Are you longing to see “Two and a Half Men,” 30 feet tall? Does the concept of Danny DeVito in “ALF: The Movie” exert a force strong enough to pull 10 dollars out of your wallet? Would you be more inclined to see an “L.A. Law” movie than you would one with a group of lawyers who just happen to reside in Los Angeles?
Hollywood thinks so, and with a summer movie season featuring more TV remakes than any other in recent memory, the question has to be asked: How far is Hollywood willing to go?
“This is a big challenge,” Cedric the Entertainer said of taking on the role of Ralph Kramden, one of the top TV icons of all time, “what with Jackie Gleason being such a legendary figure and it being such a great piece of nostalgic television. People love it.”
People love it so much, in fact, that this month’s “The Honeymooners” retains the classic program’s name even though the race and era of the characters have both been completely changed. Now, Kramden’s classic tirades toward bumbling chum Ed Norton have been softened, while his threats to send wife Alice “to the moon” have vanished in a haze of spousal-abuse paranoia.
“Everything has to be politically correct now,” Cedric said. “You can’t go the other way.”
Will anybody truly be happy, however, when old fans show up to find only a slight resemblance to their beloved classic, while younger crowds are bored by a film genuflecting in the direction of decades-old source material they’ve never seen?
At least “Bewitched,” the big-budget version of the witch-as-a-housewife sitcom starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, is taking a more unique approach.
“I play Samantha,” Kidman remarked, before correcting herself. “No, I play Isabel, who’s actually very much like Samantha. It’s quite clever, the way they’ve managed to do it, because really she is what Samantha would be now.”
Isabel is a real-life witch, cast unknowingly in a TV remake of “Bewitched” opposite a washed-up actor (Ferrell), who then falls in love with her and finds life imitating art. The “Being John Malkovich”-esque setup has real actors remaking a show, playing fake actors remaking that same show. It sounds creative enough, but how will fans react when they realize that the concept removes memorable characters like Larry Tate, while reducing Uncle Arthur and the nosy Kravitzes to brief cameos?
When stuck with the choice of staying faithful to a beloved television show or giving it a postmodern makeover, there is always a third option: Remake a show that nobody remembers.
Angelina Jolie will allow that “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is “kind of” like the same-named 1996 series that was canceled after a handful of episodes. “It was a Maria Bello/ Scott Bakula show,” co-star Adam Brody reported a week before the movie came out. “I’ve heard that, but I never saw it. I didn’t know this until a month ago.”
Then there’s “The Dukes of Hazzard,” a raucous remake of a show that milked 147 episodes out of the recurring image of an orange car jumping over a ravine. “When I was younger I used to actually watch the show,” new Daisy Duke Jessica Simpson recently recalled, adding that she and her young friends pretended they were members of the moonshine-running clan. “I was Daisy. My cousins were Bo and Luke. We’d always play ’Dukes of Hazzard.’ ”
Perhaps Simpson remembers, then, that even in its heyday, the most ardent “Dukes” fan wouldn’t be caught dead saying the show was any good. It was pure cheese. So, if the film promises to give us the same story on a grander scale, does that mean it will attempt to be even worse?
There are four different TV remakes this summer. Those films that succeed could determine the future of this recycling process. With scripts already in various stages of development for everything from “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” to “The A-Team,” even the stars see no end in sight, and no limitations on which sacred cows could be milked again.
“I would have to go with my girl from ’Will & Grace,’ Debra Messing,” Cedric replied when asked to cast a big-screen version of “I Love Lucy.”
“Who would make a great Archie Bunker?” Mike Epps from “The Honeymooners” mused about who could play the “All in the Family” patriarch. “Jack Black. He’s just a little Archie. Just cut his hair, and he’s a little Archie.”
“John Goodman?” Ferrell guessed, no doubt picturing the former “Roseanne” star sitting in Archie’s iconic easy chair. “You don’t like it, do you?”
Whether we do or not, who’s to say it will never happen? “Ooh, Nelly,” Gabrielle Union said of a potential candidate to bring George Jefferson (“The Jeffersons”) back to life. “He’s got that little swagger. He looks sweet and innocent, kind of like Sherman Hemsley, but he can let you have it.”
To compete with all those other big-screen TV shows, there’s no doubt that producers would eventually dust off a famous leather jacket and bring “Happy Days” into the 21st century.
“Who would be a cool Fonzie nowadays?” thought Cedric. “Colin Farrell? He’d probably be the coolest Fonzie. Yeah, that’d be all right.”
“Sean Penn, right?” asked Ferrell. “He’d bring tough coolness, and he’d look good in a leather jacket.”
And if the ante were raised by having an actor snap those famous Fonz fingers, then it seems that someone would eventually have to step in to the thick-glasses and hiked-up polyester pants of Steve Urkel (“Family Matters”). “Dulé Hill of ’The West Wing,’ [who plays] Charlie,” Union insisted, going a bit obscure. “Remember when Urkel became Stefan and he went through the machine? I think Dulé would be able to handle that transition from Urkel to Stefan.”
“I think Will Smith would make a great Urkel,” Ferrell conjectured. “A sexy Urkel.”
The only TV remake actor, it seems, who wouldn’t play the dream casting game is Nicole Kidman. She would, however, name a show that she’d pay to see on the big screen.
“I would like to see ’Get Smart,’ ” Kidman offered, before being told that actor Steve Carell is currently working on that very movie, stepping into the phone-ringing shoes of Maxwell Smart.
“Oh, well Steve’s in ’Bewitched,’ ” she said of her co-star, who plays Uncle Arthur in the film. “He’s perfect then for that. No, we never talked about it,” she admitted, laughing.
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