Sunday, September 24, 2006

It's a Movie...No! It's a Musical!...No! It's a Movie Again!

I am pissed. Not about anything of any real consequence. I'm just pissed. Why the hell do people want to turn wonderful movies into mediocre musicals? I'm talking Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, Finding Nemo, The Producers. Yes, I realize it's for the money, but these musicals are ruining my childhood memories. (Finding Nemo - not really a CHILDHOOD memory, though many people think I still look 12 years old.)

The last movie-to-musical I mentioned brings in a new category that I absolutely despise. It's the movie that's been changed into a musical, which is then delivered again in movie form. Possibly, I'm so irate about this matter because The Producers was one of my favorite movies. Gene Wilder is ridiculous and hysterical. Zero Mostel is dirty and over-the-top. Everything about the movie holds that Mel Brooks humor, laced with both satire and innocence.

But then, they come along and make a musical out of it. Brooks writes more songs, but he's not really a songwriter. The songs turn out to be poor imitations of Cole Porter and Jerry Herman. The script comes from the movie, which is funny. But on the stage, everything needs to be bigger, right? So the script, the acting, the general tone of the show gets amped to the nth degree. Everything is loud and "wacky"(the 'wocka-wocka' kind of wacky). Not my bag at all.

But that's not enough. They have to make MORE money off of this ridiculous enterprise. Do they worry at all about what quality may come out of a story that's been raped and pillaged?(movie!musical!movie! who am I, what am I?) Nope. Ostensibly, nobody cares. The movie is shitty as a result. Though admittedly, I haven't seen the film (I think I'll cry), from what I hear, the performances are to broad and campy. They've lost the heart of the first film, the humanity in the two losers who star in this ...thing. Movie? Musical? Movie-musical? Thing formerly known as good?

This is not the only instance of this, and we should expect more to come in the future. Hairspray is the next one up. Though I hold no attachment to the ORIGINAL movie, my problem is still the same. I don't want to lose these movies that were apparently so inspiring that people were moved to make a musical out of them. The next generation (yes, I'm doing it, I'm playing the child card) is going to miss some wonderful movies. Instead of the subtly subtlety (a phrase I just made up for a work that is over-the-top with quiet strains of pathos and empathy) of the original The Producers, people will see a cotton ball fluff of a movie. No one will have the context we have, of my generation and older. No one will have seen the process of bastardization that we have witnessed. They'll just see a bunch of crappy, campy movies that do not interest them. This will then begin the ultimate turn away from movies with any substance. The nation will then be over-run with violent, sex-filled gang movies (rated PG unless they are either gay gangsters or straight gangsters who show their penises).

There I go, ranting again. Oh well. I know that the 'art' of the remake is nothing new, but these things get to me. I see no other reason to remake something unless you will change it somehow for the better. Whether that improvement comes because of an update for a generation's mindset (Baz Luhrmann, I'm NOT looking at you), because of a new, updated "look" for the film that would have fit with the director's original vision, or for some other artistic, interesting reason. But these movie-musical-movies seem to be solely cash cows. There is no other purpose in making these movies except to cash in on people's bad taste in musicals.

That's it for me.


jmixont said...

Whew! Go get 'em! I'm not entirely sure that I understand "subtly subtlety" (although I think you meant "subtle subtlety") I basically see your point. For a while I was encouragin these because at least they were making movie-musicals again. But, if they're shitty, then it will kill the fad.

This actually reminds me of my annoyance of song covers for song-covering's sake. Bring us something new or go write something new. Nothing's more boring than another's version of a song.

Jason said...

I couldn't agree more. THE PRODUCERS film was numbingly awful, a shadow of a shadow of both the first film and the stage production. It just laid there like a hibernating bear, unable to be clever, witty or interesting on its' own.

I am very afraid for HAIRSPRAY and am beginning to think CHICAGO was a true fluke, as modern movie musicals go. (IDLEWILD, the latest new movie musical, tried to be innovative, but was a hodge-podge at best.)

When you think of the millions invested and the millions lost you'd think somebody would know better! I think if they'd had Mel Brooks direct it it mIGHT have been slightly better, for Susan Stroman seemed to set the camera on a tripod and merely film the play.

Sadly, this remake mania is not limited to musicals. Was there a burning need for the anemic remake of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE? Or the thoroughly absymal CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY?

I've heard rumors of a CGI version of THE WIZARD OF OZ... I hope they are merely rumors.

jlw said...

I wouldn't worry too much. Think of King Kong: the original from 1933 is a classic that inspired generations of filmmakers. The remake from 1976 was schlock. From an artistic standpoint, it shouldn't have been made and it made no meaningful contribution, but it didn't ruin the original. And now, with a few years distance, few remember the 1976 version compared with those that still remember and appreciate the original. Even the most recent blockbuster version won't eclipse the original. I showed excerpts from the original to elementary students in my stop-motion animation summer camp and they were riveted.
And don't even mention ridiculous sequels! Son of Kong, Queen Kong, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Konga, King Kong Escapes... none of these killed the original. They were cheap attempts to cash in, but the movie business is a business after all. As Robert Preston sang, "no one pretended that what we were doing was art."