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McCULLOUGH: Hollywood doesn't want ideas, it wants money

If you look at the past 10 years or so, the list of remakes goes on seemingly forever.

In my mind, it all started with "Planet of the Apes." The 1968 science fiction movie starring Charlton Heston is a near-perfect example of what Hollywood can accomplish when it wants to take risks and forge new ground. From the ground-breaking make-up and experimental score to the social and political themes, "Planet of the Apes" was movie-making at its best. It needed no polishing or "re-imagining" as the studios like to call it nowadays.

But someone in Hollywood needed a polishing of their pocketbook apparently, because in 2001 they remade it. When I saw the first trailer that featured a female ape with a dainty little nose and a Jennifer Aniston haircut straight from "Friends" I knew I wouldn't be going anywhere near that remake. And I still haven't seen it and never intend to do so.

But I guess someone did, because it made more than $300 million at the box office. And Hollywood was off and running.

It remade "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," shortening it to "Mr. Deeds" and substituting Adam Sandler for Gary Cooper, which is like substituting castor oil for honey. Comedy and science fiction under its belt, the remake machine then took solid aim at a genre dear to my heart -- horror.

I love horror movies for the same reason most people love roller coasters -- you get some good scares, get the heart racing and then you go get a pizza and talk about how scary it was with your friends. Knowing it's not real -- but it could be -- that's the allure of scary movies.

Hollywood had two real golden ages of horror. The first, of course, came during Hollywood's literal golden age, the 1930s, when all those great Universal monster movies like "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" made people like Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff household names in fright. The second came in the '70s and '80s, when killer sharks, aliens and serial killers took over. Many of these movies were both highly entertaining and more importantly -- especially to Hollywood -- the slasher flicks were cheap to make.

Unfortunately, someone in la-la land remembered the cheap part. In the past decade we've seen nearly all of the classics from the 1970s and 1980s remade: "Halloween," "Friday the 13th," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "The Hills Have Eyes" -- the list goes on.

This week they released the remake of "Fright Night" which was a great little horror movie starring Roddy McDowell as a washed-up, late-night horror movie host who is called on by a fan to take on a vampire that moved in next door to him. Not only was McDowell great in the original (as he was in the original "Planet of the Apes"), but the movie is also great because it's from the era when vampires were still fiendish creatures of the night and not brooding, hunky hard-bodies filled with the teen angst and brains one step below a "Jersey Shore" cast-member's.

Action, fantasy, drama and comedy are all on the drawing board. "Footloose," "The Poseidon Adventure" and this week's other installment, "Conan the Barbarian" -- if it made money 30 years ago, you can bet your sweet bippy Hollywood is going to try to make money off it in the 21st century.

All of these remakes are done for one reason: cash. Hollywood still has original ideas even if they're not executed properly. ("Cowboys & Aliens" comes to mind.) But original ideas are risky. "Cowboys & Aliens" was nearly beaten on its opening weekend at the box office by "The Smurfs," a movie made from a 1980s TV show. And the studios' other original offerings are often either too high-brow for the mainstream or just downright clunkers.

It's not ideas Hollywood lacks, but it's millions in studio execs' pockets that it desires. So they keep going back to the well for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks.

That's where the money is.

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.