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Fri June 3, 2011
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Lost In Translation: Foreign Film Remakes' Greatest Hits and Misses

Although the new trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is breathtaking, there seems no possible way for a studio to avoid watering down the Swedish sadomasochistic snuff noir so it will play in America. In cinema, there is the homage to the past, and there is the wholesale remake or re-imagining of a film. A remake often involves updating a story with a narrative that transcends time — like the many, many remakes of The Four Feathers for instance. Other times it involves translating the story into another language entirely for commercial gain. There are foreign remakes of American films, but most often, foreign films are remade to sync to American sensibilities. Something will undoubtedly get lost in translation. Remaking is not an exact science.

So, here are my Greatest Hits and Misses in Foreign Film Remakes.

Point of No Return, based on Luc Besson's Nikita (1990) – Bridget Fonda brings about as much gravitas to the screen as she can muster playing the convict turned government assassin. It was a great film for it's time, with lots of car chases and explosions. It even managed to capture some of the dark, romantic moments of the original. But barely. HIT

Scent of a Woman, based on Profuma di Donna (1974) – The American remake is a good film that relies too heavily on the singular performance of Al Pacino. Profuma di Donna explores friendship, love, maturity and mortality in a way the knockoff barely touches. If you have not seen the original, get it on DVD, or put it in your Netflix cue. MISS

Godzilla: King of The Monsters, based on Gojira (1954) – Raymond Burr plays reporter Steve Martin bearing witness to the destruction of Tokyo at the hands of Godzilla, a 50-story deity displeased with the people of Japan. Burr's steady voiceover replaces the campy reporter from the original. A wonderful film that splices together the best from both worlds. HIT

Death at Funeral, based on Death at a Funeral (2007) – Chris Rock is better on stage than on screen, and this movie makes that case like no other. This shot-for-shot remake tries to replace wry British humor with broad comedy and the results are disastrous. I was a fan of the original, but wasn't sure it was good enough to be remade. 'Twas a bad idea, poorly executed. MISS

What are the most notable — or notorious-- remakes on your list?

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