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The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

Feb 14, 2013


Consider this a reminder to the popcorn industry that playing it safe with cookie-cutter reboots has contributed to a vapid sea of abandon for an entire generation. For shame.

But don’t take my word for it; the critics bring out the hate for these 20 stinkers.

1. Vanilla Sky (2001)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

You don’t have to be a film scholar to see Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe’s goofy attempt to be some lofty art film. Eric D. Snyder best describes the American adaptation of Alejandro Amenábar’s “Open Your Eyes” as “really just a lot of whacked-out psychological mumbo-jumbo.”

2. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

This is one of those Internet Age cases where “weird” can so easily be misinterpreted for “interesting”, but I side with the old school on this one. “Any resemblance between this ‘Bad Lieutenant’ and the 1992 Abel Ferrara landmark is purely in the head of the dude who thought up the title,” writes Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers, who proudly listed Ferrara’s masterpiece in his 1992 top ten. “What I couldn’t find in the plot was a trace of logic …[Director Werner] Herzog seemingly explains all this by inserting detailed close-ups of iguanas and gators.”

3. Rollerball (2002)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

Salon’s Jeff Stark was not impressed. “John McTiernan’s botched remake may be subtler than Norman Jewison’s 1975 ultraviolent futuristic corporate-sports saga. It’s also stupider.”

4. Guess Who (2005)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

“Any time you see the movie’s stars racing in go-karts,” says eFilmCritic’s David Cornelius, “it’s because the script ran out of funny things to do.”

5. Love Don’t Cost A Thing (2003)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

Nick Cannon’s got nothing on McDreamy. Also, let us not forget that Disney’s original “Can’t Buy Me Love” casted Erik Bruskotter in one of the best fart scenes in American cinema as well as Gerardo Mejía who went on to record the cunnilingus-inspired track “Rico Suave”. A solid ensemble all around.

6. Total Recall (2012)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

The triple-tittied alien didn’t go topless. Case closed. My bad. She did. But even Fox News asks to “recall the original.”

7. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

It’s not that Tony Scott’s subway thriller was so awful, but the bar was raised pretty high when even attempting to take a stab at all the bells and whistles from the 1974 original. (Where do you think “Reservoir Dogs” got the idea to name its grifters different colors for their last names?) Seriously, the original “Pelham” might be the greatest New York City movie ever made. It totally nails the hell hole zeitgeist of the bankrupt mid-70s city. Nothing in the 2009 compares to the grit from when the 1974 MTA worker rhetorically asks “What the hell did they expect for their lousy 35 cents – to live forever?”

8. Red Dawn (2012)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

John Milius’s 1984 cult classic about American teens battling a Soviet invasion has been reinvented as a Tea Party['s] wet dream,” writes Chicago Reader’s Drew Hunt. “Screenwriters Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore merge action movie heroics with ass-backwards politics, blunting the genre pleasures that made the original so delightfully kitsch.”

9. King Kong (2005)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

Watching a giant ape battle a ferocious dinosaur has never been more boring. “Confronted with the task of remaking one of the best and most beloved movies of all time … caused [director Peter Jackson] to edgily throw around money and technology to mixed avail,” says Time Magazine. “Our response to the ape’s doom is now marked by relief that this wretchedly excessive movie is finally over.”

10. Mr. Deeds (2002)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

Adam Sandler offers a mighty big helping of derp in this bungled version of a Gary Cooper classic. Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post: “This baby makes you ever more eternally grateful for AMC and TCM on the cable. That’s where the real movies have gone to hide.”

11. Arthur (2011)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

High hopes that New York Magazine’s David Edelstein was dead right when he referred to Russell Brand’s performance as “career-killing.”

12. The Wicker Man (2006)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

So bad it’s good? No. You don’t get off that easy. Despite the hours of endless entertainment Nicolas Cage’s performance has provided YouTubers, the 1973 cult classic can’t be so easily overshadowed. “The ’73 film is brilliantly constructed and ends with a punctuation mark that was shocking in its day,” says Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News. “[Neil] LaBute’s movie attempts to shock, as well, and does: Given the names involved and the casting of Cage, it is shockingly bad.”

13. The Karate Kid (2010)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

It’s pretty difficult to root for the underdog when you know it’s Will Smith’s son. In the words of Peter Griffin, “I’m very aware that I’m watching a play right now.”

14. The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

manchurian The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

“The first version was acidulous and brazenly absurd,” says the New Yorker’s David Denby. “This one is doggedly, wretchedly earnest.”

15. Taxi (2004)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

Good thing Jimmy Fallon scored “Late Night”, because the critics don’t really bother to clench sphincters for him on the big screen. “[Fallon] doesn’t so much act as show up,” notes Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald, “and his utter lack of personality generates a vacuum that the movie cannot overcome.”

16. Straw Dogs (2011)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

Josh Bell of the Las Vegas Weekly would probably agree that you should just watch the Sam Peckinpah’s crazy classic. “For people unfamiliar with Peckinpah’s [1971] film, the new ‘Straw Dogs’ is an exciting if flawed thriller,” he writes. “For everyone else, it’s evidence of how Hollywood can take the most charged, passionate material and make it into something generic and forgettable.”

17. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

WhatCulture’s Mike Edwards: “For a film about the dangers of falling asleep it tried damn hard to make the audience nod off.” Zing!

18. Conan the Barbarian (2011)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

“A cinematic tramp stamp,” says FilmDrunk’s Vince Mancini. “It’s hard to pinpoint specific reasons why this tits, muscles, and gore-filled fantasy exploitation is dead eyed and hollow compared to the tit-filled, musclesploitation film from whence it sprung, it’s just that feeling you get when stupid people try to recreate things they think are cool.”

19. Swept Away (2002)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

“Some might [see] Guy Ritchie’s misbegotten remake of Lina Wertmüller’s distressing and hilarious 1974 masterpiece, “Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’agosto”, only to see his wife, Madonna, get her ass kicked,” says the Boston Phoenix. “Rather than explore the roots of misogyny, as did the original, the new version may just encourage it.”

20. The Heartbreak Kid (2007)

 The 20 worst Hollywood remakes of the century

Roger Ebert knows what’s up. “The movie is a remake of Elaine May’s splendid 1972 comedy, written by Neil Simon … That film was better in every way,” he writes. “[The Farrelly Brothers] have specialized in over-the-top transgressive comedy, but always before with characters who could survive their sort of acid bath. Here the characters are made to do and say things that are outside their characters, and maybe outside any characters.”

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