The worst American remakes of foreign Movies
Worst American remakes of foreign films: Delivery Man, Godzilla, Crackers, The Last Kiss, Taxi, Pure Luck, My Father, the Hero, Mixed Nuts, The Man with One Red Shoe, The Toy, Fathers’ Day
French-Canadian filmmaker Ken Scott went Hollywood with a remake of his comedy “Starbuck,” in which a debt-ridden man discovers his prolific sperm donations resulted in the siring of over 500 children. Vince Vaughn stars as the remarkably fertile main character, who, after learning the identities of the children, endeavors to make a small but positive influence on each of their lives. What’s intended to be heartwarming comes off as incredibly creepy. The final scene, where his hundreds of children visit him in the maternity ward where his wife has just given birth, is jaw-droppingly awful.
TriStar had toweringly high franchise hopes with Roland Emmerich’s remake of Ishirō Honda’s giant lizard flick, but the cornball warmth of “Independence Day” was nowhere to be found in this curiously flat film. The creature design was uninspired, Matthew Broderick was a wishy-washy lead and the action sequences, largely set at night, were incomprehensible. “Godzilla” was panned by critics and opened $50 million below expectations.
Long before Anthony and Joe Russo remade Mario Monicelli’s delightful caper comedy, “Big Deal on Madonna Street,” with “Welcome to Collinwood”, Louis Malle gave it a shot with this shockingly undercooked film starring Donald Sutherland, Sean Penn, Jack Warden and Wallace Shawn. Malle’s light touch makes the film feel slight; the characters are supposed to be lovable eccentrics, but they’re so thinly drawn that you can’t fall in love with them. Universal dumped the film in theaters, and it’s all but forgotten today.
“The Last Kiss”
Zach Braff was hot stuff coming off the insufferable “Garden State,” so Paramount had high hopes for this remake of Gabriele Muccino’s romantic comedy, “L’ultimo bacio.” They should’ve remade Enzo G. Castellari’s “L’ultimo squalo” instead. Braff got co-writing credit for the script (along with Paul Haggis), which deals with a young man who cheats on his pregnant girlfriend. It’s an incredibly misjudged movie. Braff is caustically unlikable in the lead role, while his two love interests, Jacinda Barrett and Rachel Bilson, exhibit zero chemistry with him.
Before he became the non-threatening and not-very-funny host of “The Tonight Show,” Jimmy Fallon flirted with movie stardom. This remake of Luc Besson’s “Taxi” drove a stake deep into the heart of that potential career. Fallon plays an inept cop who loses his license, which forces him to rely on an adept taxi driver (Queen Latifah) for transportation. It’s a direly unfunny film that features supermodel bank robbers, loads of incoherently staged action (courtesy of Tim Story) and the great Ann-Margret slumming it as Fallon’s mother.
We’re not done with remakes of Francis Veber comedies just yet. This redo of “La Chèvre” stars Martin Short and Danny Glover as a pair of mismatched investigators hired to track down the kidnapped daughter of a wealthy businessman. The film’s flimsy hook is that Short’s character has remarkably bad luck, which they hope will somehow lead him to the equally unlucky heiress. Yes, a sentient studio executive actually greenlit this. Short gives it his all, but the movie is wholly unworthy of his talent.
“My Father, the Hero”
“I’m dying now???” Francis Veber strikes again. This Steve Miner-directed adaptation of “Mon père, ce héros” stars Gérard Depardieu as a flustered father who can’t deal with his teenage daughter’s burgeoning sexuality — so, naturally, he pretends to be her lover as a means of helping her impress a guy she hopes to date. That Katherine Heigl was 15 and strutting around in a barely-there bikini gives the film an extra layer of scum.
Nora and Delia Ephron teamed up for this remake of “Le père Noël est une ordure” (aka “Santa Claus Is a Stinker”), which finds Steve Martin and a host of crisis counselors dealing with all manner of nut jobs on Christmas Eve. Despite a talented cast that includes Madeline Kahn, Robert Klein, Rob Reiner, Adam Sandler and Liev Schreiber, this is one of the most direly unfunny comedies ever made.
“The Man with One Red Shoe”
Francis Veber again. A remake of “The Tall Blonde Man with One Black Shoe” from the director of “Mr. Mom” and the writer of “Weekend at Bernie’s.” Tom Hanks was on the cusp of stardom in 1985, and this undercooked reworking of Veber’s zany spy satire nearly knocked him off his upward trajectory. It’s got a sleepy, almost druggy quality that undermines it every step of the way. Richard Kline’s soft-focus cinematography is all wrong for a broad comedy.
