I’m sure you’ve walked out of the theater before thinking “I’ve seen this somewhere else…”. Well, that is because most likely you have. Hollywood has a major love for already established stories and they will adapt them just about anyways. Sometimes the results are great, others just make you wonder why we can’t have more original stories come to the screen. Here are a few I thought of.
1. Strange Brew
Of the movies on the list, this is likely to be the one fewest people have seen. It is a spinoff from SCTV’s Bob and Doug McKenzie skits. Strange Brew follows the exploits of Bob and Doug McKenzie as they get jobs at Elsinore Brewery after their attempt to get free beer goes sour. On their first day they save the daughter of the founder, Pam Elsinore, who has recently taken control of the brewery after her late father mysteriously died. Unfortunately, her ambitious Uncle Claude who has married her mother is fighting to keep the Brewery to himself.
The two clueless brothers stumble onto a plot by Brewmeister Smith’s plan for world domination. How does he intend to do it? Easy, he has put a concoction into the beer that makes the drinker calm, but when certain music plays it allows for them to be controlled. It appears that Claude and Smith are in on the plan together and only the witless brothers with the help of Pam and Jean “Rosie” LeRose, a former hockey player who quit because of a nervous breakdown, are able to stop it. Laughter of course ensues.
This is a movie that watching now might seem a little dated, but Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis show they have just as much comedic chops as any SNL or SCTV actor that made it big during this era. Most people remember Moranis from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but this is the role you will remember him after you see Strange Brew. The main villain of the story, played by Max Von Sydow is great and adds just enough acting cred to give the movie a little boost.
So what is it based on? Surprisingly enough, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. No, really! Bob and Doug McKenzie are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet. The story is loosely based however. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the original play are villainous spies sent by Uncle Claudius, where as in Strange Brew Bob and Doug are unwilling spies and are only easily manipulated by their stupidity. Pam is of course based on Prince Hamlet himself. Her Uncle Claude is none other than Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius who marries his mother Gertrude (named the same in both). You even have the ghostly specter of the father appear in the movie. All of this takes place at Elsinore Brewery, which is conveniently enough the same name as the castle in Hamlet.
Luckily, if you don’t like sad stories Strange Brew is not a tragedy like the story it is based on, but comedy in every way. Don’t expect the beautiful language of the Bard, but if you do see this one, expect to have some good laughs.
You might not believe it but the extremely popular 1995 movie Clueless is based on a famous novel. It follows Cher Horowitz, the daughter of a successful Beverly Hills lawyer, at first seems a bit narcissistic and spoiled, but it is apparent after a bit that she has good intentions. After matchmaking two nerdy teachers at her school, Cher decides that she is a good matchmaker and wants to try it again. She soon adopts the new girl at school, Tai, into her social clique. Her attempts to match Tai up with someone backfire when the guy she is trying to hook Tai up with, Elton, comes on to her. In addition to all this she makes sure that Tai does not go out with stoner/skater Travis, deeming him to be unworthy for her new “unhip” friend.
The only character who seems to see through Cher’s faults and positive aspects is her ex-stepbrother Josh. He starts to see something in her more than just the spoiled rich girl and they start to bond. Although, unfortunately Cher’s own machinations come in the way of her love for Josh. Tai whose popularity has seemingly gone out of hand now decides she is in love with Josh. This creates a divide between the two girls as Tai is now center of attention and Cher is now trying to be more socially concious to get the attention of Josh. Through a few swift scenes everything is put in the right order and everyone is with their right person.
Clueless was a film that was both critically and financially successful. It was a sleeper hit and brought on a whole new culture to the forefront of America. In addition to coining the phrase “As if” it was very aware of the teenage style at the time. It was a breakout role for Alicia Silverstone who never quite got a role bigger than her role in Clueless. It was one of Paul Rudd’s first major roles and very possibly is the reason he plays the type of role he does today. Other notable actor in it is Scrubs’s Donald Faison who played Cher’s best friend’s boyfriend.
So what is it based on? Jane Austen’s Emma, believe it or not, but it’s actually a more faithful adaptation than you might believe. Emma follows the title character as she tries to play matchmaker in a rich society. Much of the story is the same as Clueless. Both of the main characters are slightly spoiled, good looking rich women who fancy themselves matchmakers. Both stories have their targets go awry because of their meddling. Clueless essentially took the story and updated it with modern slang, style, and technology.
The writer and director of Clueless, Amy Heckerling, took what was a social comedy and updated it brilliantly. Themes that run through Austen’s book run just as strong through the film. The heroine’s in both stories realize that love does not come from social status or financial well being, but it is only after a few mishaps happen that they finally realize this.