Over the last decade or so, a particular trend in Hollywood has arisen: taking a beloved British comedy and Americanizing it. It’s happened to Bedazzled, The Ladykillers and Last Holiday. In the cases of Bedazzled and Last Holiday, major roles were changed from male to female. All three films were updated and modernized to give a more “hip” take on the material. But the reviews were mixed at best. More recent British comedies are not immune to this trend either, as evidenced by the remake of Death at a Funeral.
Maybe there’s just something about British comedy that makes it difficult to be successfully Americanized. That’s why so many American versions of British sitcoms fail and shows like All in the Family, Sanford and Son and The Office are the exception, not the rule.
As a lifelong fan of British comedy films, there are some that I feel should not be remade by anyone on either side of the Atlantic. Because as hard as it may be for studio executives to understand, sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone.
5. A Fish Called Wanda
The legacy of this delightful farce written by and starring John Cleese is marred only slightly by its tepid follow-up Fierce Creatures. While the film is unmistakably British, it has two integral American characters played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline. This would make Americanizing it both unnecessary and self-defeating, as a great deal of the film’s humor comes from Kline’s contempt for everything British. There is also a Monty Python connection given that the film features both Cleese and Michael Palin. Could any American actors really hope to replace the Pythons? Finally, the political correctness that pervades our culture might not allow scenes that are among the film’s funniest, like the dogs being killed off one by one, to be included. A tamer version of A Fish Called Wanda would not be worth making let alone seeing.
This article was first posted on February 6, 2013