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Rethinking Reboots: 8 Ways to Save a Tired Trend

By  · Published on July 10th, 2014

Columbia Pictures

We all know the refrain by now: remakes and reboots are a prime example of a creatively bankrupt Hollywood. The trend has gotten so ridiculous that now we have reboots and remakes within years of each other, studios throwing cinematic spaghetti at its old properties to see what sticks.

Some do it right. After the success of The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, Phil Lord and Chris Miller will have to fight tooth and nail to avoid sinking under a pile of desired reboots and reimaginings. Others projects, meanwhile, seem to hold little sense at all – like turning a dangerous tale of high school obsession (Endless Love) into a positive romance.

But what’s really frustrating is that our modern reboot culture rarely picks the properties that are still relevant today – the setups that can tap into a modern message while exploring the evolution of old ideas. Some projects are trying – we now have a Girl Meets World sequel series and the excellent Danger Mouse is primed for a return – but what else is there? If reboots are here to stay, it’s time to think about ways to inject the trend with new life.

Nancy Drew as Modern Sleuth

Warner Bros.

Sure, Nancy Drew got her big-screen shot in 2007 when Emma Roberts’ Nancy had to ditch River Heights, move to California, and try to teach over-sexualized tykes the perks of being a bit old-fashioned. But it was doomed for failure – a project that appealed to adult sensibilities and didn’t resonate as much with kids. It flopped at the box office, killing plans for future sequels.

But between the rise in YA heroines, a need to move beyond romances and post-apocalyptic nightmares, and Veronica Mars’ killer Kickstarter, Nancy should make her return, and it shouldn’t be as a twee girl who loves all things retro. In the ’80s, the Nancy Drew Files showed how easy it is to adapt the heroine into new worlds of sleuthing and adulthood, and it’s time she got an update that wasn’t so dedicated to the nostalgia of her early books. With the help of Bess and George, it’d also battle the Bechdel Test with ease.

Cocoon as Twilight Opportunity

20th Century Fox

Most reboots fall under plot desires, but Cocoon inspires behind-the-scenes dreams – namely, a film for older actors who get little more than grandparent roles and senile comedic diversions. For every Judi Dench, there are many others who aren’t commanding major motion pictures, names like Blythe Danner, Dean Stockwell, Carol Channing (and Burnett!), plus the shenaniganizing names in the spotlight like Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart.

Hell, even original star Wilfred Brimley himself would be a good choice. The now-80-year-old actor was just 51 when he appeared in the film – the same age Brad Pitt is now.

Revenge of the Nerds as a Revenge of the Nerds

20th Century Fox

These days, we expect most comedic remakes to become highly absurd and ridiculous. Johnny Depp and crew fighting youth crime on 21 Jump Street became Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill trying to overcome their comedic ineptitude. But what if we went the opposite way?

In the original Revenge of the Nerds, all manner of stereotypes were thrust upon Robert Carradine and his crew as they strove to bring down Stan Gable and the jocks who made their lives miserable. But today, bow ties and plaid shirts aren’t indicators of nerdiness. Geekery is cool. In a world where bullying is a widespread problem, it’d be nice to see a modern take on nerddom, one that tackles bullying a bit more seriously while still giving the underdogs their victory.

Blossom/ Daria as Comeback Queen


These days it seems hard to believe that the ’90s were overflowing with idiosyncratic heroines dealing with life, love and feminism. It was a time when Blossom could get depressed, read Sylvia Plath and face racial tension head-on; and Daria would muse over existentialism and Camus.

Blossom and Daria could both thrive in today’s world, picking up new topics and revisiting older (but no less relevant) moments like Daria’s “Café Disaffecto,” about the nature of “community” and the Internet. These things usually work in waves, and the alternative teen heroine is overdue for a comeback.

See also: My So-Called Life

Return of the Killer Tomatoes as Self-Effacing Fun

New World Pictures

This is, perhaps, a pipe dream – to think that George Clooney might be interested in revisiting his absurd early days as an actor, when he lived in a world where tomatoes could be changed into human beings. These were the days before ER and superstardom, when Clooney wore a mullet and hung out at Horror High. Sure, he had a little fun with the Ocean’s movies, and in his collaborations with the Coen Brothers, but these all had the sheen of stardom and slickness, not so-bad-it’s-good diversions. To nod to his hockey-haired early days, or have a bit of Peter Graves-in-Airplane! fun, would be great.

Sixteen Candles as Reinvigorated Teen Dramedy

Universal Pictures

Yes, this is a John Hughes classic that people still love twenty years later. But let’s be honest – it’s a good story plagued by some really offensive side stories and casual crappiness. Moments large and small undercut the film from Long Duk Dong as “every bad stereotype possible, loaded into one character,” to jokes about violating unconscious girls to boys who literally pass unconscious girlfriends around because “she won’t know the difference.”

Of course, as it stands, Sixteen Candles is a great reminder of how far we’ve come (and have to go), but it’s also prime for a renewal that eradicates the crappiness and instead focuses on the heart of the film – a girl who feels forgotten but ultimately scores the heart of her off-limits crush.

The Money Pit as Screwball for the 21st Century

Universal Pictures

“Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” is the novel that keeps on giving. It inspired the 1948 film starring Cary Grant, The Money Pit in the ’80s, and in a more familial way, Are We Done Yet? in 2007. It’s old, and it’s been done, but it’s also a topic that is ever-relevant.

We live in a world where there is a neverending pile of home horror stories to fuel multiple television series, home flippers looking to make a quick buck while airing their familial problems on reality TV, and a cinematic trend where superheroes are continually destroying whole communities. It’s a great landscape for interpersonal drama and comedy in the real world, and dark comedy in the world of destructive men in tights. A new project could even get a taste of the old, seeing that the real “money pit” actually went on the market recently.

Final Friends

Hollywood just loves YA, but why not dip into old-school teen fare, and not just as an excuse to create more sexy bloodsuckers (The Vampire Diaries) and sci-fi worlds? For all the power teen heroes have today, little attention is played to slightly more real-world environments like Christopher Pike’s late-‘80s trilogy, “Final Friends.”

When two high schools merge, a group of students go to a “get to know each other” party where one of them dies. Over the course of the next two books, one of them struggles to prove that it wasn’t a suicide, but cold-blooded murder. There’s mystery a la Nancy Drew, class wars a la Veronica Mars, and death-defying scenarios that modern movies love – without the need for vampires, witches, archery, and other supernatural phenomenon. And if not this, any slightly less fantastical teen world will do.

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