I'll be the first to admit that Road House is not a good movie. It's silly, misogynistic, violent, stupid, and outrageously fun. It stars Patrick Swayze as a tough-as-nails bouncer. It has Terry Funk and John Doe and it's directed by a guy named Rowdy. It's the kind of movie that can never be improved, because it's so perfectly representative of its era of filmmaking.
Still, MGM is convinced that a remake of Road House is something for which the masses are clamoring. They've tapped Rob Cohen to direct, whose previous directorial outings include Daylight, The Fast and the Furious, xXx, and Alex Cross.
But the problem isn't Rob Cohen (though his filmography isn't one that inspires a lot of confidence); it's that studios insist on remaking the wrong films. They remake movies that are either very good or very passionately loved, or they pump them out with no regard for improving them, making their own vision or even making a coherent film. Here's an A-(nearly) Z list of remakes, though hardly a complete one, just in the past few years that are either an abomination or at least never needed to exist:
Arthur (2011, dir. Jason Winer)
Bad News Bears (2005, dir. Richard Linklater)
Carrie (2013, dir. Kimberly Peirce)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008, dir. Scott Derrickson)
Evil Dead (2013, dir. Fede Alvarez)
Footloose (2011, dir. Craig Brewer)
Guess Who (2005, dir. Kevin Rodney Sullivan)
The Heartbreak Kid (2007, dirs. Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly)
I Am Legend (2007, dir. Francis Lawrence)
The Jackal (1997, dir. Michael Caton-Jones)
The Karate Kid (2010, dir. Harald Zwart)
The Last House on the Left (2009, dir. Dennis Iliadis)
Mr. Deeds (2002, dir. Stephen Brill)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010, dir. Samuel Bayer)
Oldboy (2013, dir. Spike Lee)
Poseidon (2006, dir. Wolfgang Petersen)
Quarantine (2008, dir. John Erick Dowdle)
Red Dawn (2012, dir. Dan Bradley)
The Stepford Wives (2004, dir. Frank Oz)
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009, dir. Tony Scott)
The Wicker Man (2006, dir. Neil LaBute)
Yours, Mine and Ours (2005, dir. Raja Gosnell)
Some of these films are by good directors, even arguably great directors. The problem isn't even that all of these films are "bad" (though some of them are – I'm looking at you, Wicker Man), it's that they're attempting to remake films that are respected and/or loved, which is nearly impossible. It requires both a deft touch and a respect for both the original and its fans that is usually lacking in major studios. The source material is important, too. While I think remakes of foreign films are usually ill-advised, when done well they can take on their own personality and be made more accessible to American audiences that are too often unfamiliar with the context of foreign films.
I think that a better idea is to remake BAD movies, movies that have a great central conceit that just didn't work. Dredd was a great example of a remake done right, but also a perfect example of why remakes AREN'T made for the right reasons. Dredd took a popular property that was made into a terrible movie and updated it (and it even passes the Bechdel test!), but it made $41 million, 36% of the gross of the original and just short of the production cost. Was it the R-rating? The bad taste left by the original? Whatever the reason, it's the kind of result that will leave the major studios remaking The Crow, Poltergeist, RoboCop, The Thin Man, and The Warriors (all actual remakes coming down the pipeline).
That being said, I can't pretend that all remakes of very good and very beloved movies are bad. Here's a quick list of remakes, well-known and not so much, that were done right:
The Birdcage (1996, dir. Mike Nichols), based on La Cage aux Folles (1978, dir. Édouard Molinaro)
Cape Fear (1991, dir. Martin Scorsese), based on Cape Fear (1962, dir. J. Lee Thompson)
Dawn of the Dead (2004, dir. Zack Snyder), based on Dawn of the Dead (1978, dir. George Romero)
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988, dir. Frank Oz), based on Bedtime Story (1964, dir. Ralph Levy)
Gone in 60 Seconds (2000, dir. Dominic Sena), based on Gone in 60 Seconds (1974, dir. H.B. Halicki)*
Insomnia (2002, dir. Christopher Nolan), based on Insomnia (1997, dir. Erik Skjoldbjærg)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, dir. Philip Kaufman), based on Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, dir. Don Siegel)
Little Shop of Horrors (1986, dir. Frank Oz), based on Little Shop of Horrors (1960, dir. Roger Corman)
The Magnificent Seven (1960, dir. John Sturges), based on Seven Samurai (1954, dir. Akira Kurosawa)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956, dir. Alfred Hitchcock), based on The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
The Manchurian Candidate (2004, dir. Jonathan Demme), based on The Manchurian Candidate (1962, dir. John Frankenheimer)
Ocean's Eleven (2001, dir. Steven Soderbergh), based on Ocean's Eleven (1960, dir. Lewis Milestone)
The Parent Trap (1998, dir. Nancy Meyers), based on The Parent Trap (1961, dir. David Swift)
Piranha 3D (2010, dir. Alexandre Aja), based on Piranha (1978, dir. Joe Dante)
Ransom (1996, dir. Ron Howard), based on Ransom! (1956, dir. Alex Sagal)
The Ring (2002, dir. Gore Verbinski), based on Ringu (1998, dir. Hideo Nakata)
Vanilla Sky (2001, dir. Cameron Crowe), based on Abre Los Ojos (1997, dir. Alejandro Amenábar)
Victor/Victoria (1982, dir. Blake Edwards), based on Viktor und Viktoria (1933, dir. Reinhold Schunzel)
What have I missed? What are some films that you would like to see remade? What do you fear will be remade? And what quality remakes have I left off the list?
*I LOVE THIS MOVIE AND WILL DEFEND IT FOREVER.