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Everything old is new again at the movies

By Heather Murphy
CNN Headline News

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Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan star in "Around the World in 80 Days," one of several movie remakes hitting theaters.
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CNN -- "Around the World in 80 Days" and "The Stepford Wives" hit big screens in June, but this wasn't the first time they films were in theaters.

The robotic wives of Stepford first appeared on the big screen in 1975, and Phileas Fogg took a cinematic global journey back in 1956.

So why does Hollywood seem so anxious to rewrite movie history? I think it's a combination of economics and ego.

Some filmmakers and stars may think of an old movie that was a success the first time around and see their chance at a guaranteed success. Sometimes it works (2001's "Ocean's 11," 2003's "The Italian Job"); sometimes it really, really doesn't (1998's "Psycho", 2002's "Swept Away").

Other times, a filmmaker may see a chance to dust off a classic and spruce it up with some modern movie magic. It's the equivalent of a celluloid fixer-upper.

"Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson is doing so right now with "King Kong," and director John Guillermin did it before him in 1976.

Does it work? Let's just say that Guillermin's version is mostly noted for the screen debut of Jessica Lange, not its special effects.

Finally, I think some stars or directors see their chance to turn a movie mistake into a masterpiece. They see a potential swan in the ugly duckling.

Noble, perhaps, but do we really need to see another version of "House of Wax"? Maybe not, but it'll be coming to a theater near you in the next year or so.

There are some movies that would seem to be immune to remakes. Who wants to be the actor or director to take on the almost hallowed status of films such as "Casablanca" or "Gone With the Wind"?

Not every "classic" is impervious. A new "Manchurian Candidate" is due out next month with Meryl Streep stepping into Angela Lansbury's venomous role from the 1962 original.

If you're like me, you can be a little protective of your favorite movies. "Flight of the Phoenix" may not be a "classic," but it's one of my favorites. Do I really want to see Dennis Quaid fill a role that Jimmy Stewart originated?

My mother held a similar grudge against Pierce Brosnan in "The Thomas Crown Affair." I think she holds a secret torch for Steve McQueen.

Johnny Depp is starring in a remake of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" next year. This new version doesn't bother me so much because the original was so darn freaky. However, I will be watching closely for any desecration of the Oompa Loompa legacy.

As creative as Hollywood thinks it is, when filmmakers are stumped for ideas, they will always go back to the remake. How long do you think it will be before we see another "A Star Is Born"?


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