To Hollywood, “reboot” and “remake” are four-letter words.
Or, at least, it appears that way when filmmakers and stars alike bend over backward to describe their projects as anything other than a “reboot” or “remake.” Instead, they use words like “revisit” and “reimagining.” The movie site Indiewire even argued for “rebirth.”
An exception that proves this rule is the team behind the new “Vacation” movie: Writer/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein view reboot as a fairly innocent term; “remake” was the label they feared.
“That was definitely a word that we have tried to be very clear that we are not,” Goldstein said in a phone interview. “This is not trying to replicate or do over what Chevy Chase did in 1983.”
Daley added, “As long as it’s really funny, people aren’t going to be quite as concerned with the technical aspects of whether or not it’s a reboot, remake or sequel.”
In the film, which opened Tuesday night, Ed Helms plays a grown-up Rusty Griswold, who, like his father before him, attempts a wholesome family road trip to the Walley World theme park, but shenanigans confound his good intentions at every turn.
The “Vacation” franchise is particularly well-suited for a reboot given its own wink-and-nod casting history for the Griswold children. The heads of the family were always played by Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, a thread that continues with the new film. But the role of Rusty has been played by a different actor with each entry: Anthony Michael Hall in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983), Jason Lively in “European Vacation” (1985), Johnny Galecki in “Christmas Vacation” (1989) and Ethan Embry in “Vegas Vacation” (1997).
This turnover provided some creative leeway for Daley and Goldstein. No fan could cry foul at continuing the Griswold story while also recasting the characters, because it has already been done. Their film is essentially both a sequel and a reboot.
Still, Daley and Goldstein pre-emptively addressed any audience skepticism:
“We made sure to include a slightly meta-conversation that Rusty has with the Griswolds where he assures them that this is going to be different from the original ‘Vacation,’” Daley said.
Goldstein thought of it as a conversation with the audience. “We know what you’re thinking, but give us a chance.”
Reboot, remake, revisit. In the end, is there a difference? Perhaps this handy guide will help you parse the jargon (or just increase the debate).
Definition: If the last film was a financial success, don’t rock the boat. Add a number/letter/subtitle on the end of the original title to suggest this one is bigger and better.
Examples: “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Magic Mike XXL,” “Pitch Perfect 2” and, due Friday, “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.”
Definition: Telling the exact same story as the original, with modern gadgets.
Definition: Trying to recapture the glory of a dormant franchise.
Definition: It’s really the same thing as a reboot.
Example(s): “Mad Max: Fury Road.” While promoting the film earlier this year, director George Miller and star Tom Hardy insisted it be called a revisit.
Definition: Acknowledges only the cherished entries in the franchise and ignores the others.
Examples: According to David Ellison, producer of the recent “Terminator: Genisys,” it “is not a remake; it’s not a reboot; it’s not a sequel — it’s really a reimagining based on the Cameron source material.” Best that we all forget “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003) and “Terminator Salvation” (2009).
“Jurassic World” also falls in this category. Even as early as the fall of 2013, director Colin Trevorrow hesitated to use the word “reboot” while also saying goodbye to continuity from “The Lost World” (1997) and “Jurassic Park III” (2001).
Definition: New cast, same origin story. Needed when the previous entry is perceived to have failed creatively or financially. Skating by on brand recognition.
Examples: “Fantastic Four” (due in August) and “The Transporter Refueled” (set for September).
Definition: Altering the continuity order of a franchise, to the edge of all logical sense.
Examples: The “Fast and the Furious” films. “Fast & Furious” (2009), “Fast Five” (2011) and “Fast & Furious 6” (2013) all take place before the events in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (which came out in 2006 and was the third film in the series). But “Furious 7,” which came out in April, takes place afterward. Not confusing at all.