OPINION | Movie musicals are getting too meta

Turning musicals into movies is a proven way to bring audiences to the movie theater and make more money off of a good idea. Plenty of musicals that started on Broadway have made it to the big screen to loud applause, such as “The Sound of Music,” “West Side Story” or one of my personal favorites, “Chicago.”

Some musicals adapt to film better than others, and some flop hard, like the recent film version of “Dear Evan Hansen” or, and forgive me for mentioning it, “Cats.” (To undo some of the damage this movie did to your psyche, come to UCCS’ Theatre and Dance Department’s production of “Cats” opening on March 14, which will be a masterpiece, in my completely unbiased opinion. No unitards and no James Corden.)

A few of the newest musical movie adaptations include “The Color Purple,” “Mean Girls” and the upcoming “Wicked Part 1.” All of these movies are based on Broadway shows that are based on previous material. Every time a good piece of media is adapted to a movie, there is a chance the movie will dishonor the source material and upset fans of the original, and all of these stories have certainly been through the laundry cycle more than once.

For instance: according to Entertainment Weekly, “Wicked Part 1” is a two-part movie musical based on a recent Broadway show based on a 1995 book called “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire, following “The Wizard of Oz” movie from the ‘30s, which of course came from L. Frank Baum’s original novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Confused? Me too.

So, to be clear: we have a movie adaptation of a musical that was adapted from a book that followed a movie that was adapted from a book from 1900, according to Britannica. And there are going to be two of them. That’s about four-and-a-half recycled uses of the same story.

“Mean Girls” is a movie musical based on a Broadway musical based on a 2004 cult classic film based on a 2002 nonfiction book for mothers called “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by leadership specialist Rosalind Wiseman, designed to “equip [mothers] with all the tools [they] need to build the right foundation to help [their] daughters make better choices” and support them during adolescence.

Book to movie to musical to movie, within the course of 22 years.

I haven’t seen it yet, although two of our features reporters reviewed it and you can read that here. The problem is that recycling perfectly good movie content within 30 years of its original creation runs the risk of ruining the franchise or tainting the memory of the original.

There is also dispute about who receives the profit from these constant remakes. According to Daily Mail, Wiseman has been considering legal repercussions for the fact that adaptations of her work have become massively popular, and that money has not gone to her.

Since she sold the film rights to “Queen Bees” in 2002, Wiseman was “set to receive net profits and also residual gains, based on the success of the movie once it hit theaters,” but Paramount claims that they have received money from “’extra costs’ rather than net profits,” cutting her off from making money on her material.

If “Mean Girls” had come out 50 years ago, a remake could explore the changing culture of female adolescence in comparison to the first one. However, the original is still so good for when it came out that the remake won’t have enough new things to say.

In an even more transparent move, Disney is adapting “Moana” into a live action film in 2025, according to the Direct. The original “Moana” came out in 2016. They are about to make the same movie nine years later, which gives me the well-founded fear that Disney could take a good movie they already made and suck the soul out of it just to make more money on the idea.

The “Cinderella” remake was good, because there was something new to say about a young woman’s strength in the face of constant opposition. “The Jungle Book” remake was good, because it created a more consistent hierarchical structure in the jungle and raised the stakes while removing racist material. “Moana” would be recreated in more or less the same environment in which it came out, meaning nothing new is accomplished.

If something is good, leave it alone. Stop trying to rattle the mean girls around to make more money off of them; they’ve been through enough.

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