There's irony about Hollywood remakes of old classic kids' shows, movies or books. As they try to leverage the nostalgia of adults raised on the classic, they also try to pull in kids of today. But what works for those fans of yesteryear often won't satisfy today's kids. And what satisfies the new generation won't always give adults that same feeling they remember. Can a movie remake ever truly satisfy the old fans while pulling in new ones?
After seeing the commercials for Underdog, I was quite certain that the live action re-make of my beloved childhood memories was going to be a total, embarrassing and gut-wrenching train wreck. It seemed as if they destroyed the old show and watered it down to be My Flying Pet Dog.
When I attended an afternoon show dominated by 7-year-olds at a birthday party, I was able to compare how they responded to what I, a nostalgia-craving 30-year-old, thought.
It wasn't the train wreck I expected. The kids sat still for 84-minutes, their eyes glued to the action. And I discovered that for being a formulaic kids' flick, I wasn't annoyed. It wasn't just My Flying Pet Dog, but did have many fun tips-of-the-hat to the old show: Underdog's penchant for rhyming; Simon Barsinister's trademark line, "Simon says"; his bleach blonde thug, Cad; and the goofy white-domed mayor.
However, neither the kids nor I laughed out loud very often. We found little to get too excited about. There was nothing here we haven't seen in other kids' flicks. There are surely far better kids' movies about dogs, and far better kids' adventures with superpowers. And for "old" fans, the movie is a related but different Underdog.
The newly conceived origin story for Underdog is pretty much the story of Spider-Man, but with less webs ...1
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