Pop Capsule: Reboots and Remakes Worth Watching

A look back at some of the best reboots and remakes ever made

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Reboots and remakes have gone from a quiet trend to the crutch that Hollywood cannot seem to stop using. Sure, we get some originality, but for the most part – our nostalgia and willingness to buy into a familiar story keep these recreations flowing.  Keep in mind that a reboot is very different from a remake, as a reboot is structured to take a property and move it into different direction creatively, while a remake keeps the same original concepts, simply updating minor details without introducing drastic change.

For every blockbuster like 2018’s A Star is Born, there are ten bombs like that terrible Footloose remake that came out in 2011. For every modern Hawaii 5-0, there are graveyards filled with the remains of duds like The Fugitive (2000) and Knight Rider (2008). Reboots and remakes of any kind being good are a rarity, but when a gem is found – it just might introduce a new generation their new favorite piece of entertainment.

For this Pop Capsule, we are going to go over some of the finest reboots and remakes in existence. Sure, I could do two articles and separate these categories, but my own brain lumps them together – so why not have both “R” words celebrated in one piece. Before we begin, I will state a few things. First, no Disney live action remakes are allowed here. I do not care how much they made or how good this or that actor played your favorite Disney character. Those remakes are starting to get a bit stale and considering how most are forgotten within two years of releasing – I don’t think they have a lot of longevity after the original buzz wears off. Second, there is a good chance that you will disagree with my own picks, and that is fine. This is my little selection based off what I enjoy, and if you do not like them, you can opt to watch one of the thousands of unfunny reboots starring The Rock instead.

So, let’s begin with a boy and his dog.

When Nickelodeon launched “Nicktoons” with Doug back in 1991, it was surprising to see the quirky little show turn out to be a hit for the network. Doug was about a kid who had a plain life with plain problems, yet still sensationalized every issue in order to cope with normalcy. Got a pimple? Well, let’s imagine it growing a mouth so it can gross out your number one crush. Bought a stolen comic? Well, you might have just ended the world as we know it. Nickelodeon’s version of Doug worked because it was basically an introduction of normal issues to kids that they would face and featured some fun and interesting characters to contrast Doug’s averageness. When the show ended after a modest three-year run, most were content as Doug’s trek seemed to be complete. Remember, this was before Nick dabbled in movies, and while Doug certainly had fans, it was not on the same level as Rugrats in terms of value.

Doug was gone, but not forgotten.

Two years later, Disney came out of nowhere and acquired the property, using it to anchor a new Saturday morning cartoon block called “One Saturday Morning” on ABC. Disney didn’t just bring the show over, they completely took it into a different creative direction, making large changes to just about everything. Doug was now 12 and in middle school, dealing with a whole new topic which would be the theme of nearly this entire adaptation – change. Doug’s school was now shaped like Beebe Bluff’s head. Patti home-schooled for half the day and didn’t get to be around as much during school. Connie lost weight. Roger struck it rich. Skeeter changed clothes. Yep, it was hard to be Doug Funnie in this new world. Billy West, who famously voiced Doug during the Nickelodeon run also left the show, leaving Doug sounding slightly different with a new actor portraying the role.

Instead of two segments per episode, each episode of Disney’s Doug featured just one full segment dedicated to the same story, which helped a lot when it came to the development of the characters within. Doug also toned it down a lot when it came to his imagination, as it became a rarity for Doug to dream up crazy sequences like he did so commonly in Nick’s version. Disney’s Doug gets a lot of criticism because people either didn’t see much of this show or simply were not able to get over the changes that it brought. I personally think Disney’s Doug had stronger writing, and made these characters feel more interesting and real. This version wasn’t afraid to push boundaries in order to tell a good story, and if you ever wanted to know more about a kid who may have been a random background character in the past, there is a good chance that he or she got her own dedicated story before the end of this run.

We got to see Patti deal with the actual grief of her mom’s death when her dad starts dating again. We also see Roger become a closer ally to Doug, instead of just a bully or pest that he was in the original. Doug eventually gets a new sister, and the show gets a grand finale that wraps up nearly every storyline covered in the past. Sure, there was Doug’s First Movie, and I will touch on it for a moment as it was a canon piece of this show, but I must separate that from Disney’s Doug as it was a bit meh. The movie featured a talking monster (the infamous monster from Lucky Duck lake) that didn’t fit with anything and came off as lame. Patti was an absolute bitch as well for nearly the entire duration and became super unlikable. The chemistry simply wasn’t there for this movie. It isn’t awful mind you, but it wasn’t really good either. The show on the other hand was good.

