Big budget film producers and television networks have been swarmed with reboots as of late. With Gilmore Girls, Full House, Boy Meets World, and more getting brand new seasons or spin offs on the television side while the film world is swamped with pictures like It, Jurassic World, Tomb Raider, and Jumanji it seems like we’re doomed to watch the same characters and stories on repeat. There is a comfort in this nostalgia for sure and I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t be over the moon with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot. But with all these old ideas being shown in new light, the debate rages over whether these projects are a blessing or a plight. Let us take a look at some examples.
The worst remake by far, in my humble opinion, has got to be ABC’s attempt at Dirty Dancing. This is one of my favorite classic films starring Patrick Swayze as the bad boy who trains Frances “Baby” Houser, played by Jennifer Grey, to dance for a competition after his partner is unable to. To try to turn one of America’s most classic and well-known romances into a made for TV movie is almost laughable. The movie tried to copy the musical version of the show rather than the original which does not translate well to the screen, Colt Prattes, the actor who replaced Swayze, was chosen for his dancing skills while it was pretty much his acting debut – and it showed. Everything about the film feels cheap and hastily done…so, a classic TV movie.
One of the most controversial reboots of the moment on television, Roseanne, was recently canceled after the star and namesake of the show Roseanne Barr tweeted racist remarks that led to a heap of backlash for a program that was already pushing the envelope in many Americans eyes. The show at first seemed to showcase and poke fun at both sides of the political table and got great ratings its first episode. But the numbers began to fall quickly after. The characters and dialogue felt forced and far more political than its past episodes. With the social climate in the state that it’s in and the ratings not high enough to keep NBC faithful after Barr’s reckless tweet, they announced the show’s cancellation shortly after.
Another television show recently dropped before it even had a chance to premiere is the Heathers remake. Heathers is a 1980 cult classic film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater about a group of popular girls and what happens when one of them is poisoned. The new version shows a refreshingly diverse set of characters: a plus size and body positive girl, a gender fluid boy, and a biracial lesbian. A remake where the usually bullied are the bullies didn’t sit well with fans of the classic, especially when the diversity in villains did not transfer to the heroes of the story. Accused of demonizing minorities, the show had a skeptical start to begin with. It was not fully dropped by Viacom until after one of the 23 school shootings to happen this year occurred in Parkland, Florida. The film as well as the first season of the new show ends with the school being blown up. The development executive at Paramount spoke on the decision saying “We didn’t feel comfortable right now airing the series and I’m not sure when there might be a time that we as a youthful brand at Viacom would feel comfortable.”
The television industry is not the only place these remakes can tank. Just take a look at the Ghostbusters remake, a film that seemed to get more hate for its casting choices than its actual content. Although I do agree the movie does not compare to the original, the chemistry between the main actors, all women who had worked with each other previously through Saturday Night Live and other films, was amazing. But audiences failed to step up enough for the film to break even.
The film industry is much more open to second chances, even third. Superhero films are in the highest demand right now, especially when it comes to characters that we have grown up with and known for a lifetime. The love and appreciation for these comic book heroes spans generations, which may be why producers are more willing to take risks on these characters. The first Spiderman films starring Tobey Maguire were a huge success in the 2000s, despite the rough third installment. As the demand for comic-based films grew, producers decided to go again with another two Spiderman films starring Andrew Garfield. His time in the suit was short lived after Disney got the rights to Peter Parker’s character and launched a third Spiderman redo with Tom Holland as the Spidey protagonist, finally attaching him to the Marvel Universe team. Spiderman Homecoming was a hit and the character is set for more sequels on the way. Third time’s the charm, right?
Reboots can get it right on the first try, there is hope. True Grit is actually a book written by Charles Portis in 1968 and in 1969 it was made into a film starring John Wayne. The remake comes from the Coen Brothers in 2010, starring Jeff Bridges. Critics and audiences seem to agree that the new trumps the old in this case. The defining difference in the two? The acting; while old Hollywood actors did their jobs well for the time, nowadays acting in film is more about realism and not so much the glamorous stereotypes and caricatures that many actors in the studio age of film were known for.
In conclusion, when deciding whether a reboot or a spin-off is going to be worth it, there are a lot of questions to ponder beforehand. Does the story have more to say, more perspectives that haven’t been seen or understood? Could it benefit from modern technology or technique? Is it a story that can be made relevant for today’s audience or is it a production that was in the right place at the right time?
Gleiberman, Owen. “’True Grit’: John Wayne vs. Jeff Bridges — Which One Has More True Grit?” EW.com, Entertainment Weekly, 27 Dec. 2010, ew.com/article/2010/12/27/wayne-vs-bridges-who-has-more-true-grit/.
Nakamura, Reid. “Heathers’ Dropped by Paramount Network, Will Be Shopped Elsewhere” SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle, 1 June 2018, www.sfgate.com/entertainment/the-wrap-article/Heathers-Dropped-by-paramount-network-will-12961591.php.
Cox, Danny. “Dissecting The Differences And Similarities Between The Original ‘Ghostbusters’ And New All-Female Reboot” Inquisitr, 28 Jan 2015, https://www.inquisitr.com/1795469/dissecting-the-differences-and-similarities-between-the-original-ghostbusters-and-new-all-female-reboot/
Ardolino, Emile, director. Dirty Dancing. Great American Films Limited Partnership, 1987.
Blair, Wayne, director. Dirty Dancing. American Broadcasting Company, 2017.
Raimi, Sam, director. Spider-Man. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, 2002.
Webb, Marc, director. The Amazing Spiderman. Universal Studios, 2012.
Watts, Jon, director. Spiderman:Homecoming. Disney Pictures, 2017.