The past few years have seen an uptick in the number of big-screen remakes of Hollywood classics and non-classics, with the bulk of these films revisiting beloved properties from the 1980s. Remakes and reboots of Karate Kid, Clash of the Titans, and Nightmare on Elm Street, amongst others, were released last year, with Footloose and Red Dawn due out in the coming months. This past weekend’s new release Arthur was the first comedy to come out of this recent slew of rehashes, an effort to update the hit 1981 Dudley Moore film by replacing Moore with fellow Brit Russell Brand. Arthur’s underperformance at the box office this weekend should discourage executives from further pillaging Hollywood’s library of past comedies and to stick with horror and action remakes that are usually much more profitable and easier to pull off gracefully. Nevertheless, the new version of Arthur failing to set the world on fire isn’t going to completely stop comedy remakes from coming down the pipeline, as the success of recent non-comedy remakes and sequels has proven that ‘80s nostalgia is strong enough to illicit interest in the right franchises.
Before you cry foul with “I can’t believe they’re remaking X or Y,” just think of all of the comedies that aren’t being remade — the ones that everyone agrees are untouchable. Keep in mind: it’s rarely the iconic, genre-defining comedies that are the victims of this sort of behavior. No one ever tried to remake the Marx Brothers, and the works of Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Monty Python are safe for the time being. These projects seem to be off-limits and are tied in so well with the voices of the writers and actors involved that they’d be impossible to remake in any sort of acceptable way. Most exceptional classics are safe, while the types of comedies that usually get remade are the above-average, average, or bad-but-successful comedies. Take the original Arthur for example, which is above-average and a favorite of mine, but by no means an iconic piece of comedic cinema on par with Airplane!, Spinal Tap, or The Jerk, which are all considered sacred.
Updated versions of many past hits are currently in various states of development, as big stars and studios are itching to modernize their favorite films. Here’s a quick rundown of the statuses of several pending remakes of well-known comedy films. Any comedy not listed here isn’t in danger of being remade in the near future.
Fright Night (1985) — A remake of this surprise hit horror-comedy is due out this August, and it’s the only comedy remake on this list that has moved beyond the development project to go into production. Humor was a big part of the original Fright Night, which followed a teenager convinced his new neighbor is a vampire. The remake doesn’t seem to be shying away from the comedy side, although it is a little too soon to tell how it’ll be tonally. Craig Gillespie, director of comedies Lars and the Real Girl and Mr. Woodcock is helming the project, with Christopher Mintz-Plasse taking over the role of Evil Ed, who was the comic relief in the original. Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, David Tennant, and Toni Collette fill out the rest of the cast. These are all good early signs, and this updated version of Fright Night should prove to be better than both your average vampire movie and your average comedy remake.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) — New Line is preparing another installment in the Vacation series, one that will follow a new generation of Griswolds. While this one’s more of a spin-off than a straight remake, it’s still an effort to wipe the slate clean and start the series over fresh. The proposed fifth Vacation movie would follow Griswold son Rusty, now a grown man, on a vacation with a family of his own. The studio has hired John Francis Daley (who played Sam Weir on Freaks and Geeks) and his frequent collaborator Jonathan Goldstein to write the project, with David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) attached to produce. The plot involves Rusty taking his family to Wally World before it closes down for good, with Chevy Chase expected to tag along as the grandfather. This idea does sound rather promising, and no matter how it turns out, it won’t do any more damage to the franchise than has already been done, with the made-for-TV Randy Quaid vehicle Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure being the greatest bastardization.
Drop Dead Fred (1991) — Universal began developing a Drop Dead Fred remake with Russell Brand set to star as a girl’s childhood imaginary friend who visits her later in life and wreaks havoc. British comedian Rik Mayall (star and co-creator of The Young Ones and Bottom) played the role in the original with Phoebe Cates as the girl. Arthur’s non-success may mean this project is dead in the water, with studio execs not having faith in Russell Brand to take on another previously-existing comedy role.
Meatballs (1979) — A remake of this Bill Murray-led summer camp comedy has been in development for several years and by multiple studios, with the 2007-08 writers’ strike stalling the project when it was being developed at Lionsgate. The Meatballs remake is now set up at Paramount and in the early stages of development. Ivan Reitman, producer and director of the original, is producing through his company, Montecito Pictures.
