Eighties remakes suck…but if you really have to, remake these

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st November 2011.

There’s nothing new under the sun. This year has seen the release of eighties remakes, Footloose and Fright Night. Both films have enjoyed moderate box office success and mixed critical reviews, but ultimately, one has to wonder why a remake was necessary.

With a prequel to the 1980 classic The Thing also hitting screens this month, plus a troubled reworking of Red Dawn likely to finally see the light of day this year, it seems all bets are off.

So here are my picks for eighties classics to be remade, even though I think it’s a bad idea.

Number 5 is alive! Despite starring Steve Guttenberg and having a shameful Indian stereotype character played by white actor Fisher Stevens (Birdy Num Nums anyone?), Short Circuit (1986) is great fun. Johnny 5, a military prototype robot, gets struck by lightning and develops self awareness. Permanently stuck is wise cracking mode, Johnny learns about life as he goes on the run from the bad guys with charisma vacuum Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy in tow. A poor sequel was produced in 1988 with only Fisher Stevens and Number 5 returning.

Have you ever left a yogurt in the fridge for so long that it becomes an evil entity that wants to take over your body? That is pretty much the premise of The Stuff (1985). Miners discover sweet tasting goo seeping out of the ground and decide to mass market it as a dessert (as you do). Of course, the goo is alive and has the power to turn the good folk of America into zombies. Only an industrial espionage expert hired by a rival ice cream company can save the day. I know it’s not exactly Hamlet but conceptually The Stuff is pretty good, er, stuff.

John Cusack was a staple in eighties teen comedies and two of his classics deserve a reboot. The Sure Thing (1985) stars Cusack as a young man who embarks on a road trip across America to hook up with a bikini clad blonde. Bad luck pairs him with uptight classmate Allison (Daphne Zuniga). Chaos ensues. Will he get to meet the girl of his dreams or will the mismatched travelling couple fall in love? I’m sure you can guess.

Better Off Dead (1985), also stars Cusack as a teen who loses his fickle girlfriend to a fellow skiing rival. Depressed, he tries unsuccessfully to kill himself. Pursued throughout the film by a paperboy (I want my two dollars!) and two very funny Asian revheads who seem to be waiting to race him at every traffic light, Cusack has to get his skiing mojo back as he falls for the pretty foreign exchange student next door.

In the eighties, two-for-one vouchers could often be found on promotional bottles of a particular brand of cordial (the one my dad picks the fruit for). These vouchers were only good for whatever film was being pushed at the time, and this is how I got to see my final pick, The Boy Who Could Fly (1986).

Teenager Milly meet Eric, an autistic boy. Both have lost a parent or parents and they soon become friends. After a series of strange events, Milly comes to the conclusion that Eric might have strange powers. Can Eric really fly? Have you read the title of the film?

On paper, none of these films sound worthy of a remake. However, like the original Footloose and Fright Night, they each contain a particular energy, attitude and innocence unique to the eighties and this cannot be replicated by CGI, 3D or any Kevin Bacon wannabe. But if we must disturb the graves of classic eighties cinema, you could do far worse.

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