I hate that the legacy of Doug comes down to just what Nick produced as Disney’s Doug in my opinion is the better adaptation. It was smarter, edgier, and more fleshed out overall. Now that people can watch it (as there has never been a DVD release) on Disney Plus, maybe I can finally get a bit of validation that it wasn’t a bad show from the masses. Doug’s reboot of sorts did what few do, which is not harm the original and evolve the brand in a whole new way. History may not remember what the mouse did to the kid on Jumbo street, but I will always be fond of this version for how it treated one of my favorite cartoons of all time.

Next up, its time for a road trip into Hell!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre may be one of the most iconic horror movies of all time. There is good reason for that, as for its time, it was able to introduce the concept of murder in a whole new way to cinemas. Chainsaw introduced Leatherface, a killer who was mentally incapable of a moral compass, who lived with a family that raised him that way. He was a killer because that was what he was taught. Add in the eerie atmosphere and one of the loudest murder weapons possible and you have the stuff of nightmares. The original movie has every right to be beloved, as it is so well shot that it stands the test of time. With most groundbreaking films in history, a remake or reboot is usually thought of as blasphemy. For the 2003 re-imagining of the same name, it isn’t that simple to just write off the idea of a reboot as for this one, timing was everything.

In 2003, we were coming to a point where the slasher boom was starting to settle. Movies like Scream were becoming borderline Scooby-Doo in terms of narrative (which wasn’t really a bad thing looking back), leaving hardcore fans of the genre looking for more meat to get a thrill. Box office receipts were also suffering. Hollywood was ready to shake things up yet again, enlisting director Marcus Nispel and a whole new generation of actors and actresses to revitalize not just the franchise, but the entire horror genre. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre brought in Jessica Biel, who was fresh off TV’s 7th Heaven, Eric Baldour, who played minor roles throughout the 90’s, and several other faces to bring the Hewitt family back to the forefront.

When it debuted, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, even as a “reboot”, was unlike anything that had came out in decades. Within minutes of the film’s opening, we see a delightful road trip montage featuring the cast of stoners and misfits simply enjoying youth. There isn’t a lot of backstory given for everyone, but the ensemble work, and the actors come across as likable – giving a nice nostalgic nod to the same atmosphere of the original. Within minutes, the gang pick up a distraught hitchhiker, who quickly blows her head off, starting an instant dive into horror that doesn’t really let up until the credits roll at the end. The quick and brutal change of pace can be found several times throughout the movie, as once the viewer feels comfortable, something quickly goes awry to create more tension and suspense. Leatherface is a lot more present than the Hewitt family as well, and he comes off as more of an unstoppable monster in this adaptation – rather than some special person who was just raised to be evil. Sure, the family is there and are effective, but Leatherface is centered here and that truly kept the focus where it needed to be.

Biel also was fantastic in this film, as her reactions, screams, and general essence in this movie give it legs. Even though there are small plot issues and questions that go unanswered, I personally think that this version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre outdoes the original in many ways and feels like its own film due to the updates, changes, and broader budget. I remember coming out of the theater speechless, going back the next week to get another dose. Horror movies stopped giving that thrill ride feeling years prior, and luckily – this paid off as the film grossed over 100 million dollars in the box office overall. It doesn’t stop there, as this reboot got a prequel (which was a step down, in most ways), and truly triggered a ton of horror reboots that would follow. It is crazy to think that this director was working on the video to “Spice up your Life” a few years prior and went on to create something so incredible with a tired property, but alas, we got an unforgettable film that set a bar of what should be done. It Is damn disappointing to see that the bar I am referencing really hasn’t been touched since in terms of cinematic reboots, but for what it is, Texas Chainsaw Massacre proved it was worth giving another shot under the right visionary.

Out of that darkness, it is time to speak about some sunshine!

Sitcoms dominated entertainment in the sixties and seventies, and by far, one of the most iconic is absolutely The Brady Bunch. The playful family show become a massive success, and despite its short run, never left syndication since airing. There is something about innocence that viewers are attracted to and seeing the over-the-top handling of such simple problems attracted my own eyes as I watched on Nick at Nite and other platforms as a kid. I loved The Brady Bunch as it wasn’t just a silly television show, it was a fascinating story behind the scenes, as in the 90’s, the original cast were at that age where they began heavily plugging biographies – detailing the chaos that went on during what was perceived as such a hammy little hit.