Soapdish (1991) — Writer-actor Ben Schwartz (Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Rec) was hired to pen the remake of this comedy about the cast and crew of a soap opera. Rob Reiner and Alan Greisman are attached to produce. Ben Schwartz is a multi-talented up-and-comer who’s involved in a diverse range of projects, most recently landing a role on the upcoming Showtime comedy House of Lies. If Schwartz’s web videos, Comedy Death Ray Radio appearances, and Parks and Rec guest spots are any indication, Soapdish is definitely in good hands.
Police Academy (1984) — Paul Maslansky, who produced all of the original entries in the Police Academy series, announced last year that he was trying to get a reboot of the ground. The project is still very far away from production and Maslansky has promised that it will follow a new young class of cadets and will not be a numbered sequel.
Private Benjamin (1980) — Anna Faris was announced last year to be the lead in this remake of the Goldie Hawn fish-out-of-water military comedy. Hawn earned an Oscar nomination for her performance, but will Faris have the same luck? The original was written at a much different time, in terms of U.S. military activity and women’s issues, and I think it would be a challenge for the remake to be as relevant as the original was during the time of its release.
Overboard (1987) — Last year, Jennifer Lopez was in talks to star in another of Goldie Hawn’s big roles in this remake of the Kurt Russell-Goldie Hawn pairing. Katherine Heigl was offered the role but seems to have turned it down. The original starred Hawn as a wealthy, entitled woman who falls off her yacht and wakes up with amnesia and Russell as a carpenter who convinces her she is his wife so she’ll help him take care of his four kids. Will Smith is producing. While Faris seems like a good fit for Hawn’s part in Private Benjamin, Jennifer Lopez doesn’t exactly have a great track record with comedies, nor has she shown an ability to play a Hawn-esque character.
Porky’s (1982) — Shock jock Howard Stern has been trying to produce a Porky’s remake for years, but the project has recently been held up by legal troubles, with another company claiming they bought the rights to Porky’s in the ‘90s. Stern seems well-suited to bring this teen sex comedy back to the big screen, and if these legal issues ever clear up, he may well get the chance to.
The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964) — Richard Linklater was recently announced to be developing this remake of the Don Knotts family comedy as a directing project. Zach Galifianakis was attached to star not too long ago, but it remains unclear if he’s still committed to the project.
All of Me (1984) — This beloved comedy, which starred Lily Tomlin as a dead woman whose soul inhabits Steve Martin’s body, was announced to be remade as a vehicle for Queen Latifah. Wanda Sykes was originally attached to the Lily Tomlin role, but seems to have vacated the part. Queen Latifah expressed disappointment with the latest draft of the script in 2009, bud did mention that she wants Steve Martin, who she starred with in Bringing Down the House, for the Tomlin role. This proposed version sounds quite different from the original, with Latifah mentioning multiple spirits would be inhabiting her character’s body. Given the script troubles and the amount of time the development process has already taken, I wouldn’t be surprised (or disappointed) if this one falls apart completely, as no updates have come in since 2009.
Fletch (1985) — Hollywood has been trying to reboot the Fletch franchise, which originally starred Chevy Chase and was based on a series of novels by Gregory McDonald, for several years. The project, a prequel called Fletch Won, has jumped between four different studios, multiple scripts have been written, and several big name actors and directors have been attached at different points. Kevin Smith, Bill Lawrence (creator of Scrubs and Cougar Town), and Steve Pink (Accepted) were each attached to direct at various points, with Jason Lee, Zach Braff, Joshua Jackson, Chris Tucker, and John Krasinski interested in starring, and Ryan Reynolds and Justin Long turning the part down. The project fell apart after The Weinstein Company was unable to get it going. David List, the manager of Fletch novelist Gregory McDonald, is currently trying to prep a different Fletch project, this one based on Fletch’s Fortune. Warner Brothers, the same studio behind the Arthur remake, was recently looking to reboot the franchise. A detailed history of the third Fletch film’s troubled development can be found in this great Entertainment Weekly piece.
Gambit (1966) — Michael Hoffman (The Last Station) is attached to direct this remake of the Michael Caine caper comedy, with a script written by the Coen Brothers. Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz are set to star.
The Cannonball Run (1981) — Guy Richie recently announced he wants to direct a new version of the all-star cross-country road race comedy with George Clooney as the lead. No word on whether or not Clooney’s interested or how serious Richie is about the project.
