Sunday, October 16, 2011

Craig Brewer & Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. : Better in the Eighties (Footloose and The Thing)

Miles Teller, Kenny Wormald, Footloose, Paramount Pictures, 2011.

Remake fever has reached its apex when they will remake anything and everything. This week's new movies display talented craftsmen going through the motions, redoing two pivotal eighties films that didn't need redoing. Instead of meeting the status quo, they would have been far better off creating original works.

Craig Brewer came on the scene as one of the most interesting narrative artists of the last decade with his gritty, uncompromising films Hustle and Flow & Black Snake Moan. With his third feature, he jumps on the Glee fever bandwagon and goes for the paycheck. Its not that his Footloose is all that bad, its just not very good. The original Herbert Ross flick wasn't particularly good, either, its just steeped in an 80s nostalgia which some find irresistible, a cheezy comfort, excellent cast and great tunes of the times.

This new Footloose lacks all of these things. Even though Brewer injects a lot of his attention to Southern detail, and some of the dancing is cool to watch, the young cast is uninteresting and disposable, maybe all except the aw shucks likable Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole) in the Chris Penn role. None of these youngsters can hold a candle to the charismas of Bacon, Singer, Parker and Penn in the original. Dennis Quaid fills a thankless role commandingly, replacing John Lithgow from the original. There's just not much here to keep your spirit truly jiving.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, The Thing, Universal Pictures, 2011.

John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) gets a stylish but pointless retread in Norwegian helmer Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr.'s new retelling. Yes, Carpenter's creepy eighties masterwork was itself a remake, of Howard Hawks' The Thing from Another World (1951). Yet all those films shared was a plotline and a creatively menacing dread. Stylistically, they are worlds apart - 50s drive-in sci-fi vs. 80s sci-fi/horror.

Heijningen, Jr.'s remake is atmospheric and well crafted, its just that it adheres so closely to Carpenter's film that you might as well watch the better version. Some of the effects are gruesomely over the top and Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a fascinating screen presence.  Yet despite all that is stylish about the picture, it just draws attention to the superiority of the Carpenter classic.

No comments:

Post a Comment