#40 & #41: Smiths, Longest Yawn, er, Yard

Yep, I’ve been to more movies. Saw Mr. and Mrs. Smith with and Saturday (and I saw it again tonight with and Pooch after a wonderful graduation dinner), and last night I used my free pass (from the bad Cinderella Man showing) to see The Longest Yard. I laughed much more at the first than the second, but both have left me to wonder something:

Why do we feel a need to retell the same stories over and over again? Mr. and Mrs. Smith, as I’ve read in countless reviews, has a plotline similar to many movies — it is, actually, a story that appears all the time, the idea of a couple having secrets from each other that, when revealed, change the nature and landscape of the relationship. There’s a scene in Smith when Mr. Smith says, “We’re going to have to redo every conversation we’ve ever had,” and that’s a movie (and a book, and a short story, and a TV pilot) I’ve seen at least a hundred times.

And then there’s The Longest Yard. It’s pretty easy to argue that this was a movie remade simply because it looked like a money-maker — that someone picked the old one up off the shelf and saw a chance to bring in those who saw the original and those who religiously watch Adam Sandler movies and charge them all at least $7/viewing, and then they said, “Woo-hoo” and threw together a half-assed script. But I still feel like there’s more to the fact that remakes are always coming up. It’s something about the combination of nostalgia and modern day capability, I think; the people who watched these shows as kids are just now in a place where they can say, “I always loved ‘Bewitched’ as a child, but think how much cooler that show could’ve been with the technology we have today?”

Which also brings up the idea of retelling stories from different cultural perspectives. Ever After is a retelling of the classic Cinderella story, but from a much stronger woman’s point of view, just as The Mists of Avalon (and I’m really thinking of the book, but it gets counted here because it was a TV movie) is the Arthurian legend retold from a feminist perspective. So can you say the same thing about the need to remake The Honeymooners as a movie with an African-American cast? Is it an attempt to take the myths and entertainments of classic “white male” American society and reclaim them, to redefine them and make them acceptable for new groups to love and admire in the process?

It’s fascinating to me to look at what stories get redone. No one will (let’s hope) ever try to redo The Godfather or The Lord of the Rings as movies (both of which could be seen as repetitions anyway, since both were based on books to begin with); on the other hand, maybe in 15 years or 30 years or whatever, someone will go, “Hey, you know, they really missed an opportunity with Gigli — let’s try it again.”

I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of insight to offer on this, it’s just something I’ve been mulling.

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