Top 10 Pointless Remakes

by Eric Melin on January 20, 2009

in Top 10s

I know there’s only so many good ideas out there, and filmmakers are constantly recycling the same ones over and over, but just because we have computer-generated special effects now doesn’t mean that Hollywood has to raid its back catalog of movies. Check out this link if you don’t believe me that it’s gotten out of control. (How can anyone improve “Rashomon” or “Rosemary’s Baby”?) Last year alone saw an abysmal remake of the George Cukor classic “The Women” as well as the number five movie on this list. Without further ado, behold my list of Top 10 Pointless Remakes. The following movies are so bad that they were worse than awful runners-up “The Jackal” (1997) starring Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, and Sidney Poitier, or double offender Jonathan Demme’s “The Manchurian Candidate” (2004) and “The Truth About Charlie” (a 2002 remake of 1963’s “Charade” starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn).

gozilla 1998 broderick10. Godzilla (1998)

This Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin moneymaker is the perfect culprit of the crime I just mentioned. The esteemed filmmaking team that brought you “Stargate,” “Independence Day,” and “The Patriot” was handed the rights to the famed Japanese monster and envisioned a fast-moving creature that blends in with its city environment—two traits completely dissimilar to what makes Godzilla an icon. What they ended up with was a lame-looking CGI lizard dinosaur left over from Spielberg’s groundbreaking “Jurassic Park,” and a theme song by Puff Daddy that ripped off Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” with the voluntary assistance of a hard-up-for-cash Jimmy Page. Did I mention that this asexual American Godzilla lays eggs in Madison Square Garden? The original 1954 “Gojira” was a reaction from a country that lived through an atomic apocalypse at the end of World War II. The 1998 “Godzilla” was a Taco Bell tie-in, featuring the restaurant’s chihuahua mascot calling, “Here, lizard, lizard, lizard.”

rollerball 2002 klein9. Rollerball (2002)

This soulless remake of the 1975 Norman Jewison-directed dystopian sci-fi picture starring James Caan skipped all the social commentary and went straight for jazzed-up, hyperviolent roller-derby action. And the man they brought in to head this action-heavy macho update? It was none other than the musclebound, world-renowned action superstar … Chris Klein?! Huh? Whereas the first film took place in a global corporate state in 2018, director John McTiernan’s version takes place in 2005 (Three years into the future? Huh?). LL Cool J convinces NHL hopeful Klein to join him on a rollerball team in Kazakhstan (Huh?), where the crowd likes their matches as gory as they can get them. This movie was so awful that cast member LL Cool J himself admitted that it “sucked” when he was a guest on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

psycho 1998 heche vaughn8. Psycho (1998)

Gus Van Sant’s remake of the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock suspense classic is so reviled that you probably expected it to be a bit higher on this list, didn’t you? Well, in a change of pace for the spirit of this Top 10, let me take a moment to defend this failure of a film. It may have a horribly miscast Vince Vaughn masturbating to Anne Heche through a hole in the wall and it may contain very little actual suspense, but at least it was an interesting experiment rather than a straightforward cash-grab. Van Sant really proved something with this film. Even though there were some fairly significant changes (like non-diagetic inserts of a violent storm in the famous shower scene), Van Sant tried very hard to replicate the shots and editing of Hitchcock’s original to see if it was possible to replicate the terrifying feeling of the 1960 version. $60 million later, he learned that answer: No.

charlie chocolate factory depp7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

The man who is currently remaking “Alice in Wonderland” with Johnny Depp right now makes the first of two appearances on this list. It’s director Tim Burton, and although he would be the first to point out that his non-musical, Depp-led movie is an adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s book and not a remake of the Gene Wilder-led 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” he would be missing the point. The fact is, he flushed all of the wonder and charm of the first movie down the toilet. When this new version was released, there was all this talk about how Depp was darker then Wilder, and isn’t that cool—but I would venture to argue against both accounts. Wilder’s seemingly warm personality at certain times made his coldness at others all the more disturbing. Depp has some funny moments, but he’s just playing “weird”—he never connects with any kid in the entire film, so the creepiness is just distant. Burton may not have put a CGI dinosaur in “Charlie,” but he is guilty of the same crime as “Godzilla”s Emmerich/Devlin team. Just because you think you can dress an old movie up in more expensive clothes doesn’t mean you should. If the story doesn’t have an inherent reason in its construction for being remade, don’t do it!

