You may recall a recent commentary from yours truly (because I’m the only contributor to this site) in which I discussed the concept of “not-stalgia” movies and TV shows, ones that use an old name and characters but bears no resemblance to the original concept whatsoever. Well, there’s a mild trend I’m seeing start up on this field, a variation if you will. The nostalgic parody. It’s still just starting but I promise you it’s out there, and it’s Baywatch that made me realize it.
This is usually the part where I post the latest trailer to the movie remake/demake of Baywatch, but it’s the movie trailer so they left in the swearing. I’ll link to Screen Crush’s posting of it though and assume you’ve watched it. But if you haven’t, the new version stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in David Hasslehoff’s role of Mitch Bucannon, head lifeguard on some California beach. The original series, first airing on NBC and later revived for syndication, is about lifeguards on the beach, their personal lives, and rescuing beach goers and boaters. The show was known for lighter writing, even during “very special episodes”, and beautiful people on the beach. Because a 500+ pound lifeguard would have been a good idea. I’ve never seen an unattractive lifeguard on a beach. They aren’t all as beautiful or handsome as the ones on the show, but a good body comes with the job.
The Screen Crush writer called the movie “self-aware”. In the trailer a woman runs on the beach and two charactera say she always looks like she’s running in slow motion, a reference to the “music video” montages and the intro I imagine. Another character refers to whatever situation is forming the movie’s plot as an entertaining but unrealistic TV show, or words to that effect. And there’s a lot of explosions and a dance party, and the like. It makes me think this will be a parody of the original show, and if you think I’m assuming things, I might be–but with good reason.
I’m not even against the idea. For example the Dan Akryod/Tom Hanks parody of Dragnet was a good movie. Not a great movie. The jokes don’t always work (although there are two I really like), the plot of the pagan group is confusing, and the “virgin Connie Swail” running gag has a lame payoff. But it was still enjoyable. And yet look at what’s come out just recently.
- The Lone Ranger: Tonto is a “lovable goofball” (read “lunatic” aka “the only character Johnny Depp plays latetly) while from what I hear (most of the focus seems to be on Johnny Depp’s odd performance) the Ranger himself, despite having been a Texas Ranger, is someone Cordell Walker would find an embarrassment.
- The Green Hornet: His descendant (at least in the original radio plays) doesn’t fare much better. While Kato is highly confident, Brit comes off as incompetent, a former party kid who becomes a poor man’s Tony Stark. Like his ancestor, his adventures seem to be more played for laughs than previous versions. Should I actually want the Kevin Smith concept in comparison? The answer is no.
- 21 Jump Street: Speaking of Johnny Depp, back when the Fox Television Network (now just Fox) was just starting out, 21 Jump Street was about babyface cops working stings in high school. Depp was the breakout, but Holly Robinson and Richard Grecko both got their starts on this show. While low-budget (this was a brand new network who only aired shows on weekends), the show was supposed to be a serious cop show, whatever limits the writing, directing, and acting may have had. The movie, however, along with the sequel 22 Jump Street (what, did they move to the next building over just to use a lame sequel numbering gimmick?), is actually a comedy. I hear it’s a funny one, but like I said before, not-stalgia isn’t necessarily bad quality (although it often is) but does ignore, or in this case make fun of, the source material.
- Land Of The Lost: I brought this one up in the previous commentary on this topic, as they turned the kids show about a family (with a widower and his two children) trapped in a “land time forgot” into a typical Will Ferrell comedy. The kids were even replaced by a namesake love interest and goofy sidekick (odd, considering Ferrell’s character in the movie).
- The Wild, Wild West: Yeah, I’m throwing this one in, too. The original was a bit on the campy side, but the remake seems to be aiming more for comedy. Also it was terrible. Loveless on TV was a good villain. The movie version was a joke.
And there could have been more like that. Jack Black had wanted to do a more comedic take on Green Lantern, while Jim Carrey wanted to do a parody of The Six Million Dollar Man, and those are just the ones I know about. So what’s the cause of all these not-stalgia parodies? Well have you seen the other not-stalgia properties out there? Most of them are dark, gritty remakes of previous works. Hollywood hates camp and can’t tell a good lighthearted tale, even a serious one, without coming from a Christian indie studio or Marvel Studios, unless it’s for kids, and keeping a kids’ property for modern kids just isn’t modern Hollywood’s style. For every Inspector Gadget or Underdog (the quality of both being up for debate) you get Transformers or Land Of The Lost. Apparently we aren’t allowed to bring our childhood favorites to OUR children. No, it’s ours, all ours, we’re making it ours now as alleged grown-ups because everything for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
When it comes to the parody I think something else is being lost. And Baywatch is probably the best example. There is a point where you can be TOO self-aware to the point where you don’t even try to make a proper story so you make it a comedy. You risk being a parody of yourself, or in this case something else that was never done for laughs. And this isn’t like The Room where it’s so bad it’s unintentionally hilarious. They weren’t trying to make a dark, heavy-handed show. It was meant to be something you could relax with and not be bogged down in messages and depressing stuff, things you’d avoid after a rough day or week. But it was meant to be taken seriously if you aren’t the snarky type who sees “cheezy” in anything that doesn’t have deep character moments, or at least darker moments where life is falling apart. And since they can’t tell that kind of story in Lalaland anymore and they somehow know the culture wouldn’t take a dark and gritty Baywatch their only solution was “make it a comedy”.
Look, the movie may be good and may even make a lot of money, but this is the start of a trend here, and someday it’s going to your light and relaxing story and making a gritty reboot or making fun of something you like. Your comfort shows are being replaced with darkness or parody because Hollywood will make fun of anything they can’t make superserious. Hollywood doesn’t know how to relax anymore, and it’s a sign of not-so-good things to come.