Back to the 1980s

From Doc Brown’s viral video to “Fright Night” to planned reboots of “Ghostbusters” and “Dirty Dancing,” we seem to be stuck in a Reagan Years time warp…

By Jere Hester
|  Monday, Aug 29, 2011  |  Updated 3:24 AM EDT
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Christopher Lloyd (left) is reprising his "Back to the Future" role in a new video. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)

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In our favorite web video of the moment, the iconic time-traveling DeLorean from “Back to the Future” flashes onto a street in Argentina, before coming to twisting, screeching halt. Wild-haired Doc Brown – played by, yes, Christopher Lloyd – pops out and exclaims, “Great Scott! What year is this?”

Good question.

The video, which had wracked up more than 350,000 hits on YouTube by Sunday afternoon, is going viral at a time when three movies with roots in the 1980s – “Conan the Barbarian,” “Fright Night” and “The Smurfs” (the blue crew made their U.S. TV debut in 1981) – are among the Top 10 moneymakers of the weekend.

Doc Brown’s return also comes amid recent reports of plans for remakes of such 1980s fare as “Dirty Dancing” and “Romancing the Stone,” and sequels to “Blade Runner” and “Ghostbusters” (which Dan Aykroyd vows will go on with or without Bill Murray).

Hollywood decision makers must be taking an inordinate amount of meetings these days in hot tub time machines. Perhaps many of those executives came of age during the 1980s, and we’re at the point in the entertainment cycle where enough time has past that Hollywood is trying to hit the sweet spot between one generation’s nostalgia and another’s new experience. Maybe nobody has any new ideas – or, more likely, there’s less risk in reworking old ideas gilded with the patina of past success.

We’re decidedly ambivalent about the revisiting of a decade that was a mixed bag – both on and off the screen. We’re already trying to balance high expectations and a fear of disappointment when considering the next steps for “Blade Runner” and “Ghostbusters.” We’re somewhat less emotionally invested in reboots of the already initially kitschy “Dirty Dancing,” and “Romancing the Stone,” which was an affable takeoff of sorts on the “Indiana Jones” films of the time.

Speaking of “Indiana Jones,” Harrison Ford was recently quoted as saying he would be up for a fifth installment, which gives us a queasy, Temple of Doom-like feeling. As much as we’d love to see the series finish on a high note, we fear walking away with the same nagging emptiness we felt after the final credits rolled on the just-okay “Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” three years ago.

We'd hate to see anything tarnish our memories of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and kicked off the best movie franchise of the 1980s – rivaled only by the “Back to the Future” films. We admit that part our excitement of seeing Doc Brown on YouTube stemmed from the hope that the intentionally amateurish looking 52-second video was the start of an Internet campaign heralding a fourth installment. But Buzz Feed reports the short is merely a promotion for an Argentinean appliance chain.

Still, we’re stuck enough in the 1980s that we can’t stop watching. Check out Doc Brown’s 2011 debut below:
 

 

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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