the haunting 1999 wilson neeson zeta-jones taylor6. The Haunting (1999)

What haunts me about this mercilessly stupid remake is the time and money I spent in a theater on opening night thinking that a horror movie starring Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Owen Wilson, and Catherine Zeta-Jones just had to be good. But it was not to be. Jan de Bont, the director who brought you “Speed” and “Twister,” helmed this remake of the 1963 Robert Wise haunted-house tale. Usually it’s the characters who sleepwalk through a haunted house story, but in this case, it’s the actors. There’s not a convincing moment in the entire ludicrous movie, but it is semi-interesting to watch these actors slumming it, trapped in a script with laughable dialogue that recycles every cliché in the book. Poor Lili Taylor has the worst of it, forced to accept the most arbitrary of horror “rules” as the nature of the house and her place in its legacy is revealed. This is one of those movies where the main character has a moment of realization and suddenly understands what they must do to make the evil ghosts disappear (which usually amounts to a lot of yelling over loud wind noises). Taylor doesn’t do movies like this often, so I hope that she at least got paid well for it.

keanu reeves day the earth stood still 20085. The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

The most recent movie on this list recently inspired a long, impassioned defense on this very website from a sitegoer who was offended by my (and a contributor’s) critique of this brainless remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic. He writes: “This movie makes several important points about humans as a species.” I would challenge that Robert Wise’s original makes several of these points, while the remake dances around them and throws a bunch of trending issues at the wall to see if any of them will stick. These include global warming, aggressive U.S. foreign policy, and the Iraq War. In 1951, Wise trusted that audiences had the patience to sit through philosophical discussions about the nature of humanity. That’s what is compelling about this “warning to Earth” setup in the first place. 2008 director Scott Derrickson should have had a little more faith in his audience—merely mentioning these issues without context or actual discussion doesn’t merit the label of a topical film. It’s like Jamie Lee Curtis said to her dim-witted boyfriend Kevin Kline in “A Fish Called Wanda” after this comment he made, defending his smarts: “Apes don’t read philosophy!”
“Yes they do, Otto. They just don’t understand it.”

brando moreau little buddy4. The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

The third film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ mad-scientist novel is one of those legendary trainwrecks that has to be seen to be believed. Strike that—actually—it doesn’t really have to be seen. Even a steely-eyed filmgoer, standing at attention for the film’s 100-minute running time prepared for maximum Marlon Brando goofiness, will still find it hard to enjoy this giddy turd. One big problem—not enough crazed Brando. Oh, but when he is onscreen, it’s magic: wearing an ice bucket for a hat, covering his face in white pancake makeup, explaining the piano to his shocking little animal-human mutant creations. It almost feels like he’s improvising nonsense in every scene he’s in. The torch is then passed to hammy ham ham-ham Val Kilmer, who has not one iota of consistency to his performance, which exists only for him to try and out-weird Brando. David Thewlis is screwed, though. He gets the most screen time and the dullest character around, playing the straight man to all this lunacy. If director John Frankenheimer had really gone with this campy vibe, we wouldn’t have to wade through the ponderous “lessons” of the story. But he probably didn’t realize how ridiculous this all was until it was too late.

biel texas chainsaw massacre 20033. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Tobe Hooper’s 1974 low-budget underdog had very little gore, but terrified all the same. Michael Bay produced this uber-violent, uninspired remake, which did well enough at the box office to kick off a whole slew of classic 1970s horror remakes, including “Dawn of the Dead,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” “The Amityville Horror,” “The Omen,” “Halloween,” and coming out next month, again from producer Michael Bay—“Friday the 13th.” That distinction alone makes it one of the worst remakes of all time. Additionally, this is supposed to take place in 1973, but the documentary vibe of the original is replaced by that familiar high-gloss treatment that’s supposed to look grimy. Jessica Biel and her fellow actors don’t seem to have any idea of what time period they’re supposed to be in, acting less like 70s-era teenagers than the kids on “That ‘70s Show.” Another stupid move: Director Marcus Nispel explains why Leatherface wears a mask. He has a skin disease. Wow. Great nugget of detail. Thanks for turning a legendary Ed Gein-like psychopath into a little kid with a skin disease. Really Scary.

planet of the apes 2001 wahlberg bonham carter2. Planet of the Apes (2001)

