Do we really need a 'Big Chill' remake?

Regina_lRegina King is a terrific actress, and she certainly deserves better than the thankless role she had on this season’s 24 as President Palmer’s sister (pictured). But while I’m glad she’s producing her own film vehicles now, my heart sank when I read in Variety that she plans to produce and star in an all-black update of The Big Chill.

Not because I think the original is a sacred cow; far from it. I think the 1983 film is one of the whiniest, most self-indulgent pieces of generational rationalization ever filmed — a bunch of hippies-turned-yuppie-sellouts patting themselves on the back for still being radicals at heart, or for being at least not as amoral as the generation that followed them. It had some fine performances and a wonderful Motown soundtrack (before such soundtracks became clichés of ready-made nostalgia), but overall, I can’t stand its smug, self-congratulatory tone.

Also, the original movie depends on the characters’ sharedbackground as veterans of the social upheavals of the late 1960s, but aremake starring actors who are King’s age would have to be aboutfriends who graduated from college around 1993. Anyone remember collegecampuses circa 1993 as places roiling with activism and social change?Unless all the characters are gay, that context is probably going to beabsent.

Then again, everyone who disagrees with me and loves the original Chillis still bound to be disappointed by the remake. Nostalgia twiceremoved makes for a pretty weak cup of tea. Tell me, PopWatchers, am Iwrong in thinking The Big Chill is overrated? Is there a way King can make this update work?

Comments (37 total)
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  • Ray

    As a black actor it frustrates me to see all black casts in subpar films. I know they have bills to pay but the writing for alot of these films are so poorly written and they’re not challenging at all! This will be on BET by 2008,and they put on awful films. LOL!

  • GeeMoney

    Regina King ROCKS! Hopefully this movie will be made well without all of the stereotypical black slang and attitude.

  • Megan

    Umm…I was in college in the mid-90’s and while activism wasn’t as huge as it was in the late 60’s, my college years were marked by Rodney King, OJ Simpson, and Bill Clinton. So, in those respects, remaking the Big Chill with all black actors in their early-to-mid-30’s might not be that far removed from the orignial.

  • Ed

    I share my comments with GeeMoney and Ray, black actors are under appreciated in Hollywood. What happend to that period when Whitney Houston was doing those great “chick flick” movies? I know, those weren’t the best but they did have an excellent cast.
    Regina King rocks! Now that she is producing her own stuff I hope this is the beginning of better fare for black movies.

  • tk

    I’m with you about the BET films – it’s the worst joke ever…I can’t really imagine a remake of the Big Chill for my age group…I think that’s a pretty big premise for a movie for thirty somethings…I imagine the movie would have to be like a Brown Sugar, I can tell you I would have graduated college in 1993 & we were not activists, very far from it, it was all about the hip hop and house parties….so she shouldn’t put such a huge label on her movie, she should tell her own story of woe and angst, baby mama drama & not being able to find a good black man is what her story would be about to be true & we have certainly had to many of those..we don’t need another

  • Darby

    Regina is great. Big Chill VASTLY overrated; I too find it smug. Having graduated college in 1993, the only radicals on my campus were the neo-hippies who never shaved and hung NO BLOOD SPILLED FOR OIL banners out their (rather smoke-filled) dorm windows during the Desert Storm. All were white, though. So, no ideas from me I guess.

  • Nathan

    Great news, how many roles will Eddie Murphy be playing in it?

  • Ep Sato

    Sus, it’s rare we agree on anything, but your post is spot on. I too love Regina King but think there are more significant “white” movies that can be remade with a predominately black cast. Example: Spinal Tap was remade as “fear of a black hat” with a lot of success.
    The era issue also stands. The 1990’s had some relatively big moments, but it wasn’t the 1960’s either. I’d argue the economic expansion and lack of clear enemies made the 1990’s a rehashed 1950’s (where there was plenty wrong but we chose to ignore it), and at best represented the last breaths of Boomer activisim.
    Nowadays we’ve got the boomers entering into old age and wondering why they aren’t cool anymore…
    So my money’s on Regina taking a more modern story and remaking it. But ugh, the Big Chill? 100% agreed with Susman.

  • Rachel

    I graduated from college in 1993 and I do remember a little thing called the “1992 Presidential Election.” There was a real sense of politicization at that time–it was the end of 12 years of Republican presidential control. Of course, I went to a very socially conscious liberal arts school. It’s also possible that the film will focus on issues that were prominent in the black community at the time, not necessarily things that were on the larger national radar.

  • GingerCat

    Rachel, I was just about to post exactly what you said. I graduated from college in 1993, and the 1992 election was a huge topic. It actually was a pretty political time. I just don’t know if it’s enough to hang a movie on.

  • Rakeem

    Well,from what I heard, the movie is going to take place in the 1990’s, so wouldn’t that mean that the characters would have graduated in the ’80s or late 70’s? I haven’t seen the original so I don’t know if it took place in mostly the present or the college years of the characters.

  • Martha

    Gary, nice to see someone who agrees with my opinion of “The Big Chill.” I watched it again on On Demand a while back and was non-plussed at all the smug self-importance and hypocrisy in evidence. (Of course, as a member of Gen-X I’m contractually obligated to think this way about Boomers.) Regina King is a very good actress and an all-black ensemble movie is a great idea, but let’s hope they use something else as source material.

  • junior

    “It had some fine performances and a wonderful Motown soundtrack (before such soundtracks became clichés of ready-made nostalgia), but overall, I can’t stand its smug, self-congratulatory tone.”
    Maybe that’s why it should be REMADE!
    King and the producers plan to revise the script you don’t like very much with new concepts, etc. so what exactly is the problem?
    And it’s not like all *white* movies (the thought that movies have a race makes me shudder) are going to be remade with predominantly black casts (which is what it should read Mr. Susman, instad of “all-black”). This is one project, and it sounds like a good one to me.
    I also love how Motown music in the original film is mentioned (music made mostly by black people), but if black people dare touch the movie, we have to question whether the project is worthwhile.
    Sorry this is so long, but the vaguely-racist black jokes are less funny and more plain ‘ole racist.

  • Nick

    The fifties had _American Graffiti_, the sixties had _The Big Chill_, and the seventies had _Dazed and Confused_. There has yet to be a movie that chronicles the Gen-X age from a distance like these other movies did. Perhaps Regina King’s update will bring back memories of the issues touching this generation, even from the unique black perspective.

  • AJ

    Of course the characters were portrayed as smug and self congratulatory in the original Big Chill. I believe Kasdan wanted you to see the change that has happened between idealistic college students in the sixties to big business corporate shills in the 80’s. Didn’t the 80’s signal this time of greed for the Baby Boomers? But, alas, the real reason why The Big Chill is special is for the simple fact of taking its time in showing friends coming together and mourning the death of of one of them. Not to mention great performances all around the board. My question is, like every other Hollywood movie “aimed” at African Americans, are they going to fill it with unwanted stereoptypes or portray these people as a closeknit group who came together under bad circumstances to find each other again twenty years later?

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