I'm late to the party again, I know, but they announced this last Tuesday (August 9th) and it's been festering ever since: "Lionsgate announces Dirty Dancing remake directed by original choreographer Kenny Ortega." That's right. Dirty Dancing. Patrick Swayze. Jennifer Gray. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." All that.
To which I say: Whaddup, Hollywood? Why this sudden interest in retrofitting 80's pop culture mainstays for our current attention-deficit millennium? First, there were reboots of Friday The 13th, The Karate Kid, and A Nightmare On Elm Street, and a sequel to Tron. Now we've got trailers for a Footloose remake and a prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing (itself a remake) circling the web. We've got upcoming big-screen recyclings of Conan The Barbarian, Fright Night, and Red Dawn, plus in-the- works retoolings of WarGames, Child's Play, and Sam Raimi's Evil Dead (produced, not coincidentally, by Raimi himself). And that's just as of this writing. Who knows what titles will be announced tomorrow, or next week? It's 80's remake fever!
The funny thing is, these titles don't even scratch the surface of what the decade had to offer. And if Hollywood's already gone this gaga over the semi- classics, what's to stop them from re-jiggering the ones that really mattered? Blade Runner? The Breakfast Club? Beverly Hills Cop? The Princess Bride? Ghostbusters? (You wonder why no one's optioned remakes of Steven Spielberg's 80's classics, like Raiders Of The Lost Ark or E.T. Or, better yet, Back To The Future, Gremlins and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.)
Granted, I've never been the biggest fan of Dirty Dancing (that "Baby in a corner" line has been a great source of derision in my household), but still. I'm aching to start up a conversation with any fan who thinks the original film is in desperate need of an upgrade. ("Those clothes are so 1987. I wanna see what those characters would look like dressed up in the fashions of TODAY.") And does it really make a difference that "original choreographer Kenny Ortega" is taking the reins on this one? What could he possibly bring to the new movie that wasn't there before? Hotter bodies? Sexier dance moves? Haunting post-9/11 political subtext?
"Take this, terrorists!"
I mean, really. It'd be one thing if filmmakers brought something new to the table, some "Noughtie" spin on an age-old story. But to simply recycle the same character beats and plot turns, exactly as they've be served up to us before? Where's the logic in that?
I want you to seriously consider this trailer for the 2011 version of Footloose, which I already mentioned above:
Or this trailer for The Thing:
Now tell me – if you're a fan of the original Footloose or Thing, can you spot a single iconic moment from either film that is not included in those trailers? The new Footloose looks like a virtual shot-for-shot retread of the 1984 release, with characters wearing the same clothes, driving the same cars, and even reciting the same old dialogue. It's got the dance scene at the drive-in and the dance number in the steel mill and the petition to condone public dancing, and though the lyrics may have changed – different actors, obviously, different music, a bus crash in place of a tractor race – the melody remains the same.
The Thing, meanwhile, is clearly meant as a prelude to its 1982 counterpart, set at the same Norwegian ice base abandoned at the start of Carpenter's movie. Yet the plot is also the same – conflicting personality types battling some vicious alien life force in the Arctic, with a dawning realization that said creature can assume any shape or form. I have no doubt that the expected blood and guts will receive a gruesome CGI upgrade, but did we really need a repeat of the same story with different faces, updated for our new millennium?
This new trend reeks of nostalgia to the point of incompetence: Has it now come to the point where it's easier just to update old scripts with current pop culture references? I wonder if Dirty Dancing will get the same reverential treatment. How exciting would it be to watch Justin Timberlake march over to Natalie Portman during the climactic banquet sequence and demand: "Nobody puts Baby in a corner"?
Now that I've had my say on the matter, what say you, Avid Reader? Do you agree that these 80s titles are in desperate need of a makeover? Supposing you're a child of the 90s – have you even heard of these titles? (And if not, don't your parents own the DVDs? Or a NetFlix membership?) Which remakes have disappointed you the most? Which titles not mentioned above would you like to see grace theater screens with a new cast and new soundtrack? Chime in below!