Shallow

A Star is Born (2018) is the third remake to the 1937 original. Following the 1954 and 1976 remakes. It wasn’t until the trailer dropped that I decided to do my research. This excessively R rated version managed to take on a life all its own. Since it’s the first one released during the digital age of memes. Little do they know the “Hey, I just wanted to take another look” moment is present in every single version of A Star is Born. As the moment is very important to the relationship of the main characters.

Bradley Cooper directors, produces, writes, and stars as Jackson Maine. The alcoholic, drug addicted, hearing impaired country singer who gives the leading lady her big break. While she has acted beforehand, this is Lady Gaga’s big break as well. As Ally, Gaga appears with no makeup or crazy clothing. I didn’t even recognize her before she started singing in the trailer. Jack and Ally also meet in a bar while she’s performing as a drag queen. Since no one will give her a chance because of how she looks. It’s not until after he let’s her sing with him on stage that her rise to fame begins. Where she becomes a 2010’s pop star.

Meanwhile Jack’s career starts to spiral. Only it’s a lot more heartbreaking than the other versions. He passes out at the Grammys, goes to rehab, and his final moments are far less accidental. Every performance helps to make it all the more tragic. Sam Elliot was nominated along with the leads. Their natural chemistry is just as good as the music. In keeping with tradition, the signature song “Shallow” won Best Original Song. Officially making Lady Gaga an Oscar winner. A Star is Born (2018) proves some stories will never get old no matter how many times they’re retold.

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Ally performs with Jack

Remake of: A Star is Born (1976)

Evergreen

A Star is Born (1976) is the second remake to the 1937 original. Following the 1954 remake. In order to avoid repeating themselves, the story was changed a lot more drastically. While still keeping the basic rising fame story in tact. Now rock stars are the focus instead of movie stars. Since traditional musicals weren’t as big anymore, but they still wanted to have original music in the movie. Plus Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson were really big at the time. So they just remade A Star is Born as an excuse to use them both. Because of that, this version is the weakest of the 4 movies.

Streisand is of course a wonderful singer and her appearance fits the character perfectly. She plays the newly renamed Esther Hoffman. A small time bar singer who confronts drunk rock n’ roll singer John Norman Howard while performing. Since the 70’s were all about female empowerment, Esther has several moments of this. She’s never a pushover, she refuses a stage name, and keeps her maiden name after marrying John. Although he doesn’t say “Hey, I just wanted to take another look” until after the wedding.

Kristofferson’s John Norman has plenty of passionate moments with Esther, but he’s a bit of a jerk. Being R rated, he’s now a drug addict on top of being an alcoholic. He also berates an audience when Esther wins what is now a Grammy Award. And to top it all off, he cheats on her. Their relationship is given far too much focus. Making the music the remakes only saving grace. Still managing to get Oscar attention with a Best Original Song win for “Evergreen.” Recognized by the lyric “Love, soft as an easy chair.” Aside from the songs, A Star is Born (1976) does nothing groundbreaking.

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Esther and John get intimate

Remake of: A Star is Born (1954)

The Man that Got Away

A Star is Born (1954) is the first remake to the 1937 original. Being released in the 50’s, the type of star was changed from Hollywood actress to musical starlet. Since musical productions were the biggest thing at the time. So it only made sense that they cast Judy Garland as the lead. Her role was something of a comeback considering she hadn’t acted since 1950. It’s easily one of the best performances of her career (after The Wizard of Oz). Which is why her Best actress loss is perhaps the biggest upset in Oscar history. Unfortunately some of the movie’s footage was lost too. So it had to be replaced with black & white images.

This version of A Star is Born is the closest to the original. Esther Blodgett (Vicki Lester) and Norman Maine have the same names and motivations. Only the story picks up when Esther has a modest career as a stage singer. She meets a drunk Norman Maine while she’s performing. He wastes no time trying to convince her to quit her band and become an even bigger star. Her only concern is believing she doesn’t look good enough. That’s when he tells her “Hey, I just wanted to take another look.”

English actor James Mason plays this Norman as both assertive and sympathetic. Especially during the Oscar sequence when he begs for a job. Big musical numbers are given a bit more focus than their relationship, but it’s still a strong part of the 3 hour movie. Their best moment has to be when she performs exclusively for him. Thanks to the strong performances Norman’s alcoholic spiral is a lot more tragic. With the addition of songs like “The Man that got Away,” A Star is Born (1954) set the standard for this simple tale of rising fame.

