While it’s not as common as other genres, comedy has its share of good and bad remakes that have littered cinema over the years. This weekend a new comedy remake comes around called “Overboard” which puts a modern spin on the 1987 film of the same name. There have already been detractors who feel this film is destined for disaster, but it wouldn’t be the first comedy to completely miss the mark in terms of capturing the comedic value of a previous story OR doing justice to its predecessor. So while I’m not necessarily hoping or expecting that “Overboard” is a bad film the talk over its potential, or lack thereof, inspired me to look at other comedy remakes and reboots that failed to get a laugh. These are my picks for the Top 10 Worst Comedy Remakes and Reboots.
For this list I looked at any reboot or remake of classic comedies that didn’t live up to expectations. As long as the original AND the remake or reboot were predominantly comedy films, even if they fit another genre as well, they worked for this list. That being said “Fame” won’t be here because I felt that the remake from 2009 was more drama than comedy and “The Stepford Wives” won’t be featured because the original was more a thought provoking sci-fi horror film while the remake originated most of the comedy. Criticizing films that didn’t even fully commit to the original’s genre makes them a little too easy to add to this list so I stuck with movies that began as comedies and continued as comedies the second time around.
Also in some cases the remakes may actually be okay films on their own but this list compares the remakes and reboots to the originals and takes into consideration how entertaining and funny the remakes are and the infamy of their legacy in pop culture when compared to their predecessors. Even good films can look bad when compared to those that came first.
Will “Overboard” join the films on this list in infamy or break the comedy remake curse? We’ll find out this weekend, but for now please enjoy the countdown! Let me know what your least favorite or even your MOST favorite comedy remake or reboot is in the comments below.
10. “Alfie” (2004)
Expect to see the year 2004 a lot on this list. It was a big year for comedy remakes and this one was one of the better offerings. That doesn’t keep it from paling in comparison to the original 1966 “Alfie”, a legendary British comedy starring Michael Caine. Itself based on a play, the original “Alfie” film” was charming, surprisingly deep and perfected the fourth-wall break in ways that would inspire future filmmakers to take the same approach. The remake isn’t necessarily terrible but it’s also nothing new. The 2004 “Alfie” stars Jude Law in the titular role and sees the character go through a change of perspective similar to Michael Caine’s take on the titular womanizer. The problem with this remake is basically that it doesn’t take a lot of chances. It does explore a lot of the same mature themes of the original film and even modernizes them to some extent, such as a more updated perspective on the legality of abortion, but it also fails to capture the emotional depth of the original film. The remake waters down much of the sentiment which was more subtle and brutal in the original movie despite its many moments of levity. The newer “Alfie” just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be and while it’s not nearly as bad as the rest of these films to come it’s still a sub par remake even if it holds up well on its own.
9. “Taxi” (2004)
Before finally settling on his niche in late night Jimmy Fallon tried REAL hard to make himself work as a movie star and one of the products of that was this 2004 action-comedy “Taxi”, a remake of the 1998 French film of the same name. Both films feature a similar premise, a police officer with horrible driving skills teams with a talented cabby to take down a gang of robbers. However the original was, to put it simply, a lot more fun. The first film’s admittedly goofy concept felt original and spawned a franchise of “Taxi” films but in an era where fast cars had become nothing short of a cliché the same can’t be said for the American “Taxi” that was released six years later. The remake wasn’t as charming or memorable and the two leads, Fallon and Queen Latifah, had zero chemistry while Latifah portrayed a Taxi driver who was more pretentious and arrogant than her predecessor. Not to mention the remake watered down the heist aspects of the film by using hot supermodels as the villains, leaning more on sex appeal than actual fun. It felt more like a vehicle (no pun intended) to push the growing popularity of Fallon, Larifah and Gisele Bundchen than anything else and came off as more a “Fast and Furious” ripoff than an original idea. Even in it’s prime “Taxi” felt dated while the original went on to become a classic French comedy still beloved today.
