In 1979 the comedy movie The In-Laws proved an enormous box office hit. Starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin, it told the hilarious story of a square father of the bride (Arkin) who meets an oddball father of the groom (Falk) who turns out to be a CIA agent. The result is no boring comedy of manners but a madcap romp packed with moments like Arkin running down a street in New York pursued by thugs out to get Falk. "Please God, don't let me die on West 31st Street!" He implores in one of the most quotable lines ever. The whole film is priceless from start to finish.
Fast foward to 2003. In January of that year a remake also entitled The In-Laws hit theaters ... and promptly fizzled. Despite decent turns by funnyman Albert Brooks in a role based on the Arkin character and Michael Douglas in a character based on Falk's, this is no surprise. The film come nowhere close to capturing the zany spunk and charm of the original. And the characters as whole come off as boring, predictable, or just plain aggravating. Nor are there any quotable lines to be found. It is a film that can be watched once or twice, and then promptly forgotten. Not so the original! You could watch it forever if it struck your funny bone.
Why does Hollywood have to do bad remakes? If a movie was good in its original form, leave it be! Yes, Ben Hur was a remake, but that was of a silent movie; so was The Ten Commandments. The made for TV remake of All Quiet on the Western Front was also justifiable given how the original version was a choppy adaptation of the novel of the same title; the remake also capture the novel's mood better. But these are exceptions to the rule. This rule best summed by the ghastly 2000 remake of the 1959 post-apocalyptic classic On the Beach. Despite the presence of Breaker Morant alumni Bryan Brown, it was an abomination. This champ of bad remakes is both badly written and directed. It is also packed with scenery-chomping performances and cheesy special effects depicting mass destruction and bloated corpses. Finally, it is laced with pointless graphic sex, violence, and cerebral stylistic touches. Apparently somebody could not cope with the fact that the 1959 film ended the world without using any of that. In essence, On the Beach (2000) is one of the worst remakes ever.
Remakes like it, The In-Laws (2003), and The out of Towners (1999) and Planet of the Apes (2001) can be said to spring from Hollywood's "we're out of ideas" department. If you ask me, it is a department that needs to be abolished sooner rather than later!
Composite image created by Richard H. from images supplied by Wikimedia.