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Esther performs for Norman

Remake of: A Star is Born (1937)

First Born Star

A Star is Born (1937) is the timeless tale of rising fame. So timeless in fact that it was remade 3 separate times over the course of 9 decades. I’m probably the only person my age who’s seen every version. It all started in 1937. The original A Star is Born set the template, but it still has its own decade appropriate feel to it. The only constant is that a woman who hasn’t gotten her big break yet is given the opportunity by an alcoholic fading star.

The two have a quickie marriage and as her star rises, his fades away. After embarrassing her at an award show, his alcohol abuse takes its toll on their marriage. Until he dies in a possible accident. Leaving her to carry on his legacy. In this version the woman is Esther Blodgett and the man is Norman Maine. Being the 30’s, Esther has dreams of becoming a famous Hollywood actress. So we follow her journey from humble beginnings to when she eventually meets major star Norman Maine at a party. Another constant is when he says “Hey, I just wanted to take another look.”

As per the times, Esther is given the stage name Vicki Lester. She’s so successful that she even wins an Oscar. The movies themselves always gain the same attention. She may not be the most recognizable of the four actresses, but Janet Gaynor is perfectly charming as the lead. While Fredric Marsh can be both likable and a little aggressive. It’s their chemistry that sells the whole premise. I definitely wasn’t expecting a movie this old to tackle drinking the way it did. Let alone be in Technicolor. A Star is Born (1937) may not be the flashiest, but it’s an honest picture that deserves just as much admiration.

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Esther and Norman cuddle

Facing the Fear

I’ll bet you didn’t know yet another version of The Nutty Professor was made. Well I’m probably one of very few reviewers whose actually heard of the movie. A 2008 direct-to-video computer animated movie about the grandson of Professor Julius Kelp. From all the way back in the 1963 original. No connection to Eddie Murphy. The Nutty Professor (2008) takes Harold Kelp to a futuristic academy attended by robots, aliens, and his grandfather. From there they just redo the serum plot with Harold taking it (only with more extreme sports).

Professor Kelp is also somehow able to become Buddy Love at will. The only part that’s different is something involving a fear monster. Unlike Jimmy Neutron, this computer animated boy genius is neither funny nor interesting. The animation is very poorly rendered and I have serious doubts that its target demographic has ever seen the 60’s classic. I know Drake Bell is willing to do just about anything nowadays, but I have no idea why Jerry Lewis said yes to this. Even if his voice is just as goofy as ever. The Nutty Professor (2008) serves a clear reminder to just watch the original.

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Harold Kelp speaks with his Grandfather

A Very Gassy Family

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is just an excuse to show off Eddie Murphy’s ability to play several characters at once. As well as the still impressive makeup used to bring the Klumps to life. Which is why the large and in charge family is given way more attention. Even when it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. Since learning to accept his weight, Professor Klump is finally ready to marry Denise. Despite her importance Jada Pinkett was too busy getting Smithed to return. So instead Janet Jackson plays his love interest/fiancé.

Among many other plot points, Sherman invents a youth serum, he has Buddy Love extracted from his body, he gets progressively dumber, Buddy takes on the traits of a dog, Papa Klump can’t satisfy his wife so he takes the serum, and Granny comes onto Buddy. While the first movie had its fair share of gross out moments, The Klumps is far too reliant on them. The most disgusting has to be the one involving the Dean and a giant hamster. Not to mention all the recycled jokes like Sherman’s nightmare or farting at dinner. Although Murphy’s inevitable decline started to show, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is nevertheless funny enough as a feature length version of the family dinner scene.

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The Klumps prepare to eat

Preceded by: The Nutty Professor (1996)

From Fat to Fit

The Nutty Professor (1996) is the even bigger remake of the 1963 original. In more ways than one. It’s also the version I mostly grew up on. Rather than just redo what came before, Jerry Lewis gave Eddie Murphy the ok to put his own personal stamp on the remake. So instead of being too nerdy, Professor Sherman Klump has a weight problem. Despite his attempts to lose weight and gain self confidence, hecklers like Dave Chappelle keep reminding him how he looks.

So Professor Klump mixes a serum that allows him to lose all his weight. This Buddy Love is athletic and confident enough to ask out Carla Purty. She’s now a chemistry graduate played by Jada Pinkett before she got Smithed. The Nutty Professor (1996) is the perfect display of Eddie Murphy’s comedic range. As he plays a grand total of 7 different characters. All accomplished with Academy Award winning makeup and fat suits. Murphy plays the kind hearted Professor, the loud and aggressive Buddy, his flatulent father, his cheerful mother (“Hercules, Hercules, Hercules”), his sex obsessed grandmother, his tough brother, and even a parody of Richard Simmons.

