"The Big Chill" To Be Remade, And Here's Why That's Okay
Let’s put aside, for a moment, the notion that remakes are automatically terrible movies. Whether they be inspired by old movies or TV shows, I happen to think that there’s an equal number of great remakes and bad remakes. Let us not forget that only four months ago a remake of a Hong Kong cop thriller took home the Best Picture Oscar. Start from there and work your way down the list, and you’ll find gems such as SNL sketch-based Wayne’s World and Stuart Saves His Family, as well as Jonathan Demme’s marvelously creepy The Manchurian Candidate, which I consider to be even slightly better than the Frankenheimer original from the 1960s (less Cold War shenanigans, more topical themes).
Now, The Big Chill. Released in 1983, this was Kasdan’s follow-up to his schorching debut, the William Hurt-Kathleen Turner thriller Body Heat, and was a passion project from one of the more popular screenwriters at the time (those being the tiny films Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back). Based around a meeting of former college friends at the funeral of one of their closest acquaintances, it examined the lost dreams of the Baby Boom generation and how to put those pieces back together. A very talky affair, the film is not for everyone, but much like his 1991 race drama Grand Canyon it holds up wonderfully well to similarly themed films (2005 Oscar-winner Crash owes a lot to Canyon yet doesn’t even remotely come close to its glory). The Big Chill is one of my favorite movies, and the performances from Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, Glenn Close, Meg Tilly et al are still probably the best of their careers.
To bring it around again into today’s social atmosphere, amidst political turmoil and a country at odds with itself, is a better idea than people thing. The news sources has said that the Kasdan script would only be a jumping-off point for a new screenplay, which would include a title change as well. It could really be an introspective, intimate slice-of-life amidst a sea of braindead blockbusters and dumb gross-out comedies, just like the original was.
I find it problematic, though, that I’ve noticed a trend about online film nerd readers and talkbackers--they simply just don’t like African-American movies. This is putting aside that there’s an equal percentage of good films in any ethnic group, no matter what the color of the characters’ skins. Recently, I just watched the lovely romance Something New with Sanaa Lathan, which went along with the race-changing remake Guess Who in treating interracial dating with respect and maturity.
I look at the IMDb.com star rating of the film adaptation of The Honeymooners show, this time starring Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps, Gabrielle Union and Regina Hall, and see that it is rated as the 40th worst movie of all time. I thought the movie was very sweet and likable without going into the histrionics that made the original show innovative but ultimately sometimes obnoxious, but that’s beside the point. I can name hundreds of other comedies that were worse than The Honeymooners from a critical perspective but still apparently liked more by viewers (White Chicks has a 4.9/10 in comparison to this movie’s 2.2/10). I cannot help but point to much of the country’s continue bigotry about what they don’t understand. It’s not racism entirely, but it shows a lack of understanding for other cultures. Why should this movie be rated lower simply because of the race of its actors?
I think people have a right to respond to the remake as a bad idea, but most of the comments come from the topic of the ethnic switcheroo, and I don’t like this. To remake The Big Chill isn’t the problem, and the ethnicity change isn’t one either. As long as it’s good, nobody should care. Look on the bright side.