Hollywood's duplicates of three 1980s movies fail to find that old magic



The studios sometimes call them "reimaginings." To moviegoers, they're remakes, no matter how different they are from the originals.

Label them what you like but "Endless Love," "About Last Night" and "RoboCop" have been here before. They were scattered across the early to mid-1980s and now they're back with new effects, modern attitudes and a largely African-American cast for the romcom relocated to Los Angeles.

In case your memory hasn't aged as well as Demi Moore's body or you weren't born in those dark days before smartphones and Pinterest, a look at the originals:

'Endless Love'

Opened: July 17, 1981.

Story: As the ad proclaimed, "She is 15. He is 17. The love every parent fears." Franco Zeffirelli, who made teens swoon and sniffle with his 1968 version of "Romeo and Juliet," directed Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt as the young couple in this adaptation of the Scott Spencer novel.

What you might not remember: An actor credited as Jimmy Spader, but later known as James Spader, portrayed Ms. Shields' brother. The film originally received an X rating but the director willingly made some cuts to score an R, agreeing that some scenes might be too risque.

Bottom line: The PG said Ms. Shields was gorgeous but her performance just adequate and her leading man was "a little stiff and dopey in front of the cameras." As for those celebrated love scenes, they were beautifully photographed and lit, accompanied by a soaring soundtrack (including the theme song performed by Diana Ross) but about as erotic as a Dr. Pepper commercial.

Oscar love: The title song, with music and lyrics by Lionel Richie, was nominated for original song but lost to the theme from "Arthur," which had opened on the same day.

Box office: $32,492,674 worldwide (equal to roughly $83 million today), with almost all of that in North America.

'About Last Night'

Opened: July 2, 1986.

Story: A few years before "Glory" and 24 years before coming to Pittsburgh to film "Love & Other Drugs," TV director Edward Zwick made his feature debut with this romantic comedy. Based on David Mamet's play, "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," it starred Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Elizabeth Perkins and James Belushi as single Chicagoans.

What you might not remember: The studio, wisely, changed the title so it wouldn't scare off or offend moviegoers. Mr. Zwick lowered the age of the characters from the play to make them a little more innocent and their ineptitude forgivable.

Bottom line: The PG said the movie "should ring a lot of bells with a lot of young people. It certainly has good-size nuggets of truth buried beneath the laughter, but beyond that, it's a slick, attractive and very engaging movie." Plus it had a soundtrack with tunes by Sheena Easton, John Oates, Jermaine Jackson and Bob Seger, among others.

Oscar love: None.

Box office: $38,702,310 domestic gross, or roughly $82 million today.

'RoboCop'

Opened: July 17, 1987.

Story: "Welcome to hell," Murphy (Peter Weller) is told upon joining his new cop comrades in an ultraviolent section of futuristic Detroit. After being literally shot to pieces, he is recycled into RoboCop, a one-man killing machine who reels off robotic one-liners such as, "Your move, creep," and becomes an urban hero.

What you might not remember: Directed by Paul Verhoeven, the $15 million sci-fi fantasy originally received an X rating for violence. Orion re-edited the movie to get a more acceptable R. Also, crews spent about three weeks in Pittsburgh, taking advantage of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.'s Monessen Works, subbing for decaying Old Detroit.

Bottom line: The first installment was a guilty pleasure for action lovers who took to its title character and, his partner on the police force, Nancy Allen. "RoboCop 2" added a foul-mouthed child villain while "RoboCop 3" substituted cartoonish violence sprinkled with some one-liners for a plot.

Oscar love: Nominated for film editing and sound, and winner of a special achievement award for sound effects editing.

Box office: Domestic gross, $53,424,681, according to Box Office Mojo. That's more than $109 million in today's dollars.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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