Generally I cringe at remakes, mostly because it’s a lose-lose situation. Either the remake overshadows the greatness of the original and a new generation doesn’t come to know its original source, or it’s horrible and it repels people from trying out the far superior original. Of course, this only matters if you liked the original, but seeing as how Hollywood is taking aim at a lot of my beloved 80s classics, I actually do care.
But I’m willing to put aside my grudges today to quickly mention five remakes that I actually enjoy — and endorse.
1. She’s the Man (2006)
A remake of: Just One of the Guys (1985) and Twelfth Night (1601)
She’s the Man might not be a straight ripoff of Just One of the Guys, but it’s so close that it’s generally accepted that STM is a spiritual successor at worst. Both films have a very similar plot, of a girl who transfers to another school as a guy, falls in love with her new best friend, and at some point, takes her top off. Also, the posters.
Just One of the Guys is one of the 80s best guilty pleasures and a personal favorite, but She’s the Man charmed the socks right off of me from the start. I think both are equally good because they have great lead actresses who seem just as stymied about guys as guys generally are about girls.
2. The Karate Kid (2010)
A remake of: The Karate Kid (1984)
There was a lot of resistance to this Jackie Chan remake/reboot/name stealer when it came out, but a lot of the anger left the room when the movie turned out to be kind of… decent. Now, you’re not going to get me to admit that it’s just as good as Daniel-san’s first outing or even as memorable, but it’s a decent flick in its own right and should be left alone. I don’t think it even nudged the first Karate Kid from its place as a generational icon and incredibly quotable movie, however.
Plus, mean Chinese kids can’t top the rowdy boys of Cobra Kai!
3. Ocean’s 11 (2001)
A remake of: Oceans 11 (1960)
I’ve never seen the original and have heard that even the Rat Pack’s presence had a hard time bearing up a sub-average film. The remake, however, was pure cinematic gold. It was funny, clever, and full to the brim with great actors who shared the stage instead of trying to hog it. It’s kind of a no-brainer to go for this remake and just forget the original.
4. The Fly (1986)
A remake of: The Fly (1958)
Here’s another remake where I haven’t seen the original but probably don’t need to to know how much better its retuned version ended up being. Horror gets lots and lots of remakes, and while many of them flop terribly (Nightmare on Elm Street, anyone?), sometimes the advance in special effects and general moviemaking turn out a superior product. The Fly has a great science fiction edge while retaining body horror up the wazoo. Even the sequel is pretty watchable.
5. Casino Royale (2006)
A remake of: Casino Royale (1954) and Casino Royale (1967)
I’m willing to bet that many audiences didn’t realize that Daniel Craig’s awesome Casino Royale had been adapted twice before. Considering that one of those was a cruddy made-for-TV movie and the other a near-incomprehensible parody (which I’ve seen), I don’t blame them. Even without its predecessors, I’m still in awe that the screenwriters took a rather weak James Bond story and turned it into a gripping movie that effectively rebooted the entire franchise.