Seasons, like paychecks and Republican presidential front-runners, come and go. But some things remain constant. Like '80s remakes. And, specifically, their power to make us yawn.
This weekend saw the moviegoing public shrug off two more retreads, a revival of a 1984 Kevin Bacon classic and a prequel of a 1982 John Carpenter cult hit. "Footloose," that Bacon revival, pulled in $16.1 million -- not a terrible number, but considering how heavily the movie was marketed, not exactly auspicious, either. Results for "The Thing" looked more grisly -- the movie eked out only $8.7 million.
The films join a long list of '80s reboots that have yielded lackluster results: "Fright Night," "Conan," "The A-Team," "Arthur."
But whilem any specific '80s titles have failed, the ethos of that decade actually remains alive in some of moviedom's most popular films.
In "Drive," the well-reviewed art-house piece that has established a loyal fan base, Nicolas Winding Refn channels the spirit of "Miami Vice" and other pastel-colored entertainment. Throwback action movies such as "The Expendables' and "Fast Five," meanwhile, have turned into the biggest hits of the last couple of years. "Footloose" may have struggled, but its spiritual descendants, the "Step Up" films, has blossomed into one of the hottest teen franchises of the last few years.
And this summer J.J Abrams looked to the movies of the 1980s, like "Stand by Me" and "The Goonies," in creating his coming-of-age adventure "Super 8." The film went on to become a huge global hit.
There are good reasons we're looking back to the movies of several decades ago: There were some storytelling values to that period, for one thing, and there are only have so many stories to tell.
Even a contemporary director such as Jason Reitman, one of the more original-minded filmmakers out there, said he felt the ghosts of decades past when he gets behind the camera. "In a strange way, I always feel like I'm doing a remake," he told 24 Frames in an interview last week. "I mean, 'Thank You for Smoking' was 'Jerry Maguire' if Jerry sold cigarettes."
In a new column, my colleague Patrick Goldstein takes a look at why so many producers these days choose to resurrect the past, offering the theory that platforms such as Netflix and YouTube make a new generation more willing to accept older stories. "With a century of culture just a click away on any computer, young consumers have become the ultimate archivists, just as willing to embrace familiarity as innovation," he said.
In that sense, Hollywood is giving us what we want with these throwback pieces -- films that remind us of stories we've heard before. It's just that we prefer they don't remind us so explicitly.
Photo: The original "Footloose." Credit: Paramount Pictures