The dinner scene is the funniest scene in the movie. It can get a little gross at times, but it’s still one of the only fart jokes I laugh at. Instead of the truth coming out at a dance, Buddy is instead brought to a science demonstration by the hilarious Dean. After a bizarre body changing sequence Sherman gives a similar speech about accepting oneself. The Nutty Professor (1996) is definitely a nuttier remake that’s just as funny as the original.

THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, Jada Pinkett, Eddie Murphy, 1996, (c)Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collec

Professor Sherman Klump and Ms. Purty dine at The Scream

Remake of: The Nutty Professor (1963) & Followed by: Nutty Professor II: The Klumps

From Nerd to Casanova

The Nutty Professor is the screwball classic from comedy legend Jerry Lewis. A comedian known for his wacky jokes and outlandish style. Although he did several films in his career (many with partner Dean Martin), The Nutty Professor will always be his magnum opus. My mom introduced the movie to us for that very reason. Since it was the version she grew up on.

Professor Julius Kelp is an accident-prone, unattractive, buck-toothed, bespectacled nerd. His goofy voice lead to the creation of Professor Frink on The Simpsons. Jerry Lewis does the perfect amount of physical comedy in Kelp’s attempt at becoming less of a pushover. Despite warnings from his bird Jennifer, Professor Kelp mixes a serum that turns him into a hideous monster… just kidding. He actually turns into the charming crooner Buddy Love. Finally giving him the confidence to pursue his student Stella Purdy. She’s a nice lady, but a college professor dating a student may not work today.

The only problem is Buddy is a rude, manipulative, egomaniac. Yet the kids down at The Purple Pit can’t get enough of him. He’s even asked to perform at the school dance. Which Buddy accepts after humiliating the Dean. It’s of course at the dance where the big secret comes out. For all its hilarious circumstances, Kelp’s final speech about loving yourself is very genuine. If you only see one Jerry Lewis performance, make it The Nutty Professor.

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Professor Julius Kelp experiments

A Bit Rusty

Vacation is not family fun time. It’s every bit the exhausting experience a trip like this would be. Since I watched the entire franchise beforehand, I considered seeing it in theaters. I’m glad I didn’t because most comedies nowadays lack what made classic comedies so good. Vacation is a cross between a remake and a sequel. Only now Rusty Griswold is the focus. Now played by the somewhat more high profile comedian Ed Helms.

Rather than be more unique, Rusty is just a less funny version of his father. Only a lot more lame. His wife is kind of a terrible person, his son is a passive wimp, and his other son is just a bully. This Griswold family lacks the heart that made the original family so likable. Their vacation is exactly the same as the first movie. Walley World is just more advanced and open. Of course Audrey appears for a short while. Now played by comedian Leslie Mann. Chris Hemsworth once again proves to be the funniest guy in the movie playing Audrey’s husband.

Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo also make really cringy cameos that seemed like they were forced to do it. My biggest problem with Vacation however, is what they do with its R rating. Like most modern comedies, they feel excessive swearing, unsexy nudity, gross out humor, and unrealistic violence is the way to go. For that I’m mainly referring to the Christie Brinkley homage. Vacation has its moments, but for the most part it’s an unbearable ride to sit through.

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The Griswold’s hit the road

Reboot of: National Lampoon’s Vacation

Christmas on the Island

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure is how you spoil a good thing. Cousin Eddie was always a good source of comedy in the Vacation series. From his humble introduction to his scene stealing return, Randy Quaid made him the annoying relative we all love to hate. Now it’s just hate when he gets his own spin-off TV movie that has no reason to exist. It’s also some sort of sequel due to the success of Christmas Vacation.

Christmas Vacation 2 takes the Johnson’s out of the RV and into suburbia. With yet another revolving door of kids. Cousin Eddie is apparently dumber than a monkey, so he’s given a free tropical vacation. He brings wife Catherine, the kids I mentioned, an Uncle, and Audrey Griswold. Dana Barron finally gets a chance to return after the recast rule was established. Good for her since she was kind of given the short end of the stick. If only it was in a better movie. The Johnson’s, along with a hot tour guide, get shipwrecked on an island near Christmastime. What follows is one unfunny gag after another. Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure should have remained on the island.

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Cousin Eddie and his family get stranded on an island

Spin-off of: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation