New twist: Remake bad movies

A few weeks ago, I wrote about social networking, and the difference between Facebook and Google+. In brief, the starting point is the difference, because Facebook starts with the concept that everybody sees everything and Google+ starts with everybody sees nothing unless you say so.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found starting points everywhere else.

Take college football. Boise State doesn’t have a college football title because it spends each season trying to leapfrog teams that never proved they were better than the Broncos. That’s because the starting point’s an arbitrary preseason ranking.

Take movies, as well. A few weeks ago, I rented the new “Arthur.” It’s about Arthur Bach, an eccentric partier played by Russell Brand. He’s torn between marrying the girl chosen by his family, or picking the girl he loves and losing his inheritance.

I enjoyed the movie a lot, but the starting point drug down my final evaluation. The 2011 “Arthur” is a remake of the 1981 original version of “Arthur,” with Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud.

A remake is an understandable path for a filmmaker. You’ve got a tested story, a script that needs little tinkering and a built-in fan following.

But remaking a great movie creates a difficult starting point. The new “Arthur” had little chance. Its base audience was pre-disposed to liking the original, because the original was the first time they saw the story, and it set a template for what they enjoy. The filmmaker either has to be faithful and unoriginal, or alter the story at the risk of alienating the fan base.

It’s quite the double-edged sword. We’re going to witness it again when moviegoers go see remakes of “Dirty Dancing” and “Footloose” — movies which, no doubt, will be viewed as inferior to the original.

I threw this out to friends online a few weeks ago: What if we remade bad movies? You change the starting point, and you change expectations. If you do “True Grit,” it’s Oscar or bust because of the template. Revamp a movie like “Gigli” or “Showgirls” instead, and your template is full of mistakes — a.k.a. teachable moments.

Audiences will be pleased with an average movie, because it’s better than the original. Also, the original failure gets a second look from a public prone to comparing things, and that means, royalty benefits for the original participants.

I am not against remakes. But I wouldn’t mind tweaking the starting point.