Whose Remake Is It, Anyway?

Trying to figure out which demographics were in mind during the planning of "Princess Diaries 3."

Once upon a time, news of a "Princess Diaries 3" film would have enchanted hearts all across the land. It's not unheard of for a successful storyline to stretch beyond a traditional sequel, especially, it seems, when it appeals to young women: we saw multiples of "Bring It On" and "Legally Blonde," for example. So giving fans more screen time with their favorite princess-next-door would have been a smart move.

Today, though, in an oversaturated market of remakes that tug at our collective nostalgia ("X-Files," "Heathers," "Cruel Intentions," "Boy Meets World," "Fuller House" ... should I go on?) it's hard to see where a retelling of Mia Thermopolis' transformation from normcore nerd to Princess of Genovia might fit in.

Most millennials can still easily picture Anne Hathaway's character fumbling through the demands of royalty, thanks to the 2001 original and its follow-up in 2004. I'm guessing, oh, 2007 would have been an ideal time to release a straight-to-DVD movie that would play in infamy on slow ABC Family Freeform afternoons (looking at you, "Bring It On: In It To Win It").

Yet Disney missed that window. Bummer for Disney, until the Internet and streaming TV happened, and the industry leapt at the chance to mine old, beloved ideas for new, shiny cash. This phenomenon may seem to be caused by a dearth of original tales on the small screen. However, as Vulture deftly laid out, it's likelier the fact that we have so many great offerings that are more accessible than ever before that's causing execs to revive old favorites. In a saturated market, it's less of a gamble to hook viewers in with a story they already know. 

There's a downside to this rearview-mirror perspective on future television prospects. Nostalgia itself is a double-edged sword. Its etymology reveals Greek roots; the words “nostos,” meaning “return home,” and “algos,” meaning “pain.” In a sense, nostalgia is the pain -- whether spurred by a hit song from 1996 or a cloud of air that smells strangely of summer camp -- of having a home you can’t go back to. A romantic concept, for sure, until you reach the inevitable realization that things weren’t always so pristine IRL as in rose-tinted memories. Your high school sweetheart was kind of a doofus. That summer job was completely boring, not inspirational. And the series or film you loved as a kid -- one you inevitably attach deeper meaning to, thanks to its sepia-tinged location in your past -- doesn’t have quite the same shine under today’s lights. 

It's hard to imagine "Fuller House" standing on its own without eight seasons of "Full House" to back it up. For one, the original aired during that late 1980s, early '90s sweet spot that has hit peak reminiscence mode in the past few years. Watching the pilot on Netflix, I found it hard to imagine new fans falling in love with characters that paused gratuitously for studio audience applause and recycled the first show's memorable lines.

It fell a little too hard on the nostalgia factor, feeling dated and like the storyline was second to the inside-jokes-per-minute quota. How rude! Have mercy! Sure, seeing a cast reunion on Instagram is fun, and so is drumming up anticipation for seeing beloved characters interact once more. Translating that into an objectively good end product, however, is just as difficult as pouring one's efforts into a totally original show.

Let's circle back to one Mia Thermopolis. Hathaway is reportedly down for another turn with the crown, but little else has been released about "Princess Diaries 3." We can't help but wonder: who is this project going for? The 25-35 age group who caught the first iteration in theaters? Their kids? Some audience in between?

Does it matter? Maybe, especially in a reboot-happy world. I fear a world of television where viewers keep being offered rehashes of stories (that, thanks to Netflix, Hulu et al. are probably very easy for them to re-watch) that rely solely on their collectively tugged heartstrings to make it a success.

Nostalgia's a fun place to visit, but a tiring place to stay.

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Follow Jill Capewell on Twitter: @jcapejcape



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