If you’re remaking a French comedy about a spoiled white brat who convinces his wealthy white father to hire a personal adult playmate, you might not want to cast a black actor as the exploited party. And yet. Richard Donner’s one of our most socially conscientious directors (he made white South Africans the bad guys in “Lethal Weapon 2” after all), but he did Richard Pryor dirty by having him find common cause with a neglected white kid (Scott Schwartz) who despises his racist Southern father (Jackie Gleason). Donner’s trying to make a film about tolerance, but the material is too thin.
Real-life friends Robin Williams and Billy Crystal joined forces with “Ghostbusters” director Ivan Reitman to make this depressingly unfunny variation on Francis Veber’s “Les Compères,” in which two men with a plausible claim to the paternity of a woman’s runaway child scramble to track down the errant scamp. It’s the worst kind of Hollywood comedy: contrived, overproduced and strangely pleased with itself. There’s a moment where Crystal borrows Jack Benny’s subversion of the spit take, and it’s a perfect metaphor for this production’s laboriousness.
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s masterful adaptation of Boileau-Narcejac’s “She Who Was No More,” in which two women (Simone Signoret and Véra Clouzot) conspire to kill their husband/paramour, cemented his reputation as “the French Hitchcock.” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vactaion” director Jeremiah Chechik was an odd choice to take on the Don Roos-scripted remake, but he had a knockout cast in Sharon Stone, Isabelle Adjani, Chazz Palminteri, Kathy Bates and Spalding Gray. Unfortunately, it’s more interested in being classy than suspenseful; it’s a tasteful non-starter.
Billy Wilder, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau: What could go wrong? Try everything. Francis Veber’s comedies slay in France and tend to die everywhere else, even when they’re adapted by Wilder and his longtime cohort I.A.L. Diamond. Wilder hated the finished product about an unlikely friendship between a hitman and a mob informant and never directed again.
“Blame It on Rio”
Once was more than enough with this ultra-creepy sex comedy about two 40-year-old men going on vacation with their comely teenage daughters, but Hollywood found it necessary to take a crack with no less than Stanley “Singin’ in the Rain” Donen at the helm. The film felt like a bad idea at the time and plays like a criminal act today. Michael Caine gets it on with the 17-year-old daughter (Michelle Johnson) of his best friend (Joseph Bologna) on the beach, kicking off the one of the most disturbing farces you’re ever going to see.
“And God Created Woman”
Roger Vadim tried and failed to cash in on the title of his 1956 sensation that launched Brigitte Bardot into superstardom with this top-down reworking starring Rebecca De Mornay. The films are completely different, but at least the original movie has a chintzy ‘50s allure and a ready-to-explode Bardot. The 1988 version stars De Mornay as an escaped prisoner who finds herself caught up in political campaign of a New Mexico governor hopeful played by Frank Langella. Vadim had completely lost his fastball by this point — not that he was much of a director to begin with.
Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal pulled a Sluizer by going Hollywood and mucking up his nifty 1994 thriller about a college student who gets embroiled in a serial killer investigation while working as a night watchman at a morgue. You might be tempted to check out the remake due to its stellar cast (Ewan McGregor, Nick Nolte, Patricia Arquette, Lauren Graham and Josh Brolin) and Steven Soderbergh pedigree, but keep in mind that the director was two years out from revitalizing his career with “Out of Sight” and needed the screenwriting work (of which he was not proud). There’s nothing here.
“The Wicker Man”
“Not the bees!” Neil LaBute torched whatever remained of his reputation with this unintentional howler. Robin Hardy’s original is an inimitable mixture of eerie Celtic mood and pulp detective fiction; it’s also a cult film with a small but dedicated following that had zero interest in an Americanized version of a beloved classic. That “The Wicker Man” bombed wasn’t surprising. That it was a full-tilt disaster with a singularly unhinged performance from Nicolas Cage at least gave it a second lease on life as a so-bad-it’s-kinda-brilliant oddity. It’s a pretty dull movie overall, but you do get to see Cage wreck shop in a bear suit, which ain’t poverty.
