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Will the 'Arthur' box-office results put the kibosh on '80s remakes?

April 11, 2011 |  7:00 am


If you're keeping score, it's successful '80s remakes: 2, unsuccessful '80s remakes: 2.

The tally was evened up over the weekend when "Arthur" failed to click with audiences. Russell Brand's take on the alcoholic playboy that Dudley Moore made famous in 1981 barely hung on to second place on the weekend box-office chart, behind the second week of an original bunny comedy ("Hop") and just ahead of an original father-daughter action movie ("Hanna"), for a disappointing total of $12.6 million.
Putting aside the rather different case of hard-core genre films, the '80s movie remakes that could be called successful now include "Clash of the Titans" and "The Karate Kid," while "Fame" is the other unsuccessful one. (The score doesn't really improve when you throw in reboots of '80s TV shows such as "The A-Team.")

You could pick at the creative choices made by Warner Bros. and director Jason Winer, but in analyzing the "Arthur" failure, it's hard to avoid the remake factor. Filmmakers thought they were getting a ride inside the safe confines of a known title, which is pretty much the main rationale for a remake in the first place. They were, instead, battered by comparisons with the original.
That's certainly the case with critics, and judging by the comments that poured in last week about the movie, many ordinary people also felt Hollywood was tinkering with something that wasn't broken.
"The most significant changes? Dudley Moore and Sir John Gielgud have passed away, and a studio executive greenlit this misbegotten remake," wrote one 24 Frames commenter. (Fun thought experiment: Would the reaction have been more generous if the new Brand comedy was pretty much the same movie but with a different title?)

It's probably too early in the remake renaissance to draw broad conclusions -- or, for that matter, for studio executives to put all of their '80's remakes on ice. But it's not too soon to wonder if the remakes that work best come from originals that were liked -- but not revered. Whatever you thought about the new "Karate Kid," you didn't hear a lot of people talking about how Hollywood shouldn't try to replicate the acting feats of Ralph Macchio. Ditto for Harry Hamlin and "Clash of the Titans." (It's also worth noting that "Arthur" was Hollywood's first remake in recent memory of a film that targeted an upscale adult audience. It may, after this weekend, also be one of the last.)
"Footloose," "Conan the Barbarian" and "Fright Night" loom as the next batch of '80s remakes. None of them are hallowed names -- though among a certain set, "Footloose" comes close -- and thus few risk running into the "Arthur" problem. Still, the weekend offers little evidence that familiarity could help. In fact, it looks more and more like it could hurt.

--Steven Zeitchik


Critical Mass: "Arthur" stumbles, but not because he's drunk

Russell Brand's "Hop" leaps way over his new film

"Arthur" director defends his remake: It allows us to make a movie we couldn't have otherwise made

Photo: Russell Brand in "Arthur." Credit: Warner Bros.

Comments () | Archives (25)

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Russell Brand as "Arthur" is akin to casting Justin Bieber as "The Karate Kid." On top of the absurdness of aping the signature role of Dudley Moore, Brand's performance in the trailers was dreadful.

Once can only hope.

Haven't seen it. From the commercials it seems to be a sad attempt at best. The original was delightful and charming something that seems to be missing here.

It is NOT Arthur so much as DEAR and ENGAGING. Russell Brand is DELIGHTFUL and someone I will pay to see again. I loved the fact he wasn't a falling down drunk (and I loved DM's original) because we live in a time when slobberingly drunk & disabled is best served up by the likes of Charlie Sheen - the reality deal. We know Russell's recovering, we love that about him. Who better to play today's "Arthur"? This movie doesn't glorify a trainwreck, but peeks into a dear heart - a few of them - and has a WINNING end. Helen Mirren was the glue, no doubt - her presence gave this film that might have been too light weight a rich and DEAR quality. I laughed (no belly-laughs, but chuckles) and cried (real tears) because it was a DEAR movie and I betcha it has legs over time.

It's not the era during which the film originated that caused the problem. It's the fact that one of the most annoying people on the planet is playing the title role.

Has everyone in Hollywood run out of original ideas? If so, there are millions of people frequenting the film festival market with scripts in hand.
This remake fever seems like so much laziness.
("Don't bother being creative, just copy something.")
I used to blame it on the cocaine.
Now I just blame it on sloth.

It might be '70s instead of '80s, but add "True Grit" into the mix of remakes and the hypothesis fails. "True Grit" was a hallowed movie, starring perhaps the nation's most revered movie star (John Wayne). On its face, the notion of a "True Grit" remake falls into the, "What, are you nuts!?" category.

But despite being taking on an iconic, Oscar performance by John Wayne, and targeting "an upscale adult audience," the Cohen Bros. effort was a raging success on all fronts. Which begs the question, if it's not the target audience or the retread of a revered performance, what really explains the difference between the "True Grit" ecstasy and the "Arthur" face-plant?

In a word: Quality.

"True Grit" excelled in all areas; "Arther" in almost none. Russell Brant turned in a credible performance, but between an uninspired and unoriginal script, hackneyed directing and phoned-in editing, "Arthur" is not so much a remake as a caricature.

Audiences will respond to quality remakes. They always have. "Arthur" fails on its merits, not its history.

I can't wait till they make a remake of the remake of the remake of Superman.

As Sir John Geilgud so eloquently said in the original Arthur...."Please stop that".

