Did Sylvester Stallone invent a new sub-genre? Setting out to demonstrate that the musclebound bigger-than-life eighties-style action star still draws, Sly’s The Expendables — now at a robust $64 million two-week box-office haul — may instead have shined a light on a new Hollywood cash-making operation: When your genre of choice is no longer sustainable, wait for the opportune moment, gather up a few of its biggest names, stuff them together in one last dated go-round, and watch nostalgia pull in audiences by the boatload.
Sly would argue that The Expendables succeeded because audiences are sick of unconventionally skinny and angsty ass-kickers, but that’s too broad of a generalization. And that’s because The Expendables isn’t an updating of the comatose eighties action flick for today’s market, a demonstration that straight-ahead beefy action stars are still relevant. The Expendables, rather, is every eighties action flick — plucked from their origin decade and smashed together to slavishly revive every convention and actor from back in the Donner/Harlin/McTiernan glory days — and plopped into modern movie theaters. It was engineered and marketed as a supersize nostalgia exhibition: The cameos from Schwarzenegger and Willis gave it retro credibility, with the implicit connection being that the big dumb brawny contemporaries in the overstuffed cast (Statham, Crews, Li, etc.) would be doing their best to live up to the golden era. And audiences have been unable to resist the bloody trip down memory lane. (By the way, that kids too young to see Stallone’s movies in theaters are going to The Expendables as well does make sense; they’re nostalgic, too, only their nostalgia is built on repeated viewings of Cliffhanger on cable).
No doubt Hollywood will embrace what could be a lucrative new genre: the nostalgiapalooza? The template is clear: a once lively genre, some of that genre’s big names, and a screenplay that blissfully ignores the years since the genre was last relevant. So what other moribund genres are ready for revisiting?
Vulture Studios suggests:
Late-Nineties Teen Horror: Scream 4 is already on the docket with Neve Campbell, the franchise’s original star, and a slew of respectable new names like Kieran Culkin and Adam Brody. But post-Expendables, Kevin Williams and Wes Craven may want to reconsider that casting. If tapping the vein of teen-horror nostalgia, why not go for the jugular with some of the genre’s greats? We’re thinking I Know What You Did Last Summer’s Freddie Prinze Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillipe as a terrifying pack of new Ghostface killers, and Urban Legend’s Alicia Witt as Neve Campbell’s sassy new best friend. If this succeeds, producers should look into more vintage-WB-sploitation. Maybe a Valentine’s Day–style ensemble rom-com exclusively starring secondary cast members from Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Mid-Nineties Generation-X Dramedy: There will forever be movies made about young people not knowing what to do with their lives; they just won’t ever again feature as much [pick one: goatees/loose fitting flannel/Soundgarden]. For this, we’d love to see a group of friends — played by Reality Bites’ Ethan Hawke and Janeane Garofalo, Kicking and Screaming’s Josh Hamilton, Chris Eigeman, and Parker Posey, and Singles’ Campbell Scott, with Winona Ryder in a Schwarzenegger-esque cameo — returning to the campus of their small northeastern liberal arts college for a whirlwind reunion weekend full of ill-advised hook-ups and lengthy, coffee-fueled conversations. For best results, wait long enough that you can convince Noah Baumbach to direct.
Traditional Pro-America Men-on-a-Mission War Movie: Inglourious Basterds was a tribute, but its glorious skewering of the history books meant your dad had no interest in seeing it. But if we were to once again assemble a team to accurately re-create a daring rescue mission from the annals of WWII? Hello, best-ever Father’s Day weekend opening! We’re talking The Dirty Dozen’s Ernest Borgnine, Kelly’s Heroes’ Donald Sutherland, A Bridge Too Far’s James Caan, The Eagle Has Landed’s Robert Duvall, and — oh hell yes — Where Eagles Dare’s Clint Eastwood, just realistically killing Nazis all over the place.
Interracial Buddy Action-Comedy: Has it been too long since you saw two men of different races, thrown together thanks to a series of contrivances, grudgingly overcome their initial dislike for one another in a comical/occasionally violent fashion? Us too! Now picture it on a grand scale: Rush Hour’s Jackie Chan, 48 Hour’s Nick Nolte, and Money Talks’ Charlie Sheen on one side; Rush Hour’s Chris Tucker, 48 Hour’s Eddie Murphy, and Money Talks’ Chris Tucker (playing a second, even more boisterous character) on the other. Maybe, rival bowling teams on the run trying to clear their name from mistaken-identity FBI terrorist accusations?
Okay, what forgotten genre do you want to see get Expendable’d?