I was like eight when The Brady Bunch Movie came to theaters, and I will be honest, I hated it. I didn’t get it. I saw the cast, knew that they were not my Brady Bunch that I liked, so I widely ignored it for at least five or six years. There is some validation to that reaction though. Who likes to see a cast change? I was so confused at that time why The Brady Bunch would even get a theatrical adaptation, so I basically tuned it out and went on about my childhood, not giving the movie or its sequel much thought. Fast forward a few years and add in the first movie playing on television, and I gave it a chance. Within minutes, this film became one of my favorite satires of all time.

The Brady Bunch Movie takes everything about The Brady Bunch (the cast, the set, and even props) and spins them in a flick where this innocent family are living their lives in 1995. A rough, dirty, 1995 – where people are real, and the Brady family basically are oblivious as they’re the Bradys. The plot revolves around a dastardly real estate mogul trying to take Mike and Carol Brady’s home, leaving this family with the task of coming up with enough money to save it before they lose everything. The world is not friendly to this family, as the kids go to a pretty rough school and the other adults are crabby and weathered, constantly bitching about their upbeat and odd presence throughout the film. From their attire, to random trips to Sears in full song and dance, The Brady Bunch manage to remain extremely endearing as they bring their tropes, flower child clothing, and naïve natures into the next generation, which is filled with innuendo and contemporary themes.

Despite all the obstacles, we get treated to what turns into comedy gold – as every character brings an overload of their original self and puts it to use in a “fish out of water” setting. Mike (played by Gary Cole), despite being successful, is constantly at the forefront, giving terrible advice and speeches at inappropriate times to both his family and everyone he crosses, whether they want to hear it or not. Carol (Shelly Long) is all about her husband and kids, agreeing with everything Mike says (despite her obvious faces of disillusion) in order to keep her family together. The kids are even more entertaining, led by the most oblivious child, Greg – who is wrapped up in himself despite coming off as a dork, and Marcia, who is equally conceited, only focusing on her hair and her own image throughout. Jan deals with heavy jealousy of her sister in her own, Jan type of way, and Peter, well – Peter deals with basically going through change and trying to pick up a girl who is his polar opposite, even though she is dating the school Bully. Cindy and Bobby balance out the ensemble nicely with their own quirks, and Alice, also stuck in this generation freeze keeps the squad fed and house kept as she simply follows along.

There are so many hysterical moments in this film that portray society and how it is handled by such a naïve bunch, but that isn’t what makes the film. The Brady Bunch Movie is wonderful as it celebrates what it is satirizing, playing homage instead of making fun of its topic, so everyone can be in on the joke. When the film released, it reintroduced the world to the original and every single time I watch it, or the equally awesome A Very Brady Sequel, I feel oddly compelled to go back and dive into the original, as there is something truly special about what this reboot was able to do when it released over twenty years ago – which was nearly thirty years after the original product aired. There were two straight to video/TV movies that followed this wave, but due to the kids changing due to age (as in cast change), the charm fades on those just a bit, even though they are not technically bad films.

There are so many television to movie adaptations that flop because they simply cannot capture what made viewers love the original product. Maybe the cast just act too far different, or maybe the script makes the original property seem stupid. If you are making a television remake or reboot in any way whatsoever and you make the viewer, who probably are tuning in due to their own history with that product feel shame for enjoying it to start with, you probably shouldn’t be working on it to start with. Bewitched, The Dukes of Hazzard, and several other films suffer from this, as no one wants to see those original qualities they once enjoyed update for the sake of being modern. This reboot was able to find a way to do it right, and has become beloved by fans of the original, where it is included as part of the lineage of the franchise in DVD sets and retrospectives everywhere.

There are a lot of other reboots and remakes alike I enjoy, but honestly, this piece is more of a reflection on the best from my own experiences, as it is far too easy these days to name off all of the terrible junk we have seen hit theaters and other platforms and create a look at something negative, but much more rewarding to take a look at the positive, and why we still get fed these types of films over and over each year. You want to watch The Rock play your childhood hero to make one note jokes or see Seth Rogen turn a famous cartoon character into a stoner hog? Go ahead. There really is nothing wrong with that. In my opinion however, it is a lot more fun to see something that introduces new viewers to an older property where one cast member playing the role isn’t the focus of the film. Reboots and remakes will never go away, but maybe these films will have a little more life if creators would pursue their own person passion of why they loved the original, instead of simply trying to find a cheap way to fulfill an actor’s contract with a major studio for a quick buck at the box office in return.

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