I'm not going to take the fatalistic approach of many self-appointed film scholars and say that modern-day cinema is all crap. It's not. I've seen some great movies this summer - why just a few days ago, Superbad renewed my faith in the teen sex comedy. (The fact that it was written by a 14-year-old Seth Rogen and his friend - and has writing that kicks the ass of most of its peers - is a huge slap in the face to Hollywood. But I digress.)
Having said that, there IS a lot of crap out there. For everyone who moans about the demise of artistic, meaningful cinema, I have news for you: mad scientists in a volcano somewhere have discovered that these here moving pictures make MONEY. Money can buy you toupees and sports cars so people will have sex with you. As aging Hollywood bigwigs do not wish to remain celibate, they make crap. I know this is the system, but still a little part of me dies whenever somebody rents Wild Hogs at the video store.
I can't change the system. But I can create fantasies in this blog. So, without further ado, I present to you my dream "marquee makeovers" - pairing classic, talented directors with recent craptastic movies to see if they couldn't fix em up a little.
1. License to Wed, as directed by Alfred Hitchcock
The real movie: Sadie (Mandy Moore) and Ben (John Krasinski) are engaged, but a wacky reverend (Robin Williams) insists on putting them through a series of tests to determine their readiness for marriage.
The Hitchcock version: Hitchcock once lamented that he was a typecast director, and that if he directed Cinderella, "the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach." Well, sorry, Hitch, it's gonna continue here. Lovely Sadie has a whirlwind romance with dashing Ben, a man with a mysterious past. Despite knowing little about him, she enthusiastically accepts when he proposes. Her family doesn't approve of the union, so to get their approval, she enlists the blessing of a local reverend who is new in town. He agrees to bless the couple and perform the wedding only if they undergo a series of tasks to prove their devotion. Unbeknownst to Sadie and Ben, this man is only posing as a reverend to hide from the police, as he is wanted for several murders! The reverend's tasks are just an excuse for him to monitor their every move. Meanwhile, Sadie's relationship with Ben has become strained, as he has started acting strange. He is fed up with the tasks and just wants to elope somewhere and begin anew. One day, Sadie goes to the reverend to discuss the tension in her relationship, and he suggests they go for a walk. Back at the house, Ben is reading the newspaper and there is a picture of the reverend and a headline describing him as a wanted killer. Realizing that his fiancee is alone with this madman, he races to the church. By now, the reverend has already led Sadie into the woods, so Ben runs around like mad trying to find them. He sees them in the woods and shoots the reverend dead. He explains it all to Sadie, and they go to the police. Except you never know if the reverend was really trying to kill them OMG!
2. Blades of Glory, as directed by Billy Wilder
The real movie: Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy McElroy (Jon Heder) are figure skaters disqualified from competing in the mens' singles anymore, so they compete as a pairs team.
The Wilder movie: Billy Wilder takes you inside the cutthroat and ethically ambiguous world of men's figure skating. Chazz Michael Michaels used to be the figure skating king back in the day, but an aging body, a flurry of scandals and a love of liquor caused him to fall from grace. Jimmy McElroy is the new kid to the sport, unspoilt by its demanding nature. Despite his skill and youthful optimism, Jimmy doesn't make the cut for the Olympic men's singles competition. Chazz, desperate to get back in the game and reclaim his glory, pounces on the naive Jimmy and offers to defy convention and become a pairs team with him. Jimmy idolizes Chazz and accepts the offer immediately. The trouble is, the public doesn't want any more of Chazz, and their partnership starts to tarnish Jimmy's image. Jimmy realizes this, but dumping Chazz would mean sacrificing his spot in the Olympic team. He tries to wait it out, knowing he'll lose the dead weight immediately after and be a star in his own right. Chazz, meanwhile, realizes that his plan to use Jimmy has backfired, and seeks his revenge. At the Olympics, Chazz gets violently drunk and takes several pills before he is to compete. He is a disaster out on the ice, dropping Jimmy in almost every lift and causing him to be seriously injured. At the end of the routine, Chazz collapses dead from the drugs next to a stunned and wounded Jimmy.
3. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, as directed by Woody Allen
The real movie: Chuck (Adam Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James) are two hetero firefighters who fake a domestic partnership for the benefits.
The Allen version: Chuck is Jewish, which is half the screenplay right there. Then add a lot of shots of New York. Then the two actually fall in love, and date for a while, but decide it won't work out.
4. Rush Hour 3 as directed by John Huston
The real movie: Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker are back, and now they're fighting the Chinese mafia in Paris or something. Whatever. Hey, isn't it funny that they have trouble understanding each other?
The Huston version: Chan and Tucker (does anyone even know their character names?) are jaded cops who reluctantly go to Paris despite fatigue and indifference. They're hunting for an enigmatic and charismatic mobster who is smuggling a valuable and stolen amulet across country borders. Their search takes them to the Swiss Alps, where they get lost among the terrain. There are signs that the mobster was there, but they are difficult to follow. The days are long and the pair engages in lots of intense dialogue about life. Chan starts to go kind of nuts and becomes suspicious that Tucker wants to kill him, so he runs away while Tucker sleeps to hunt the villains on his own. Tucker awakes and figures that the bad guys have captured his trusted partner, so he goes in heated pursuit. He encounters the mobster and his posse, who outnumber him and shoot him to death. Chan, meanwhile, sets up a complicated trap utilizing his natural surroundings, which the villains fall into nicely. Victorious, Chan delivers a scathing monologue to his captives, and then walks off into the sunset.
5. Evan Almighty as directed by Orson Welles (and yes, I am familiar with Welles' directing career outside of Citizen Kane)
The real movie: In this sequel to Bruce Almighty, God (Morgan Freeman) warns Evan (Steve Carrell) of an impending flood, and instructs him to build an ark, a la Noah.
The Welles version: Evan grew up poor, but has worked his way up and became a successful businessman. Now rich and arrogant, he believes that he begins to hear the voice of God telling him to build an ark. He does. He alienates his family and friends and becomes a huge jerk. But he also employs lots of people to help, and soon creates a thriving ark-building empire. The police get word of this profitable operation and decide to steal it from Evan and claim it as their own, because it's an Orson Welles movie so the cops are corrupt. Evan doesn't really notice this, because one of his workers has a femme-fatale-ish wife who hangs around all day and flirts shamelessly with Evan, who falls hard for her. They make secret plans to escape together on the ark. But then the woman's husband turns up dead, with Evan as the prime suspect. Scared for his life, he forgets all about the woman and runs away. He falls ill, and unable to seek medical attention because the police would surely find him then, he dies alone, leaving a trail of broken hearts and corruption. Did I mention that all of the above is shadowy and full of deep-focus cinematography?
What other good makeovers can you think of?