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The Addams Family -- How To Successfully Remake An Old TV Show Into A Movie
Lately, it seems like Hollywood has run out of ideas for movies and they've looked to old TV shows for inspiration. But in most cases the remake is a pale comparison to the original TV show and lacks any of the charm that the show the movie is based on had. The latest remake is Dark Shadows and from the trailer I've seen it lacks any of the charm of the original series. The name is the same and the characters have the same names but that's about it.
The only movie I think captured the magic of the old TV show it was based on was The Addams Family movies. I was watching the first one the other night. While the Fester storyline was something totally different from the TV show, I didn't mind, because the essence of the show was there: Morticia and Gomez and their all encompassing great love for each other. As creepy as it was, that was kind of the type of love you wanted to have. It was far superior to Herman and Lily Munster's love. And creepy little Wednesday had bratty Eddie Munster and his Dracula-do beat seven ways to Sunday.
John Astin and Carolyn Jones were perfect in the pars of Morticia and Gomez and when I heard Raul Julia and Anjelica Houston were cast in the parts, I thought they were nuts. Julia and Houston are actors better known for their straight dramatic roles. Could they really play Gomez and Morticia? Could they ever. I feel disloyal saying this, but as good as Jones and Astin were, I think Julia and Houston were better in the roles. They took Gomez and Morticia to a darker place than Astin and Jones were able to, although they did take them a lot further than a lot of the couples in the era the show was being made. Houston and Julia's Morticia and Gomez were clearly into S&M from some of the comments they made.
I think that's the key to making a successful remake of an old TV show. The actors in the role have to surpass the original actors in the parts. In the Dukes of Hazard remake I didn't think any of the actors were as good as the actors who originated the parts they were playing. Ditto for the actors who played in the Beverly Hillbillies remake. And don't even get me started on Lost In Space. I had a major crush on Major Don West and Matt Le Blanc was no Don West.
Another reason I think the Addams Family was a successful remake from TV show to movie is the movie kept the general creepy atmosphere the show had. In a lot of ways the Addams Family house was just as much of a character as any of the other characters. That house was the haunted house you wouldn't want to go in on Halloween. It always reminded me a lot of the Psycho house. And when you entered the Addams' house it was like entering the Psycho house. You never knew what was going to jump out at you next. Either the bear skin rug would roar at you if you walked on it or Morticia's plant, Cleopatra, would try and strangle you if you got too close. The bear skin rug made it into the movie, but alas, Cleopatra did not.
I liked Drew Barrymore's Charlie's Angels, but it seemed like more of an amped up parody of the show. Much like Tim Burton's Dark Shadows seems from the trailer I saw of it. It's one way to go where you create an entirely different entity from the show you're basing your movie on. The only thing the same as the series in Barrymore's Angels was John Forsythe voicing the voice of Charlie. Otherwise it was a totally different movie that really only shares the same name as the TV show but lacks all the charm that the first season of the show had. Of course, if you're going to create a totally different movie from the show you're basing it on, then why not call it something else entirely? Probably, because you wouldn't attract fans of the original series to watch the movie expecting one thing and getting another.
I've always loved Johnny Depp as an actor, but he's no more Barnabus Collins than he was Willie Wonka. I have a hard time even watching Depp as Willie Wonka. He just seems like a creepy pedophile. And from the brief clips of Depp as Barnabus he seems like as drag queen. Yeah, I know, drag queens dress up like women, not men, but it was just the impression I had of him from the clips I saw. And I know it's not fair to judge an entire movie by a trailer. Maybe it won't be as bad as the trailer made it seem.
Ultimately, I think it's very hard to create the same magic the original actors created together in an old TV show that's made into a movie. The Addams Family got lucky, but a lot of other TV show remakes haven't been able to manage it. Maybe a better idea is to use the idea for an old TV show in a movie with a different name and a different character and a different spin and then there'd be no backlash from fans of the original show who declare the movie sucks compared to the TV show it was based on.