(Originally printed in OC WEEKLY, 06-09-05)
Every year, it seems like we suffer through more and more woefully ill-conceived, big-screen remakes of old movies and TV shows. This summer’s outbreak began with The Longest Yard, which we shall not sully ourselves to comment upon save for noting that the Hollywood hack who pitched this film should have been immediately escorted off the studio lot, tossed into the back of an unmarked van, roughed up for a few hours and then deposited, dazed and bloody, in a trash bin behind the Denny’s on Sunset.
If The Longest Yard seems to set a new low for human artistic endeavor, it looks like freaking Macbeth compared to this week’s all-black remake of The Honeymooners. Now, was anybody on earth clamoring for a Honeymooners movie? Are Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton beloved comic icons of the African-American community? No, and no. But some coked-up studio marketing exec apparently calculated that a cheaply produced, crassly written urban comedy, plus the gutted shell of an established property, plus presumed insufficient audience familiarity with the original property to know what they’re missing, might just equal the cash to acquire enough coke to get through the next weekend. If there’s any justice, The Honeymooners will bomb so big that that exec will finally experience his personal Moment of Clarity and immediately check himself into rehab, vowing to mend his wicked ways. And then three weeks later he’ll fall off the wagon, overdose and die.
Another upcoming remake looks a little more promising from a distance, but take heed of the suggestion contained within this movie’s tagline: “Be Warned. Be Ready.” A big-screen version of the goofily charming ’60s sitcom Bewitched, with Nicole Kidman as Samantha and Will Ferrell as Darrin, might have been a frothy cauldron of supernatural comedy goodness. But sadly, director/co-writer Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail and other crimes against humanity) decided to stir some of her own crappy ideas into the brew. You see, this is not actually a remake of the sitcom: it’s a movie about the making of a movie remake of the sitcom, with Ferrell as the actor playing Darrin and Kidman as the actress playing Samantha. Except it turns out that the actress (the actress played by Kidman, I mean, not Kidman herself) really is a witch! Yes, I can hear you scratching your head from here, and I don’t blame you. It takes real black magic to assemble such talents as Amy Sedaris, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell and waste them all in a plot this dopey. After Bewitched hits theaters, audiences will surely be calling for Ephron to be burned at the stake.
Johnny Knoxville exploited his masochistic compulsions for plenty of good, sick laughs back in the Jackass days, but when he took a baseball bat to the crotch on that show, nobody was harmed except him and his future progeny. Since Jackass wrapped, Knoxville has been getting his self-hating kicks by starring in one absolutely wretched movie after another, making us all suffer along with him. Now he and that Dude, Where’s My Car lunk who isn’t Ashton Kutcher are co-starring in the peerlessly unnecessary big-screen version of The Dukes of Hazzard, with a supporting cast that makes you pine for the days of Sorrell Booke. No matter how cutely she fills out her Daisy Duke short-shorts, Jessica Simpson is a RealDoll© who simply doesn’t deserve to be in the same room (let alone the same movie) as Willie Nelson, while we can only forgive Willie’s involvement in this fiasco if we tell ourselves he’s still desperately struggling to pay off the IRS. The casting of Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg is particularly dispiriting, since between this and The Longest Yard Burt’s now dangerously close to a comeback, just when we were almost rid of him. Besides, he’s not even fat. Boss Hogg is supposed to be a fat cracker whose chins quiver when he hollers, “Them Dukes! Them Dukes!”—not some gaunt senior citizen who looks like a walking Madame Tussaud’s exhibit. I don’t want to believe that a movie version of The Dukes of Hazzard could possibly be a hit, because that would say things about where we are as a culture that are simply too terrible to accept. Between that and W’s re-election, the rest of the world would be justified in concluding that we’re a nation of trogs running around in torn overalls and rope belts.
But there is hope on the horizon. Eventually Hollywood will run out of old movies and TV shows to remake . . . and it looks like the day is arriving very soon. There are now plans afoot for a sequel to Zack Snyder’s recent version of Dawn of the Dead, a film that was itself a remake of George Romero’s 1978 sequel to his own film, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead (which was itself remade in 1990). That’s right, this new film would be a sequel to a remake of a sequel to a movie about (all too appropriately) ravenous, unstoppable, undead cannibals. Should this new film actually reach theaters, scientists predict that it will result in what has been described as “a massively recursive, apocalyptic aesthetic event,” at which point mainstream Hollywood will vanish from the space-time continuum, traveling at warp speed directly up its own asshole.
In the meantime, millions of Americans will endure a seemingly endless summer of big-screen reruns, slouched down wearily in our theater seats, trying to work up the courage to demand our money back and hiccupping queasily as our crappy popcorn, like our crappy movies, keeps repeating on us.