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This week, let’s discuss a different kind of Hollywood phenomena; the remake that is a reimagining of the original concept. This time, the focus will be on the dramatic and groundbreaking film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) and its remake Guess Who (2005)
In 1967, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was hailed as a groundbreaking movie because it brought forth the issue of racial couples in an open and straightforward fashion not usually seen (or even discussed) at that time. Casting 3 Oscar winners in three of the four main roles (Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier) was genius because it allowed the audience to watch some very talented actors break the stereotype and taboos of the day by openly discussing it. The dialogue on the film is amazing and it’s interesting to watch the way this is played out so perfectly.
38 years later, Hollywood decided that the best way to remake this kind of movie is by making it a comedy and switching the races around showing how it’s possible in the modern world for one to view this concept from either side. The casting choices here are also perfect; Bernie Mac as the father-in-law to be, Ashton Kutcher as the boyfriend with Zoe Saldana as the girl. This just goes to show that not much has changed in the way people see racial couples but this still shows the issues facing any union like this have a long way to go to be accepted by everyone in society across the board.
The original garnered 10 Oscar Nominations including Best Picture, but in the end only managed to win for writing and Best Actress (Hepburn). The remake doesn’t seem to have been made to be an Oscar contender and instead is just for laughs (lots of them).
(1) Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) – Still poignant and groundbreaking as ever nearly 50 years on. Tracy and Hepburn really hit it out of the ballpark here with Poitier also showing one again why he is such a great actor. Best Scene – Tracy’s speech about equality and the meaning of love is fittingly his final soliloquy on film.
(2) Guess Who (2005) – Takes the concept to a new level with humor and modernizes the entire concept. Mac and Kutcher were excellent together. Best Scene – Hilarious moment with Bernie Mac showing how a father can react to his daughter’s boyfriend staying at their house
This is an example of how Hollywood can successfully reimagine a great concept that hits all the right points in both its original incarnation and in the remake. Mack and Kutcher are no Tracy and Poitier, but the social message is delivered perfectly in both settings.