelligence, creativity or success.
“On any other day, this might seem unusual.”
1 – The Pink Panther (2006) – D: Shawn Levy / 93m
Cast: Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Henry Czerny, Kristin Chenoweth, Roger Rees, Beyoncé Knowles
Trashing on the memory of one of the greatest comic creations ever seen on the big screen, Martin and friends pull out all the stops in making The Pink Panther look and feel more like The Stink Panther. With more missed opportunities and lame gags than you’d ever believe it was possible to cram into one dreadful movie, this is the ne plus ultra of movie remakes, a low point for all concerned, and the greatest waste of talent and money you’re ever likely to have the misfortune to watch. Could it be any worse? For the answer to that, you’d have to watch the sequel.
“Oh my God! The reviews are in!”
To sum up, two things seem obvious: if it’s a remake of a foreign movie then it’s likely to be a disaster; and if it’s a remake of an acknowledged classic, then it’s definitely going to be a disaster. And for anyone bemoaning the lack of more obviously awful remakes, such as the plethora of horror updates made in recent years, they were just too easy as targets (and may have their own list one day). If I’ve included something that’s a favourite then colour me surprised, but do feel free to let me know. Now, where’s that copy of Get Carter (2000)?