More remakes

* The word has arrived of Steven Spielberg‘s new project, it’s a remake of a particular favorite of mine, Mary Chase’s terrific play “Harvey,” best known for the solid 1950 film version starring Jimmy Stewart in one of his best roles. (He reprised the part for TV in 1972.) Nikki Finke mentions Tom Hanks‘ name for the plum lead role of Elwood P. Dowd, a grown man who believes his best buddy and constant companion is an invisible 6’6″ rabbit. I’ve also seen Will Smith‘s name floated for it (he’s maybe a bit young for the part, still), but any number of actors could take this one on in fine fashion. It’s also possible Hanks might be a bit leery about stepping into a role so closely associated with the actor he’s most often compared to, but therein may lie the challenge, too. Jeffrey Wells inveighs against the project, in the usual terms. I think it’s fine, as long as Spielberg and writer Jonathon Tropper bring something new and worthwhile of their own to this version.

One interesting aspect here is the way that our present age is in some respects more puritanical than America in 1950, particularly as it relates to drinking. Most modern viewers would likely regard Elwood Dowd as an alcoholic today. (In the old days, I remember that TV Guide referred to him as a “gentle tippler.”) Will Spielberg and Tropper try to send Elwood to rehab? I say, no, no, no. Also, I sure hope Wells is wrong about the CGI Harvey. That would pretty much eliminate the whole point of the tale. This is not “Roger Rabbit.”

* I’m a bit late on this, but the planned remake of the Michael Curtiz-directed Errol Flynn swashbuckler — or, to be more kind, the new adaptation of the 1922 Rafael Sabatini novel of derring-do on the high seas — should really be called “Captain Blood in Outer Space” now. By the way, the 1935 “Captain Blood” was actually the second version of the tale to be made in Hollywood. Damn remakes.

* One way to avoid the whole “remakes bad” thing is to use a movie that hardly anyone in your target audience has seen. The French spy thriller, “Anthony Zimmer,” may be available through Netflix, but it there are only three reviews posted of the 2005 film on Rotten Tomatoes, which means it likely only showed in the U.S. at festivals and the like. When the new version, renamed “The Tourist,” comes out with Charlize Theron and Sam Worthington, will anyone remember “Zimmer”?

* Anne Thompson has some thoughts on the general timidity of Hollywood. She’s not wrong, particularly when it comes to the endless recycling of once-hot properties, but — at the risk of repeating myself — I really do think that most of the complaining is off-base to the extent that there’s really nothing new under the sun and that even “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet” were essentially remakes the very first time they ever appeared on an Elizabethan stage. When remakes are good (say, “3:10 to Yuma“) no one complains, though too many forget the original. When remakes are bad (“The Wicker Man“, which was worse than bad, actually), well, the fault is not in the idea of remakes but in what the filmmaker decided to do with the material.

  

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