Brewster’s Millions (1985) — The Richard Pryor-John Candy version of the 1902 novel Brewster’s Millions is the only the most recent big screen adaptation of the book, about a man who must spend every cent of a large sum of money in order to gain an even large inheritance. Up-and-coming comedy writers Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan (whose first film 30 Minutes or Less comes out this year) have been hired to update the original story, which is ripe for a remake. It’s a fun premise, and one that audiences today would still love.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) — Ben Stiller is in talks to star in this project, based on the 1947 Danny Kaye film, which was based on the daydreaming James Thurber character. Half a dozen A-list comic actors have considered the project, including Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mike Myers, and Jim Carrey.
Ghostbusters (1984) — While not a remake by any means, the proposed Ghostbusters III would involve the stars of the old film passing the torch to a new generation of Ghostbusters and basically restarting the franchise anew with new younger actors. The latest on that long-gestating project is that Bill Murray must approve of the project before production begins, but he has yet to read the latest draft of the script.
Real Genius (1986) — A remake of this clever Val Kilmer teen movie/satire of the military-industrial complex went into development last year. Since many of the original film’s targets have changed drastically since the days of the Cold War, this feels like one that would need some major finagling to pull off successfully.
Also in development: Remakes of Short Circuit, House Party, Little Shop of Horrors, Look Who’s Talking, Mr. Mom, and Romancing the Stone.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1987) — MGM hired Steve Pink (Accepted, Hot Tube Time Machine) to write and direct a remake of this con man comedy, which itself was a remake of the 1964 Marlon Brando-David Niven film Bedtime Story. When the project was first announced in 2008, “top-level talent” was said to be interested. Few updates have been given since then, and it’s not clear if this project is still in active development.
Weird Science (1985) — While Hollywood has yet to meddle with writer/director John Hughes’s best work, Weird Science is one of his lesser efforts and one that I’m comfortable with being remade. If they’re going to remake a John Hughes movie, I’d prefer it was this to say, Ferris Bueller or Breakfast Club. Newcomer Johnny Rosenthal was hired to write the update Weird Science back in 2007, but the remake seems to have fallen apart as no updates have been given since then. Robert Downey Jr., who had a supporting role as a bully in the original, has publicly said he wants to see it remade.
Slap Shot (1977) — It was announced in 2009 that Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest, 2005’s Fun With Dick and Jane) would be directing the remake of this classic Robert Newman hockey comedy, with Peter Steinfeld (21) writing. There are no plans to enter production anytime soon, and no stars have been attached.
Spies Like Us (1985) — Three-man writing team Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer (Euro Trip, Seinfeld) were working on a new version of this Chevy Chase/Dan Aykroyd spy comedy back in 2007, but no news has come in since then. All three are tied up working on Sacha Baron Cohen’s new comedy, with Jeff Schaffer also writing and producing FX’s The League, so it doesn’t seem like any of them have a whole lot of time to devote to this one.
Foul Play (1978) — Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn have been popping up on this list more than any other actor or actress, so it’s only fitting that one of their films together is in the process of being remade. Hawn’s daughter Kate Hudson has expressed a desire to take on her mother’s role in a remake with her frequent co-star Matthew McConaughey taking Chase’s part. Few updates have come in since the project was first announced in 2008, and it’s unclear if it’s even still being considered.
Back to School (1986) — No stranger to replacing beloved comedic actors in their well-known roles (see his involvement in The Honeymooners), Cedric the Entertainer was attached to fill in for Rodney Dangerfield as the lead in a modernized version of the college comedy. The project fell apart, much to the delight of fans of the original.
9 to 5 (1980) — Will Smith was developing a remake of this Jane Fonda-Lily Tomlin-Dolly Parton workplace classic for his wife Jada Pinkett Smith to star in back in 2001. The project never came to be and was abandoned. Fonda, Tomlin, and Parton expressed interest in starring in a sequel back in 2005, but nothing has come of that idea either.
Revenge of the Nerds (1984) — A remake of this college comedy actually went into production in 2006, with a cast that included Adam Brody, Kristin Cavallari, and Efren Ramirez. A few days of filming took place, but Fox Atomic shut the project down when the crew was kicked off of an Atlanta campus where most of the film was supposed to be shot. This is one that seems to be safe from a remake — at least for the time being.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles who wants you to find comfort in the fact that no one is remaking King Ralph. Don’t worry, fans! King Ralph is safe.