This limp Michael Caton-Jones reworking of Fred Zinnemann’s “The Day of the Jackal” is very much a film that doesn’t seem to know why it exists. Interestingly, it completely discards Frederick Forsyth’s novel (which centered on the assassination of French President Charles de Gaulle), and plods ahead with a low-stakes story of Bruce Willis’ hired killer seemingly stalking the director of the FBI. Richard Gere collects a paycheck as an Irish sniper (oof, that accent), while Sidney Poitier sleepwalks through his performance as the apparent target.
“The Italian Job”
Peter Collins’ 1969 caper flick is a deeply pleasurable slice of 1960s London style, right down to the lively Quincy Jones score and its Mini Cooper car chase finale. F. Gary Gray’s 2003 remake is generic Hollywood product right down to the casting of human oatmeal Mark Wahlberg and its uninspired redo of the Mini Cooper set piece. It’s professionally done but devoid of personality. It just sits there.
Michael Caine’s portrayal of a womanizer made him a movie star in the U.S. and earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Alas, the 2004 remake from director Charles Shyer wastes an effortlessly charming performance from Jude Law as it sands down the original’s caddish edges. We feel like Law’s Alfie knows better from the beginning, which renders his ultimate reformation unsurprising. His character doesn’t discover anything; he just makes a conscious decision to behave better.
“The Blue Angel”
20th Century Fox ill-advisedly tried to recapture lightning in a bottle with this Edward Dmytryk-directed remake of the 1930 German film that launched Marlene Dietrich’s career. Marilyn Monroe wisely turned down the lead role, leaving poor May Britt to suffer the critical slings and arrows. Britt’s a stunning beauty, but she lacks Dietrich’s overpowering joie de vivre. The entire film is curiously timid, as if everyone involved knew they were making a horrible mistake.
“City of Angels”
Wim Wenders’ tale of an angel who gives up immortality to experience what it is to be human and in love gets a saccharine makeover from director Brad Silberling in this commercially successful redo. The soundtrack was an unexpected sensation, powered by the Goo Goo Dolls’s ballad “Iris,” but the film lacks the delicate whimsy of Wenders’ original. It’s an unrelenting, go-for-the-throat tearjerker that leaves you feeling worked over instead of genuinely moved.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s J-horror classic about ghosts lurking in the internet draws most of its terrifying power from its dream-logic ambiguity. You’re not entirely sure what’s happening or why, and this imprecision frays your nerves through to the apocalyptic conclusion. Wes Craven was set to write and direct the remake, but Dimension Films’ Bob Weinstein decided he wanted a piece of garbage, and that’s what music video director Jim Sonzero delivered. The eerie atmosphere of the original has been replaced with jump scares and conventional plotting. It’s the nadir of Hollywood’s J-horror redos.
“Point of No Return”
Pauline Kael famously called Luc Besson’s style-way-over-substance action flick, “La Femme Nikita”, “the end of French cinema as we know it” — which probably did as much to sell Hollywood on the idea of a remake as the film itself. Besson’s original is sleek and sexy thanks to Anne Parillaud’s moody portrayal of the title hitwoman and Thierry Arbogast’s perfume commercial cinematography. The John Badham-directed remake is cloddish apery that wastes some game performances from Bridget Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Harvey Keitel (who steps in for Jean Reno as Victor the Cleaner). Badham seems completely unaware that Besson’s movie works precisely because it’s a riff on the by-the-numbers Hollywood action film he’s making.
When Dutch filmmaker George Sluizer went Hollywood, he really went Hollywood. Having crafted a suspense classic with his chilling adaptation of Tim Krabbé’s novella, “The Golden Egg,” Sluizer decided to deliver the dumbed-down studio remake himself, thus torpedoing his reputation. Whereas Sluizer’s original film concludes on the bleakest of notes, the remake does precisely what you’d expect a Hollywood remake to do. It’s a stunningly contemptuous film right down to the final flourish, which finds Kiefer Sutherland and Nancy Travis turning their ordeal into book deal.
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The Worst American Remakes of Foreign Movies
There’s nothing Hollywood likes more than a proven formula. If a story worked once, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work again; hence the industry’s love for remakes. This extends in particular to foreign films, which tend to be relegated to art houses.
If a movie from another country garnered critical acclaim and/or did well at the global box office, Hollywood would rather put its own spin on the material than let original artists gain a foothold in the US market. Unsurprisingly, this has often led to disaster. Sometimes the brilliance of a film is lost in translation; other times, the studios just completely misunderstand what made the first movie great.