'Toni Erdmann' Remake: Can Jack Nicholson, Kristen Wiig, America Be Trusted With Sex? (No)

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Kristen Wiig and Jack Nicholson are great, but it's hard to imagine them topping the original 'Toni Erdmann.' Komplizen Film

A plot synopsis for Toni Erdmann certainly sounds like something that could work as an American remake produced by Adam McKay (Daddy’s Home, Get Hard, The Big Short), starring Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig. Here’s Variety’s description: “ a practical joking father who tries to reconnect with his hard working daughter by creating an outrageous alter ego and posing as her CEO’s life coach.” But that description hides so much of what makes Toni Erdmann such a remarkable movie. America cannot be trusted to do this right.

Americans generally treat questions of existential purpose and true happiness as idle or embarrassing, rather than central, questions. To continue this immense generalization: we’re too busy working. We might be disgruntled at the many boundaries capitalism has put on our lives — the 40-hour work week, the weekend, the class stratifications, the very hours of our days and the contents of our homes — but because even our norms are policed by capitalist realism we find anything rising above gripes to be unrealistic, gouache, or both. Toni Erdmann wallows in those questions of purpose and meaning that are so incredibly alien to our mainstream movies.

Moreover, it does it with a lot of sex. Toni Erdmann has the kind of gross-out sex gags that, once again, would seem perfectly natural coming from Adam McKay. But they’re not played like our sex gags are played. Instead they’re mordant, agonizing and reveal human frailties. Will Zach Galifianakis or whoever gets cast in the American remake capture the depressing power dynamics Toni Erdmann finds in a man ejaculating all over a petit four?

Movie critic Jordan Hoffman, who also hosts the Star Trek Engage podcast, nailed several reasons why there’s just no way an American Toni Erdmann remake will capture what’s great about the original.

This probably just won’t work.

Why not just give Toni Erdmann writer and director Maren Ade (who is executive producing the remake) a $100 million dollars and we can have something new instead?

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