Are you ready for a remake of The Big Chill? Wait, before you start chucking your Motown records at the computer screen in protest, let me give you the twist. This remake of Lawrence Kasdan’s classic ’80s ode to yuppie disillusionment will feature an all African-American cast.
Helming the project is actress Regina King, who will co-produce with her sister, Reina King, and Will Packer (Stomp the Yard). I like Regina; she is smart and funny and tough. It’s a testament to her talent that she somehow managed to come away from the spectacularly terrible Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous with her dignity intact.
Still, I feel like this remake has a lot of inherent disadvantages versus the original. In the 1983 film, seven 30-something friends reunited for a weekend after the suicide of a college pal and ended up examining their own lives. The group went to college together in the ’60s and shared the decade’s optimistic radicalism. The remake will be contemporized, meaning the 30-something friends now will have matriculated sometime in the ’90s. Now, I went to college in the ’90s and would be hard-pressed to think of a common generational philosophy, other than perhaps beer.
Also, there is the music. The original’s joyous Motown soundtrack was instantly iconic and unironically nostalgic. It was also the film’s unseen eighth character. (Well, ninth, if you count the unseen dearly departed — speaking of which, who would fill the faceless Kevin Costner role in the remake? So many questions.) Again, move the music up for the ’90s and the friends will now be sentimentally rocking out to, what? Grunge? Boy bands? Gangsta rap? Producers have floated the idea of keeping the Motown tracks, which might be the least horrifying option. I suggest everyone dance around in their kitchen to “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” at least once.
And finally, the original’s theme of generational malaise and misplaced idealism provided a perfect snapshot of the time. The Me Generation was in full effect and hippies-turned-yuppies were trading in their Volkswagens vans for Volvo station wagons in droves. Yet there was still enough guilt and rationalization about this switch from flower power to capitalist consumerism to make things interesting. By the time Generation X rolled around, the thought of being apologetically ambitious was quaint.
Can these issues be resolved? Certainly. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how much you liked the introspection and affirmation of the original film), navel gazing knows no generational boundaries. Plus, throwing race into the equation brings a new dynamic to the project. But if Regina and company are going to make this remake really sing, it will need to chime with an entirely different zeitgeist. Just, hopefully, without the wig.