There are movies that I guess one could contemplate remaking, or even sequel, but the likes of Arthur, Ferris Beuller's Day Off, Animal House and the like aren't the ones. Footloose will be a total fiasco...and I didn't even see that movie back in the day...but people have a taste for that movie from that era because it brings them good memories and the joys of their youth...they don't want some Hollywood schmuck remaking it with todays flavor of the month "stars" from Gossip Girl or some other teeny bopper show...and we don't want to see someone try to put some politically correct spin on a luvable yet flawed character in the original Arthur!

Geez, we knew then that Arthur was an irresponsible drunk and womanizer...but his redeeming quality is that all he was really searching for was love....and he found that ....Arthur in rehab is about as entertaining as watching Bogart complain about his nicotine patch in a remake of Casablanca.

The studio would have been better off re relaeasing the movie on the 30th anniversary of the movie...

To play it really safe, studios should only make the same movie over and over. they can call it "Batman, fill in the blank here".

It isn't a simple case of bombing because it was an "80's" movie/tv show. They are bombing because:

2) You simply do not remake a movie in which the original was not only good, but iconic.

Go ahead and continue the remakes, but remake movies where the original bombed. But make sure it doesn't suck, too.

In answer to the headline question: One can only hope. Hollywood is best when it creates new material, or makes cinematic material from another medium. When the industry turns backward for inspiration, it becomes like the Reagan administration by underlying that things may have been once better. When it scrapes the bottom while looking backward, it may be destroying the underpinnings of a once powerful art.

There are lots of film-makers and writers around just waiting to get a break. Please give them a try, it will be the next big wave in the business!

Why would anyone be surprised when you do a remake with this talentless hack Russell Brand?? It serves the producers right to think that this turd could play anything but a milkman. But, there is good news: Perhaps the Obama Administration can find a place for him in its crumbling kitchen cabinet...

To respond to your fun thought experiment: Moviegoers who remember the original "Arthur" would recognize the film as a remake even under a different title. Hollywood has been on a regurgitation cycle for quite a while now, though maybe it's simply because there's more movies in the past to recycle than there have been before. There have always been remakes - "The Maltese Falcon" was made twice before John Huston directed Humphrey Bogart in the role of Sam Spade, for example. I think the new "Arthur" fared poorly because Russell Brand is not a star with any depth. The original "Arthur" wasn't Wilde or Shaw, by any means, but there was more than simple gloss and "winky" jokes. Brand gets by on props and popular culture references and to a lot of people, he's just off-putting. This isn't necessarily a moratorium on 80's remakes.

I read on Yahoo recently that Will Smith's daughter is going to star in a remake of "Annie." Produced, of course, by Will and Jada Smith. GMAFB.

What happened to creativity? Copycats...esh!

Russel Brand creeps me out. No way was I going to see this movie.

Another mistake of the current era: put the blame on something other than where it belongs, and write an article about it to stir up the masses.

While I loathe the current sloth of Hollywood as much as the next sentient being, "Remake Madness" is not the reason this movie fell below expectations. This comes down to 2 things: the actor and the director. Dudley totally sold me on being drunk. Russell never did, not even for a moment. This is not to say that Russell is a poor actor; just that he didn't do it this time. Further, the decision to sanitize the story to make it relevant for today was a failwaiting to happen. It is folly to clean up a story we already know so well. Newsflash to Hollywood: True Grit (an under-age girl hires a mercenary to kill her father's kiler) is not relevant for today, but it was a damn fine movie (both times).

To Directors: with remakes, it's not about you. It's about the story.

In a super limited release, we saw Super last weekend. Don't miss it as it's a keeper.

I'm satisfied. I knew this movie would bomb because Russell Brand is an arrogant neanderthal for thinking he could replace Dudley Moore's magic.

Arthur is supposed to be lovable. I can't even stand to look at Russell Brand let alone accept him as lovable.

What they need to do is reboot it with a different actor. The original was a great movie, why only try to remake it once? So it bombed, try again! They should really do this with all movies, shoot two versions with different cast and directors (at the same time to save money) put one out, if it bombs, try again, even the hulk made money eventually! BTW Casablanca needs a reboot BAD! Or at least a sequel! I mean the story of Rick and Captain Renaults beautiful friendship! C'mon, its gotta happen!

Conan isn't a remake, it's a new adaptation of a character created in the 1930s. You might as well consider Nolan's Batman films to be "remakes" of Tim Burton's '80s films. It faces an entirely different problem from "Arthur": pleasing the legions of Robert E. Howard and Conan fans, in addition to those clinging to the 1982 film and those who just dismiss it as another remake.

How many of you whiners have even seen this remake? One should never judge a thing without any experience of it. This is especially true of cinema. I have seen both. The original was good, but I found this version to be much better. The theatre I experienced the new version in was only half full sadly (though, it should be noted that the theatre was by no means small really), but it kept the entire audience laughing their very pleasantly suprised rumps off! I adored the move and would certainly pay another $12 to see it again. I am already looking very forward to the dvd release. I was that good! I never had any interest in purchasing the original and have only watched it once. I highly recommend it to all of you who have felt the need to prejudge based on such flimsy reasons. I fully believe you will find yourselves laughing and crying just as everyone who saw on the day I was fortunate enough to.

Just can't get past his looks....every time i see this dude the words "bath please" pop in my big-o head


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