Never argue with a living legend like Mel Brooks.
The genius behind “The Producers,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles” insists the latter couldn’t be made in today’s woke climate.
He’s right, of course.
Brooks’ western sendup, co-written by Richard Pryor, savages racism in ways that are no longer permissible. It’s rude, crude and full of love for both Westerns and people of all races.
It’s also the ultimate example of a classic that wouldn’t be made today in its current form.
But there are others.
Some films don’t make sense when it comes to possible remakes. The 1983 comedy “Mr. Mom,” for example, lampooned the idea of a father (Michael Keaton) doing so-called domestic work.
Today, millions of stay-at-home dads can do household chores while providing children with a strong father figure.
The following movies served up storylines and gags that simply wouldn’t pass muster with today’s social media scolds for very different reasons.
“The Bad News Bears”
It’s one of the best baseball movies ever. Walter Matthau plays former minor league player Morris Buttermaker who coaches a rag-tag little league team to the championships. Along the way a boozy Buttermaker passes out on the pitcher’s mound and, later, gives beer to his pre-teen charges.
The screenplay features plenty of racially-charged epithets, some uttered by the young players.
They staged a remake via 2005’s “Bad News Bears” with Billy Bob Thornton, but some of those rough edges were sanded smooth. Any attempt at retelling “Bears” now would look nothing like the source material.
“Some Like It Hot”
The recent Broadway revival of the hit 1959 movie changed the film’s classic moments and, in the process, removed all the funny from it. The man who thought Jack Lemmon’s character was an actual woman learns he’s a dude and shrugs, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
It’s one of the best final film lines ever, but in the musical version the confused paramour says, “You’re perfect.”
Drag comedy existed for decades. Everyone from Milton Berle to Monty Python put on women’s clothing for yuks. It’s mostly obsolete today, and certainly no one would dare pitch a movie about two straight white men who dress up as women to escape a mobster — even if it’s considered in some circles as the greatest screen comedy of all time.
Any “Hot” remake would sink under the woke demands of modern storytelling. Just look, once more, at the musical update which had one of the two drag performers embrace non-binary status after putting on a dress.
This 1982 comedy follows a very wealthy white man (Jackie Gleason) who buys his son a unique gift — a black man (Richard Pryor) tasked with serving as the lad’s friend or, as one character describes it, his “toy.” Maybe woke bylaws aren’t so bad in this case. Who would entertain such a pitch in today’s world?
Cheap fat jokes, both then and now, are … cheap. They still were told for decades before the era of “fat shaming” made them obsolete.
Yet the Farrelly brothers’ “Shallow Hal” isn’t just an assembly line of fat gags. It’s a sweet story about a jerk (Jack Black) who learns to look past one-dimensional beauty to find his perfect partner.
The 2001 comedy finds Gwyneth Paltrow playing an obese woman who charms Black’s character after he undergoes a sort of hypnosis. He can only see a woman’s inner beauty and love swiftly blooms.
No modern satirist would attempt something as tricky as “Shallow Hal,” even if the ultimate message is one of acceptance, not hate.
“I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry”
Most critics loathe Adam Sander comedies, and yet this 2007 romp is shockingly sensitive — in between the outrageous bits. Sandler and Kevin James play straight firefighters who pretend to be a gay couple in order to secure insurance for James’ children.
The comic leads perform as broadly as many expected, but what those revisiting the film will see is how genuinely inclusive the story proves. Yet the Sandler/James “gay panic” bits alone would prevent the movie from being produced today, for starters.
Critics pounced, and seized, on “Chuck and Larry” during its theatrical release but GLAAD had kinder comments, citing its message of “equality and respect.”
Plus, “Chuck and Larry” doesn’t have a political agenda beyond laughs, family bonds, and treating everyone with kindness. That’s not enough for today’s woke warriors, who would transform the movie into a series of LGBTQ+ lectures.
Rampaging crime rates make it a perfect time for “Dirty” Harry Callahan to take out the trash. Again.
This 1971 smash connected to the zeitgeist by showing a cop who didn’t play by the rules. Yes, 50+ years ago that sounded fresher than it does today.
Liberal critics like Pauline Kael raged against Clint Eastwood’s “Harry” upon its release, using the same language as progressives uncork today — “Fascist!”
Eastwood’s cop takes down the bad guys on his terms, and he even mocks some of their ethnic dialects in the process. Modern Hollywood wouldn’t go near a “Dirty Harry” remake today, no matter how much money it might make.