Remakes have been around nearly as long as Hollywood itself, and not always for the reasons or with the results you’d think. Spectrum Culture’s new feature Re-Make/Re-Model will examine the long history of cinematic remakes, the good movies turned great, the bad ideas turned worse and the weird ones turned boring.

John Hughes made a name for himself in the mid-1980s with a series of era-defining teenage comedies. Flicks like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, and Weird Science not only jumpstarted the careers of multiple actors, they now embody adolescents of that decade and serve as inspiration for the countless ‘80s themed parties that happen around the country. Hysterical, and often slightly satirical, Hughes’ earlier comedic work was stylized with small hyperboles of reality. The zany scenarios continue to make viewers laugh two decades later, but all the characters and situations stood fairly close to reality. At the very least, the actions and reactions seemed feasible given the right set of circumstances.

The 1987 buddy-flick Planes, Trains & Automobiles (written and directed by Hughes) was built using that framework of slight exaggerations. Set around the misadventures of up-tight marketing executive Neal Page (played by Steve Martin) and the slovenly Del Griffith (played by the late John Candy), the film exploits two major stresses: travel during the holidays and working alongside an opposing personality. Caught in the frenzy of the Thanksgiving holiday, both Page and Griffith are making their way from New York to Chicago, a journey besieged with innumerable amount of problems. As the title suggests, the duo initially attempt to make the trek via air – where Page is bumped from first class to economy and must sit next to the vaporous Griffith until the flight is rerouted to St. Louis due to a snow storm – from there they must stay the night in a one-bed hotel room before jumping on a train to Chicago – that somehow breaks down in the middle-of-nowhere – and finally make their way home through a series of troubled automobile excursions. Most of which had to be done without monetary assistance, as they were robbed mid-slumber while sharing the queen sized bed in St. Louis. This series of events, aside from the troubled train, is updated on the Todd Phillips-directed Due Date.

The 2010 rework may carry a different title, but Due Date is no more than a slightly veiled remake of the Hughes classic. Phillips, the director of Road Trip and The Hangover franchise, decided to forego the clever plotline of the original for one more befitting the bro-tastic reputation of his fanbase. Filling the legendary loafers of Martin and Candy are the rage-fueled Robert Downey Jr. and the off-kilter hilarity of Zach Galifianakis. Downey, who plays vein-popping father-to-be Peter Highman, and Galifianakis, as the quirky aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay/Chase, cultivate the same relationship as the original pair – they just do so in a much less subtle dynamic. In the original, Page is undoubtedly agitated by the actions of Griffith, but the character understands the need to succeed in tandem and thus rarely blows up at the well-meaning salesman. The one moment of aggression comes when Page unleashes an expletive-chain on the rental car clerk after discovering that his car has been offered to another person. Highman, on the other hand, seems like the most short-fused man on Earth during the five-day journey home to witness the birth of his first child. This behemoth of a personality is comparable to that of Galifianakis’ Tremblay – a stage name – who carries around a dog and a coffee tin containing his late father’s ashes. Griffith may have been annoying with his constant stories and pre-bed nasal antics, but Tremblay turns the dial to 11 — wiping his belly on Highman’s face while storing his luggage in the first-class bins, masturbating while the pair attempt to fall asleep in the car, hiding the truth about Highman’s lost wallet and flipping the car after falling asleep at the wheel.

These differences can be linked to the vision of director Phillips. While Hughes chose to base his movies close to real-world scenarios, Phillips is known for over-the-top plot points. Like the tiger, newborn baby and stolen police car in The Hangover, Phillips infuses the Hughes’ storyline with impossible scenarios: freeing Highman from Mexican border authorities and a subsequent car chase, a masturbating dog, drinking coffee made from the ashes of Tremblay’s father and being shot by an Air Marshall for simply using some choice words. Due Date obviously goes after the hoard of fans that love fart jokes and watching people expel bodily fluids, but the movie’s writers did attempt to carry over some of the original’s highlights, like including a long list of guest cameos (Kevin Bacon, Larry Hankin and Michael McKean vs. RZA, Juliette Lewis and Danny McBride) and a sentimental, heartstring-tugging conclusion.

In the original, Martin’s Page returns to a Chicago “L” stop to pick up Griffith for Thanksgiving, who had been lying all along about returning to Chicago to reunite with his wife, who he reveals had been dead for eight years. In Due Date, Highman travels roughly 200 miles out of his way to allow Tremblay to sprinkle his father’s ashes in the Grand Canyon. A scene that quickly ends when Tremblay comes clean about hiding Highman’s wallet and Highman deservedly attacks Tremblay for putting him through so much torture when he could have easily purchased a rental car with his credit cards. Alas, Due Date also ends happily with Highman and his wife watching Tremblay in a guest role on “Two and a Half Men.”

Given the lack of depth with which Due Date’s characters are written and portrayed, the conclusory moments just do not hit with the same visceral impact of Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Page arriving home with Griffith, and the warmth that he is shown by Page’s wife and children adds a sense of holiday cheer to even the Grinchiest of viewers; whereas, Due Date attempts to pull a few more laughs. It’s true, Due Date may have more laugh-out-loud moments, but the onscreen relationship between Martin and Candy is one that even Chris Farley and David Spade were not able to match in their better roles. Planes, Trains & Automobiles deserves a coveted timeslot during holiday celebrations, while Due Date is that funny flick you keep on during Sunday because the beers are already cold and your team doesn’t play until the evening.

  • Joker

    Featuring a tour-de-force performance by Joaquin Phoenix, Joker is a rare comic book film …
  • Avengers: Infinity War

    Infinity War is a great time, the kind of movie-going experience that even non-fans should…
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming

    Spidey’s cinematic fate is now safe in Marvel’s loving arms. …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Junior Boys: Big Black Coat

The path hasn’t come to a sudden dead-end for the Junior Boys, a new route or crew is just…