Remakes shouldn’t be looked at as copies, but as new works entirely—second chances to correct what didn’t work.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956): Remakes shouldn’t be looked at as copies, but as new works entirely—second chances to correct what didn’t work. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 thriller isn’t “bad,” per se (it even has Peter Lorre as the baddie), but it’s curiously pedestrian for his lively, more joke-heavy British period. When he had the chance to remake it in 1956, he improved it in almost every way—even in the casting of a “Que Sera Sera”-crooning Doris Day.
D.O.A. (1988): An unjust “classic,” the 1950 film noir wastes a promising, existential concept—its lead character has been fatally poisoned—on a plodding procedural in which the hero solves his own murder. This conceptual flaw was not corrected 38 years later.
Guess Who (2005): Though it’s gruesomely dated in most ways, Stanley Kramer’s 1967 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner at least starred the likes of Tracey and Hepburn. To show how serious they were about exploring modern race relations, the makers of the remake replaced Sidney Poitier with Ashton Kutcher.
The Eye (2008): Hypercut on sub-standard video, the Pang Brothers’ 2002 Thai shocker is one of the worst-directed mainstream films ever. The remake, with Jessica Alba, is merely forgettable.
Death at a Funeral (2010): Whoever thought Neil LaBute would out-funny Frank Oz? Not that it’s hard here: Oz’s original British farce is mystifyingly unfunny—a comedic director exhibiting terminally off timing.
Dinner for Schmucks (2010): The French have a bad habit of making terrible, unfunny comedies and passing them off as farce. Worse, America has a bad habit of remaking them: Three Men and a Cradle begat 3 Men and a Baby; Little Indian, Big City birthed Jungle 2 Jungle. The worst is Francis Veber, whose stiff farces have been remade as The Toy, Three Fugitives, Father’s Day and more. This one, based on 1998’s incomprehensibly beloved The Dinner Game, overloads on talent (Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Zach Galafinakis) and, unlike the source, actually shows the titular dinner. But Veber remakes don’t necessarily get better.