You haven’t experienced true existential horror until you’ve watched a photorealistic warthog belting out a 25-year-old Elton John ballad. Such is one of the lessons of Disney’s new Lion King reboot. With its creepily lifelike animation, the movie has been spooking the hakuna matata out of more sensitive cinemagoers. Whenever I close my eyes, I see uncanny valley megafauna snorting, stamping their hooves, and quoting Tim Rice. Make it go away!
But that’s just the start of the terror. For its next trick, Disney is to remake Home Alone. A redo of John Hughes’s charming 1990 love letter to child neglect, domestic invasion and improvised violence is set for the upcoming Disney's streaming service and expected in time for Christmas. Because nothing conjures seasonal cheer like 90 minutes of sinew-popping, eye-gouging, and just-for-laughs head-trauma.
Who asked for this? Aside from Macaulay Culkin’s agent, nobody, it feels fair to say, has been yearning to return to the Home Alone expanded universe (the 38-year-old actor will surely be lined up for a lucrative cameo). All the same, and no matter how loudly we scream “dear lord no”, we’re getting one. Just as we’re getting a second Ghostbusters reboot, because the first went so well (it did not go well). Also chugging down the Hollywood pipeline are do-overs of the Clue, Clueless, The Crow, Cliffhanger, Chronicles of Narnia, Child’s Play, Charlie’s Angels, Candyman, Car Wash, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Cube.
And those are just the ones starting with “C”. Throw in the entire alphabet and we’ll be here longer than it takes Beyonce to negotiate one of her interminable power ballads on her new Lion King soundtrack. Some remakes are obviously more equal than others. The 1976 A Star is Born, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, feels, with hindsight, like a karaoke knock-off compared to last year’s remake starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper pretending to be Kris Kristofferson. Similarly the Clooney-vintage Ocean’s 11 drop-kicked the 1960 Rat Pack quasi-classic into a cocked fedora.
These are the exceptions. More usually, remakes just flop out of the sausage machine and sit there, soggy pastiches of the original. The go-to cautionary example is Paul Feig’s 2016 Ghostbusters. That film was probably doomed from the start due to a misogynist online backlash against its all-female cast. But it did itself few favours in trying to slavishly ape its 1984 predecessor. The problem was that nobody involved appeared to understand what had made the first Ghostbusters so special. Instead of Bill Murray going gonzo and Dan Aykroyd (who had a genuine interest in the supernatural) playing it straight, we had Kristen Wiig on Bridesmaids auto-pilot. Plus, all the jokes had seemingly been exorcised from Feig and Katie Dippold’s script.
The new Ghostbusters duly flopped, leaving the studio $125m in the red. Feig would later confess it “wasn’t perfect” and “was only there to entertain people”. The obvious lesson is that, though we all enjoy seeing ghosts being busted, it’s on the understanding Bill Murray (who had a dreadful cameo in the Feig film) is the one wearing the proton-pack. This memo seems not to have been delivered to Hollywood. Hence the green lighting of another “who ya gonna call?” do-over from director Jason Reitman, son of original GB director Ivan.
You will be forgiven for having not noticed that a new Ghostbusters is incoming. With over 100 remakes currently in production, it’s hard to keep track. Yet far from a sure thing, there is evidence that audiences are less keen on these forced marches down memory lane than are the studios. Ninety per cent of cinemagoers believe remakes inferior to the original according to a recent survey by marketing agency Verve Search.
This is hardly a bombshell. A Lion King 2.0 is well and good. Simba’s new outing has already surpassed a $1bn box office. But are we really all up for spending the next decade watching Disney, among others, ruthlessly recycle its back catalogue?
It’s reached the point where even acknowledged disasters such as The Black Hole, the studio’s baffling 1979 ripoff of 2001: A Space Odyssey, is primed for a redo. Won’t somebody think of the children? With a Home Alone reboot en route it’s clear that, in the worst way possible, they already have.
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