Bill Cosby, Sir Sidney Poitier

It’s been ten years since Will Smith bought the rights to the trilogy of comedy films Sir Sidney Poitier directed and starred in with Bill Cosby back in the ’70s, and now, only a decade later, has there been any progress.

The first installment, a remake of 1974’s Uptown Saturday Night, has attached well-known comedy director Adam McKay to the project, with talks of Will Smith and Denzel Washington in the Cosby and Poitier roles, respectively.  It is assumed if this remake goes well, there will follow remakes of the original’s official/unofficial sequels, Let’s Do It Again and A Piece of the Action.  No word as to whether a Ghost Dad remake is in the works.

The original film was about two friends, Steve and Wardell, who decide to go to the ritzy and raunchy Madame Zenobia’s nightclub in Harlem, in order to kick Steve’s two-week vacation off right.  Naturally, the club gets robbed, which would be bad enough, except that Steve has the winning lottery number in his wallet.  He and Wardell then have to run the gauntlet of shady uptown characters–half-assed P.I.s, con-artistes, and Harry Belafonte as a total scumbag crime-lord by the name of Geechie Dan–to try and get the wallet back.

The original is considered a gem of the blaxploitation era, despite the fact that it’s really not that great.  That’s just my opinion, of course.  All the individual performances are really good, and Cosby and Poitier go extremely well together.  But overall, I dunno, it just kind fell flat to me.  That does not mean, however, that I don’t recognize its importance in the canon; it does mean that I consider Poitier’s later directorial efforts, particularly Stir Crazy, to be much better films.

I suppose hoping for someone other than Will Smith in the Wardell role would be too much to ask, given that his production company is backing the thing.  But I suppose he wouldn’t be the worst choice.  Denzel pretty much already is the Sir Sidney of his generation, so that’s a no-brainer as well.  I’ve been a big fan of Adam McKay’s since his Saturday Night Live days, and even though his features tend to be kinda hit-or-miss (e.g. The Other Guys), Anchorman is a stone classic, no argument there.  So as soon as he’s done with the sequel to that beloved cult favorite, we’ll see how he does with a remake of a beloved cult favorite.  I remain, as usual, cautiously optimistic.