Burton strikes again! The number one film on my Worst Twist Endings Top 10 (even Burton himself admitted he didn’t understand it!) didn’t quite make it to number one on the worst remakes list. For the sake of this list, we’ll skip the final reel travesty of Ape-raham Lincoln and dwell instead on the rest of this crappy remake. Mark Wahlberg is so wooden in this movie that he makes Charlton Heston look like Laurence Olivier. The dialogue is so corny, it’s a wonder actors like Helena Bonham Carter and Paul Giamatti were able to deliver them with a straight face. As far as plot movement, Wahlberg escapes from one band of apes to get involved with another, and it’s back and forth, back and forth. Will he or won’t he with the nice ape lady (Bonham Carter) who thinks human slaves should be treated better? And what of former model Estella Warren? Did Burton hope her beauty would hide the fact that she couldn’t act? Tim Roth does his best to be menacing under all that ape makeup and prosthetics, but it’s all for nothing. There’s just no reason to care about anything on this “Planet.”

city of angels goo goo cage1. City of Angels (1998)

That late-1990s “Touched by an Angel” craze produced a lot of trite bullshit (1996’s “Michael” starring John Travolta as a boozing, dancing angel full of unexpected wisdom comes to mind), but none so offensive as this made-to-be-mediocre Meg Ryan-Nicolas Cage fantasy romance. What makes this failure so complete is that “City of Angels” is based on 1987’s “Wings of Desire,” a melancholy mediation on nothing less than the meaning of life and love, directed with stunning visual flair by Wim Wenders. It’s also an exploration of the soul of Berlin, as it follows the angels’ work of observing and listening to the thoughts of the city’s citizens. “City of Angels,” on the other hand, is typical Hollywood self-involved soap-opera bullshit. It’s not about the full sweep of human emotion or history at all. It takes one simple element from “Wings”—an angel who falls in love with a woman. But he’d better hurry because she just got a marriage proposal! To stop this development, he turns human to be with her. Just then, (SPOILER ALERT!) she closes her eyes on a bike and is nailed by a logging truck. But she’s ready to accept death—she’s not afraid of the nearing angels as she dies. Oh, cruel fate! It sucks to be dead, but at least we have the angels. The angels will make everything alright. I feel so much better. Please stop playing that goddamn Goo Goo Dolls song now.


Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube 

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 danielle January 20, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Could not agree more with all of your choices on the list. City of Angles was complete shit and should never have been made. Can we get a honorable mention for the Steve Martin Pink Panther fiasco that is an absolute travesty?

Reply

2 the don January 20, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Good calls…
…never really sure how to deal with the various adaptations of Shakespeare’s work…
Agreed, Peter Sellers’ memory has been thoroughly besmirched…
It would also be interesting to see a top 10 well done remakes…

Reply

3 LucyO January 20, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Totally agree with Rollerball.
Watched it at the cinema and walked out.
That guy from American Pie is a BAD actor…..almost as bad as Matt Le Blanc

Reply

4 Matt Brown January 20, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Great list, Eric, I couldn’t agree more…Tim Burton raped two of my favorite movies from childhood and should be locked away…and City of Angels I can’t even watch after seeing Wings (introduced me to Nick Cave, for god’s sake!) and Far Away, So Close (lesser but still decent). And coming up in this department, we have Friday the 13th and Last House on the Left to look forward to. Hooray…. :(

Reply

5 Eric Melin January 20, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Ever heard that Guided by Voices song “Hold On Hope”? For those holding on hope that the director and producer of that abysmal “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake might make something decent out of “Friday the 13th,” we’re giving away tickets to the advance screening in Kansas City. Better to gamble when its free, eh?

Reply

6 Clark January 21, 2009 at 6:32 am

I like City of Angels. It’s way better than Wings of Desire (no plot, no story, only boring).
And The Truth About Charlie, bad as it is, is not worse than Charade (that movie is stupid, is not funny or thrilling, and Audrey acts dumb the whole time).

Reply

7 Randall January 21, 2009 at 10:49 am

The only one of these I bothered to see was Planet of the Apes. Given the general lameness of Hollywood remakes, it might be more of a challenge to make a top 10 list of remakes that topped the originals. Off the top of my head, I can only think of Ocean’s 11 and maybe The Man Who Knew Too Much (though I liked both versions of the latter).

Reply

8 Eric Melin January 21, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Yep, am germinating one for the future. Agreed on “Ocean’s Eleven.” Is there another “Man” after Jimmy Stewart?

