Hollywood should remake THESE movies. Forget ''Harvey,'' ''Topper,'' and ''The Pink Panther.'' Gillian Flynn offers five better alternatives for 21st-century modernizing

By Gillian Flynn
Updated April 15, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Clash of the Titans: Everett Collection

Hollywood should remake THESE movies

I couldn’t be happier that ”Drumline”’s Nick Cannon is doing a remake of that ’80s Patrick Dempsey nerd-with-a-riding-mower treasure ”Can’t Buy Me Love.” (Perhaps Frankie Muniz can do a cameo as the guy who weeps, ”You s–t on my house!”) And frankly, I’m intrigued by Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez dipping into the remake of the sweet 1996 Japanese film ”Shall We Dance?” But I must say to you, Mr. Travolta: Stepping into Jimmy Stewart’s long, lean shadow in a redux of ”Harvey”? Imaginary bunnies aren’t the only flight of fancy here.

”Harvey” is just one of many silly moves Hollywood is planning in its remake frenzy. Steve Martin in ”Topper”? ”10 Again”? ”The Party” and ”The Pink Panther” without Peter Sellers? I now pause to shudder, and issue a warning: He who touches ”The Thin Man” will feel my wrath.

I’m not saying there’s not good remake material out there; it’s just that Hollywood has to look beyond the obvious choices. To help get Tinseltown producers started, here are five pictures screaming for a revisit.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Who says there aren’t good roles for women? Joan Crawford and Bette Davis preened and panted their way through this 1962 camp classic about an unraveling former child star (Davis) and her meek, wheelchair-bound sister (Crawford). For the remake, picture Goldie Hawn with smeared blood-red lipstick performing the creepy ”Baby Jane” song-and-dance routine (this might offer some nice closure for her after missing out on ”Chicago”). Playing against her ”Aliens” tough-lady type, Sigourney Weaver should be cast as the helpless, beatific invalid.

The Sting Twisty, schemy, heist movies are an exhausted genre; every time I see one, I feel like I’ve seen it before. Which is why ”The Sting” is a perfect remake: We HAVE already seen it before — and it’s never been improved upon! Drop the keenly charismatic Denzel Washington in Paul Newman’s master con role; Matt Damon as on-the-make kid Redford (he already showed off nice cardsharking in ”Rounders”). Put Damon’s ”Bourne Identity” director Doug Liman — who’s shown a knack for zig-zaggy films with both ”Bourne” and ”Go” — at the helm of all this, and I’m an easy mark.

Bell, Book, and Candle Jimmy Stewart and his ”Vertigo” costar Kim Novak made this one cool, grown-up romantic comedy (and don’t we need one of those). He’s an engaged publishing type; she’s a witch who casts a love spell on him. Give the rewrite to Audrey Wells (”The Truth About Cats and Dogs”), who just retooled ”Shall We Dance?” Sharon Stone was attached years ago, but she’s busy feeding her husband to zoo reptiles and sleeping with bouncy cartoon icons. So, as the witchy woman, cast the beguilingly chilly Naomi Watts, who proved she could do ”supernatural” with ”The Ring.” For the bewitchee — who must go from bossy to besotted — lure Hugh Grant (who can play both sweethearts and rogues) out of retirement.

Clash of the Titans With ”Troy,” ”Hannibal,” and ”Alexander the Great” all heading to the big screen, I fear we’ve forgotten a very special ancient Greek: That clicky gold owl thingie from this 1981 masterpiece. I see him played by Number Five, the robot from ”Short Circuit,” with the animatronic snake from ”Anaconda” as the monstrous Kraken and some old clay as Medusa. If Harry Hamlin’s not available (hmmm?) Paul Walker should take his spot. He’ll fit well with his robotic costars.

All About Eve Or, as I see it, ”All About Evan.” In a smart self-referential casting move, Kevin Costner can play the tart diva-under-fire; newly minted star Colin Farrell is the scheming protégé. Neil LaBute expressed interest in a ”Leave Her to Heaven” remake (if you haven’t seen this, think ”Far From Heaven”’s style with ”Fatal Attraction”’s crazy lady). But if that doesn’t pan out, maybe he can do this after: His ”In the Company of Men” certainly shows a knack for exposing the nasty side of boys.