8. “Around the World in 80 Days” (2004)
Like I said 2004 was packed with crappy comedy remakes. We do live in an era of where it seems even the most legendary films aren’t untouchable, even Best Picture winners, and this bore fest showed just how tragic that reality is. The 2004 version of “Around the World in 80 Days” is often considered an alternate take instead of a straight up remake, but either way it was a poor attempt to recapture the magic of its predecessor for a modern audience. This remake/modernization is the definition of disrespecting the source material lacking any true comedic charm and feeling more like a passion project for its stars than an actual attempt at a quality film. Whereas the original cinematic take on the story was a rare Best Picture winning comedy that earned Michael Anderson a Best Director Oscar nomination, this movie was the exact opposite earning a few Razzie nominations after its failed run. An all-star cast featuring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Owen and Luke Wilson, Jim Broadbent and Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t save this film which clearly leaned more on star power than story and execution to try and draw viewers to the theater. It was a box office bomb and rightfully so as it left all the charm and hilarity and fun of the 1950s classic on the cutting room floor in favor of cheap laughs and bland adventure. This is a perfect example of what happens when you try to fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place. Speaking of which…
7. “The Ladykillers” (2004)
Here we go with 2004 again. It was a match made in comedy heaven…or so we thought. Tom Hanks, J.K. Simmons, the Coen Brothers…what could go wrong? Well, a lot apparently. A 2004 remake of the 1955 classic, no amount of star power could lift this film above mediocrity as it failed in every way to capture the black comedy of its predecessor. Whereas the first film about a group of robbers who room in an old ladies home while planning a heist is considered a near perfect film with a rare perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes and an Oscar nomination to its credit, the remake is considered one of the Coen Brothers’ worst movies. While the actors, especially Tom Hanks, do inject some legitimate laughs into the project “The Ladykillers” never really reaches the greatness of the original. It’s an attempted comedy classic often forgotten that Americanizes a story that was perfectly fine on its own. Grated it wasn’t a critically hated as many others on this list, but when compared to the work that came before it “The Ladykillers” doesn’t work nearly as well and feels sloppy and forced. Instead of reaching the heights of other Coen brothers works and being a bright spot in Hanks’ filmography as was intended “The Ladykillers” has become an infamous black comedy remake that that many today feel is better forgotten.
6. “The Women” (2008)
Romantic comedies seem ripe for the picking when putting together a remake but the 2008 version of the 1930’s classic “The Women” proves that not every story works well in newer context. The original 1939 film featured several female powerhouse actresses of the time, including Joan Crawford, as several women deal with the complications of love. The remake that came around 69 years later lacked any truly redeeming factors despite featuring a who’s who of popular actresses for modern times including Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes and Jada Pinkett Smith. To its credit “The Women” of 2008 updated the characters for a more modern setting, incorporated a lesbian woman in the group and followed suit with the original by featuring no male leads or extras. However this is where the positives end as instead of a socially conscious and amusing female driven story we get a pretty bland attempt as 2000s comedy that forsakes the subtlety and charm of the original and isn’t nearly as well acted or interesting to watch. While it was a box office success, being made for a measly $16 million, it was panned by critics and forgotten with time although it DID somehow earn a very positive review from Roger Ebert…so there’s that I guess.
5. “Swept Away” (2002)
Despite having a credible name behind the camera in director Guy Ritchie, 2002’s “Swept Away”, a remake of the 1974 Italian original, left a lot to be desired and was basically nothing but a vehicle to showcase a fading pop star and a family legacy. The 1974 original film was a much smarter comedy that used its two characters to create a symbolic comparison between communist and capitalist beliefs. While the newer version touches on that, the themes feel out of date and the remake does little to nothing to truly cash in on the deeper elements the original bravely embraced. Then you get to the casting. Ritchie’s then-wife Madonna was teamed with Adriano Giannini, whose father starred in the first movie, to bring the story of two mismatched individuals stranded on an island to life. As a result this film feels like nothing more than an attempt to force the pop star’s acting career down our throats and relies more heavily on sexual content and failed attempts at comedy to draw us in. What could have been a modernized, complex tale that lived up to the original instead became nothing more than an unfunny excuse for Guy Ritchie to put his significant other in front of the camera for the world to gawk at.