Reply

9 Randall January 22, 2009 at 9:55 am

There’s an earlier version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, starring Peter Lorre. Both were directed by Hitchcock, and both have their good points, but without revisiting them again, I think I’d have to give the nod to the Jimmy Stewart version.

Reply

10 Will Dawson January 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm

I like the list! Especially the two Tim Burton movies and Godzilla, what an awful remake…probably the most disappointing movie going experience of my life. Anyway I have a few mentions:

1. Alfie (2004)- Took all the charm and points out of the original
Michael Caine version, plus Jude Law is no Michael Caine

2. Day Of The Dead (2008)- Absolutly no relation to the original version, rips off every Zombie movie of the past 6 years including “The Dawn Of The Dead” remake.

3. The Shaggy Dog (2006)- You probably didn’t know that this was remade, but it was…with Tim Allen

4.We’re No Angels (1989)- The remake of the little seen but classic Humphrey Bogart film absolutly bares no relation to the original in anyway whatsoever and because a jumped up mess of religious themes.

I’d also mention: The Wicker Man, Death Race and any remake of a Hitchcock movie.

Reply

11 Kenny January 22, 2009 at 2:36 pm

I just wish Hollywood would quit wasting our time by trying to grab a few extra dollars at the box office with these worthless flicks. This justifies the diagnosis that Mark Wahlberg has cinematic bipolar disorder. One film he’s really enjoyable in, the next he’s god awful, and there have been a lot of the latter.

Reply

12 Eric The Movie Guy January 22, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I used to be the biggest Tim Burton fan but now he just seems to be remaking film after film. Sure, Sweeney Todd was pretty good but Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and now Alice In Wonderland? When is this man gonna get back into the days of Edward Scissorhand and Beetlejuice and create something different and original? Great list, by the way!

Reply

13 Dan January 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I actually liked the remake of Manchurian Candidate quite a bit; I thought it had been updated well to fit current sociopolitical situations. And best of all, because it has been updated it doesn’t stomp on the memory of the Sinatra version.

Reply

14 Andie January 27, 2009 at 12:01 pm

there are two versions of the man who knew too much, the english version (Peter Lorre), and the american version (Jimmy Stewart)

Reply

15 Darville January 31, 2009 at 5:35 pm

I’ll be using the phrase “giddy turd” in the near future.

Reply

16 bill February 7, 2009 at 12:30 am

only issue i have with this list is “hard up for cash jimmy page”. as a diehard led zeppelin fan that brought up bad memories. i remember when they signed away the rights for diddy to make the horrendous song. i dont think hes strapped for cash though, hes been knighted and just put out another album.
i guess thats kind of off topic, just had to defend one of my heroes.
in regards to this list, i would have to add indiana jones: kingdom of crystal skull…. how dreadful, perhaps the best example of hollywood selling out and doing whatever they could for the money (talk about hard up for cash)

Reply

17 Meg February 8, 2009 at 12:54 am

I think this is an excellent list though one movie definitely popped into my mind…Raisin in the Sun. I’m sorry but if there is one thing that annoys me to no end it would have to be singers trying be actors and vice versa (cough Don Johnson, Bruce Willis…Keanu Reeves!)But Puff Daddy, really? I’m sorry, but I have to ask how much money he gave the casting director to let him be in this film…-shudder-

And I know it is not a re-make, but I think Ed TV was way too similar to the Truman Show. Oh and even though I love Christian Bale, especially singing, dancing, and selling newspapers, I sigh in discontent at 3:10 to Yuma.

Reply

18 Danny Steel March 20, 2009 at 3:53 am

Good list, I’m sure in the coming years there will many more pointless remakes that should be included.

Sisters (2006) – a remake of an obsure Brian De Palma film from the 70′s
One Missed Call (2008) – Utter rubbish.
The Grudge (2004) – Sarah Michelle Gellar…pffft please.
April Fool’s Day (2008) – A horror film and a horrible film.
Prom Night (2008) – It was so bad I laughed all the way through it.
King Kong (2005) – Planet Of The Apes was bad enough.
Assault On Precinct 13 (2005)
Tha Vanishing (1993)
The Amityville Horror (2005) – The first one was a flop what made them think the second one wasn’t going to be a flop as well?
Shaft (2000)
Halloween (2007) – Wrecked a classic.
Mirrors (2008) – Hands up how many people actually saw the original? Thought so.
Bedazzled (2000)

Reply

Leave a Comment

 

Previous post:

Next post: