As Hollywood continues with its inbred strategy, using market testing and the box office performance of their prior productions to dictate what comes next, we keep winding up with less and less creativity. Every time an original film is made, the bank of films in existence increases. Yet the number of remakes and reimaginings seems to be on an upward arc with little sign of slowing, and the bank remains unchanged. A safe, money-making film is developed based on the performance of another safe film, informed by another safe film. Hollywood is the Spanish monarchy, and the bloodline will eventually reach the filmic equivalent of Charles II (“noted for his extensive physical, intellectual, and emotional disabilities—along with his consequent ineffectual rule”), directed by Michael Bay.
So, I’ve tapped into my psychic abilities (which— long story short— I got from lasers beamed out of a satellite, allowing me to see all of time as a pool,) and seen the upcoming slate of remakes over the next decade. Together, Wil Keiper and I are translating the horrors I’ve seen into text. They have cherry-picked the films from the dredges of the 80s and 90s. And we’re going to go through these premonitions year by year… beginning in 1991.
Drop Dead Fred (2014), Starring Russell Brand and Jennifer Lawrence
I love Drop Dead Fred. I assume many love this sloppy mess of a Beetlejuice (1998) rip-off. And as the remake of Burton’s gothic ghost comedy gets tossed around, delayed, and forgotten, Hollywood producers turn their focus to Fred, realizing it could be a perfect vehicle for Brit comic Russell Brand, who has had no shortage of audience in the last few years. They tap Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, who, Academy Award hung on her belt, has been popular as ever. But the big check and the chance to goof off with Brand, partnered with a twinge of nostalgia for a film she caught on cable as a young kid, tricks the actress into signing on. And Drop Dead Fred (2014) goes into production.
We conceived this, giggling, only to discover upon some googling that about 5 years ago, there were a bunch of rumors circulating that this remake was actually happening. Russell Brand as Drop Dead Fred. I was shocked, but then again, it’s too obvious. The pairing wasn’t that creative. Although the project was supposedly scrapped, for the sake of this article, let’s say it is still happening.
The remake is a failure primarily because of the updated outfit Brand dons as Fred. Gone is the dashing mismatched green blazer, yellow shirt, and pinstriped pants. Brand’s outfit is flashier, more fashionable, less awkward and less loveable. That’s where all the fans really begin to complain, but the actual issues with this ill-conceived remake are far deeper, in the Brand brand of comedy. The immaturity is unchanged, but now Fred’s weird sexuality is less innocent and more upsetting. All the jokes are played more for shock and offense than for the kind of adorable childishness that the original feature displayed. Jennifer Lawrence is fine, but much of her tries at comedy are left on the cutting room floor, her role reduced to mostly her strutting around the screen and reacting to Fred. The film is empty, stripped of its charm. Viewers cringe. It bombs. Critics say Brand has peaked, drawing comparisons to Sandler’s worst, and there are mumbles of the two most horrible words: “Little Nicky”. – M
Body Parts (2015), Starring Jeremy Renner, Directed by Glen Morgan and James Wong
In some important Dimension studio meeting, someone suggests remaking Eric Red’s Body Parts (1991). They mention that it will probably be cheap, and that the film has a slight cult following. Platinum Dunes has scrapped the bottom of the barrel with franchise remakes, but these cheap horror films are still bringing in big bucks. Vampires aren’t selling as well as they used to. Maybe it’s time to start cannibalizing body horror films, and why not try it out with Body Parts. It’s one of those weird sci-fi horror flicks with a mature, good looking lead running through the streets on a mission. Under and oddly marketed, teens flock to this PG-13 thriller opening weekend. It opens strong, but word of mouth doesn’t get it far and three weeks later, Body Parts (2015) is quietly drifting out of the box office.
Even though their Black Christmas remake was a total bomb, Morgan and Wong are still in Dimension’s good graces for being two of the fathers of the long running Final Destination franchise. And Renner, after seeing his Hawkeye fame falter, begins popping up in horror movies.
The Body Parts remake isn’t bad at all; it’s just dull. It’s clear that this has been another neutered remake, source material begging for off-the-rails insanity, and producers saying no to just about anything that might be interesting. I attend a matinee screening in a near empty theater a week after opening night, and the 3 or 4 other audience goers do the same. There are a few moments in which we all bonded, a small group of strangers laughing at the good moments. I mean, for the stuff that’s been changed, we’ve still got a mumbling middle aged man (Renner), rewritten as a crime journalist, battling a half-formed serial murderer who wants to steal his limbs. Yet in this remake, instead of being a kind of intricate Frankenstein story, it’s really just a hack and slash. The killer goes from house to house, slaughtering good looking twenty-somethings, stealing limbs and trying to piece his body back together.
After this and yet another horrible Rob Zombie Halloween remake, Dimension continues to spiral downwards into the realm of direct-to-Redbox releases. – M
Suburban Commando (2015), Starring The Rock
The WWE decided it was time to take a page from Disney’s playbook and cash in on its own homegrown superstar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. WWE optioned a script based on the 1986 film Starman written by Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer, but the idea was later scrapped in favor of making a more kid friendly vehicle for Johnson. Vince McMahon changed his mind after the box office success of both Race to Witch Mountain and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and WWE Studios made its first foray into family films with the 2015 remake of the Hulk Hogan’s Suburban Commando. Johnson was cast as the interstellar superhero Shep Ramsey, and Jason Bateman was chosen for the role of Charlie Wilcox.
The Rock is dressed in an updated high-tech suit, done primarily with mo-cap in CGI. It’s laughable in its appearance, but the action figures sell as well as the best of them.
The film was shot in 3D, and also starred Amanda Seyfried as Charlie Wilcox’s wife Jenny Wilcox in an attempt to give Suburban Commando a younger appeal. Critics slammed the movie for pairing an older Bateman with Seyfried, but the odd casting choice worked, and Suburban Commando (2015) was a smashing success. The film broke box office records and made the Sci-Fi fish out of water genre the next big Hollywood craze, and studios scrambled to recreate the WWE’s success. Sony Entertainment was the first one out of the gate with a remake of the 1988 Dan Aykroyd / Kim Basinger movie My Stepmother is an Alien.
The WWE’s family division soon faltered due to a lack of available quality children properties. Their 2016 remake of Rubik, The Amazing Cube was a moderate success thanks to the all Latino cast, but later films based on the TV shows Small Wonder and Out of this World all flopped. The WWE closed its family label in 2020.