Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Get Your Hands Off My “Rockford Files”!

Oh, no, not again.

After NBC-TV failed a couple of years back to resurrect James Garner’s much-loved private-eye series, The Rockford Files, with Dermot Mulroney in the lead role, I’d hoped that Hollywood would have given up on trying to recapture the magic of Garner’s show with a different actor. But now comes this report from Deadline:
Universal Pictures has set David Levien and Brian Koppelman to write The Rockford Files, a feature adaptation of the memorable series that ran on NBC from 1974-80 and featured James Garner as the down-and-out private eye.

The studio will develop the film as a star vehicle for Vince Vaughn to play Rockford, and Vaughn and Victoria Vaughn will produce through their Universal-based Wild West Picture Show Productions banner.
Are you frickin’ kidding me? Vince Vaughn, that over-the-top actor who has made a name for himself portraying one clueless and obnoxious men after the next in inane romantic comedies? That Vince Vaughn? Somebody really thinks he deserves the role originated by the understated and consistently likable Garner?

Sure, Vaughn might be able to dress down like gumshoe Jim Rockford, and pull off the self-interested demeanor Rockford presented. He might even learn a thing or two about racing a Pontiac Firebird through the streets of Los Angeles. But to rephrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s show-stopping putdown of Dan Quayle during their 1988 vice-presidential debate, “I knew Jim Rockford from six seasons of The Rockford Files. Jim Rockford was a welcome guest in my home every Friday night. Vince Vaughn, you’re no Jim Rockford.”

Why is it that Hollywood can’t seem to come up with anything resembling a new idea in the 21st century? Why is it that film studios insist on taking fondly remembered TV dramas--Starsky & Hutch, The Avengers, Charlie’s Angels, 21 Jump Street, I Spy, The Wild, Wild West--and turning them into utter crap on the big screen?

The Rockford Files is one of the best TV series ever put together, an excellent tribute to American fiction’s tradition of private-eyes tales and a brilliant showcase for one of our finest performers. Better that it remain a fond memory for people who watched its original run three and four decades ago, or buy it nowadays on DVD, than that it be subjected to the inevitable indignities of being “remade.”

(Hat tip to Joe Guglielmelli.)


Naomi Johnson said...

When I think of all the great PIs in books, PIs who've not had a shot at the big screen, and then think about Vince Vaughn as Jim Rockford, I hardly know whether to laugh or cry. I'll settle for screaming.

le0pard13 said...

No f'ing way! It's was pretty clueless on the studio's part with Dermot Mulroney in the lead role. THIS though, is even beyond that inanity! But hey, this is Universal Pictures. And missteps is their middle name. Sheesh!.

michael said...

Usually, when you hear such plans you can root for development Hell to do the mercy killing, but in this case it is a "star vehicle" financed by the star. That means chances this will make it to the big screen are pretty good (certainly better than the chances this movie will be pretty good).

The reasons these get made is they are safe for the career of the executive who gives the green light. Imagine explaining why you said yes to Vince Vaughn as a PI compared to explaining why you said yes to a "Rockford Files" remake. Then toss in a successful star every studio wants to work with, letting him have his ego movie bomb is a small price if you can make him happy enough to do his next successful movies with you.

But I agree with everything you said, I want to scream leave my iconic characters alone and create your own for a change...the entertainment version of "get off my lawn!"

Tom Mason said...

With Owen Wilson as Angel Martin and Jon Favreau as Lt. Becker! sigh.

Man of Stories said...

Interesting article and discussion. I'm listening :D