4. “Guess Who” (2005)
In 1967 Sidney Poitier and Katherine Hepburn starred in a now legendary movie called “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” that spoke to the remains of racial divide at the time and was funny because it was awkward and true. The 2005 remake was none of that. “Guess Who” was another attempt to take a legendary product and cash in on it in the modern day and few are as insulting as this film was to its legendary predecessor. Starring Ashton Kutcher and the late Bernie Mac as well as a Zoe Saldana who was still seeking her place in the industry at the time “Guess Who” reversed the role of the previous movie making Kutcher the awkward out of place person meeting his black girlfriend’s family. All the racial and social subtext is watered down for easy clichés and bland laughs that all lead to a predictable end. As is a theme of this list, what could have been a subtle and modernized comedy film with commentary on reverse racism instead reached for the easiest audience it could find and pandered to the growing trend of simple, generic comedies that littered the 2000s. “Guess Who” barely tries to live up to the legacy of the original movie and while I can give it credit for taking its own path it lacks conviction and thus becomes more of an insult to its predecessor than a credible remake.
3. “The Pink Panther” (2006)
The original 1963 “Pink Panther” is one of the most legendary comedies of all time and one with a legacy spanning well beyond the limits of the movie itself. Peter Sellers’ take on Inspector Jacques Clouseau remains iconic to this day so why would anyone try to top or even match it? Well Steve Martin did and despite the comedians massive talent for character and goofiness even he couldn’t quite replicate the charm of the original Pink Panther. The 2006 reboot of the series tries too hard to match the humor of the previous entries and ups the ante in all the wrongs ways feeling tired, boring and out of date as a result. Martin does his best and admittedly he brings some chuckles but when the goal is to revitalize the significance and impact of a movie with such a powerful legacy this entry just doesn’t cut it. The reboot is an uninspired mess that is better off forgotten, even though it did inspire a sequel and was a box office success. It seemed like a match made in heaven on paper, a legendary comedy franchise with an equally legendary comic taking on the character, but what we got was far below what we deserved and the sequel film that followed only proved once again that this iconic franchise is better left alone.
2. “Arthur” (2011)
Another legendary comedy that was fine as is, the original “Arthur” starring Dudley Moore debuted in 1981 and focused on a New York millionaire trying to escape an arranged marriage. It was funny, fun, and was a hit with fans who made it one of the highest grossing movies of that year and one of modern cinema’s most notable comedic successes. Its acting and title song earned it Academy Award wins and two other nominations as well as a place as a legendary picture in the genre. It’s an example of comedy done right. The 2011 remake is not. At the time Russell Brand was the man. His career was souring and he was one the most marketable comedians on the scene. Then he took the lead in the “Arthur” remake and he was no longer marketable, funny or even popular, just like the film itself. One of the most extreme examples of a movie that didn’t need a remake, the original “Arthur” was new enough where an update wasn’t warranted or called for and Brant could never reach the charm or charisma of Dudley Moore. It was the wrong actor for the wrong movie that never even needed to be made and despite a bigger budget it barely broke even whereas the previous version of the film was budget friendly and never tried to be more important than it was. The remake isn’t funny, it isn’t memorable and in the end it served more as a vehicle to try and keep Brand in the spotlight than as an opportunity to remind the world why “Arthur” was so beloved to begin with.
1. “Ghostbusters” (2016)
While every entry on this list earned their own infamy among fans of the original and critics, “Ghostbusters” tops this list because it’s probably more infamous, unwanted and hated by the fan base than any other movie I could have even considered. A female driven reboot of the franchise that spawned a pair of classic sci-fi comedies in the 80s “Ghostbusters” had the potential to be great and admittedly on its own without a massive legacy to live up to it probably would have hit that mark. Sadly audiences never even gave it a chance as even before this movie was released it became the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube history and even had moviegoers boycotting the film accusing it of being an attempt to cash in on a fan base without truly respecting what they wanted. It’s not like the all-star cast of female comedians at the helm were bad. In fact the movie had its funny moments and could have shined if this had been an original idea. However the final product ignores a lot of the elements that made the original films so great and utilizes forced and annoyingly modern comedic moments to bring about laughs. Not to mention it totally misuses the cameos from the three remaining living actors who played the original Ghostbusters. This list is filled with comedies that either disappointed or were unwanted. This 2016 film managed to be both and probably put an end to any future hope that “Ghostbusters” can continue as an active franchise.