Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

It's such a double-standard.

I'm talking about the way in which movie-companies will purchase the rights to a well-known property, only to then ostracise those customers who the expensive brand-name attracts.

The excuse is always the same - the fans of the original are just a minority, the big bucks are with today's audience who have never heard of it before.

Um, wasn't that a bit of a waste of money then?

Go on - have the courage of your convictions and make something new, without paying all that cash merely to subtract from your audience.

After all, everybody knows that remakes are almost always universally-derided turkeys.

There are two common stumbling-blocks for remakes:

1. being true to the original, and

2. being a good film in their own right.

The films that achieve both tend to be very rare, and very popular, eg. Star Trek.

I thought that this 2005 remake of French TV's classic 1960s-90s series Le Manège enchanté only slightly attempted to do either.

The thing is, the old TV series that we originally got in Britain - The Magic Roundabout - was itself a remake, but it was not true to the original.

The BBC bought the footage from France, but failed to cough-up the money for the scripts, so British vocal artist Eric Thompson just had to make-up all the names, personas, dialogue and plots. Often, he didn't seem to much bother with that last one, resulting in a reputation for being surreal. This system was so successful that, when Nigel Planer took over the job, he chose to continue under similar constraints. There was no attempt made to be faithful to the original French series, so no one had any problem with the brand new world that Thompson had created.

Had the British-language 2005 CGI remake that I watched this morning also been inspired wholly by the original French material, then it could have been fine.

But it wasn't. This British-language version also tries to use Eric Thompson's British character names, along with vague characterisations. Unfortunately they don't seem to really remember the old show...

For example, Dougal doesn't sound anything like the old Dougal - he really sounds like Brian. (poor casting) Dylan makes drug-references at every opportunity, something which, despite popular urban myth, he didn't in the original. (poor research) Brian (the snail) and Ermintrude (the cow) fall in love. (poor, just, really, poor)

One can look upon this film as a third interpretation of the world of The Magic Roundabout, equally inspired by both the preceding French and English versions. In other words, an original film in its own right.

Unfortunately, considering it as a film in its own right, I didn't like it either. The story didn't work for me, the animation looked cheap, and the dialogue like a first-draft. Ironic really. First-draft dialogue was fine for the old daily TV show, but not in the cinema.

For example, at one point Brian the snail remarks that it's the "end of the line." It's a comment that a second-draft should really have given to the train character. However throughout this film, little struck me as having had much effort put into it.

The really incredible thing is that when the UK version was going to be released in the US, most of the British dialogue was then replaced with a US script for American actors, creating a fourth world. They even took the British name Dougal and mistifyingly respelt it Doogal.

In the light of such creative determination, the UK version has really very little defence for its apathy. If it was attempting to be true to Eric Thompson's version, then it needed a much more carefully written script. If it was attempting to be a brand new version, then it needed a much more carefully written script.

Whatever the reasoning, kids today deserve more effort than this. As a big kid who watches a lot of kids' films, I found it even more hideous than I was prepared for, and that's knowing beforehand how much it had already been panned. BTW, in case you reckon it wasn't made with a 38-year-old audience-member in mind, I'm sure I don't need to remind you that almost all kids' films these days are made for adults too. See my earlier comment about Dylan's many substance-abuse references in this.

Finally, in contrast to the actual film, The Magic Roundabout (2005) does have one thing going for it - an absolutely lovely trailer.

It's here.

Watch this, it's sheer magic. Or un enchantement. Whichever you prefer.

(review of Pollux Et Le Chat Bleu / Dougal And The Blue Cat here)

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3 comment(s):

At 11:23 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, interesting and thought-provoking as usual. I watched the Fame movie remake on dvd last week and quite enjoyed it. I haven't seen the original. On another topic, lurbeti is the word I must now type into the word verification box below. Quite legible this one, sometimes it's really difficult to read, like trying to decipher graffiti. good to see graffiti artists putting their talents to good use. JK

At 11:24 pm, Blogger iDeal said...

O, JK is james keating

At 6:30 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

And here I was thinking that my blog was being read by Jemima Khan...

Thanks for the kind words - I've never seen either version of Fame, I heard that it cost too much.

I now have to enter the word 'mangstet' - what is that, a cowboy wearing a mango on his head?



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