It’s been said that there are really only just a handful of storylines in the world and everything is just a version of those plots. For example, boy meets girl/boy gets girl/boy loses girl. That may seem a bit over-simplified, but it is the basic plot for many a movie, book, play or TV show from “Romeo and Juliet” to “West Side Story”. It’s because of this limited amount of actual plots to choose from that many movies end up being mirror-images of a previous one, or even more in some cases.
Now, there are plenty of movies that seem to be loosely based on other movies. Take “Star Wars” and “The Devil’s Advocate” for example. Everybody knows that Darth Vader is Luke’s evil father and he wants Luke to go over to the dark side and help Darth with the cumbersome job of ruling the entire universe. Well, in case you didn’t get a chance to see it, “The Devil’s Advocate” has a similar storyline. Although the two movies are completely different, Al Pacino plays the Devil himself in this film and Keanu Reeves plays his son. And, of course, the Devil wants his son to, yep, you guessed it, take over the job of ruling the universe.
And, in both films, there’s a certain amount of sexual tension between sister and brother, albeit much more graphically in “The Devil’s Advocate”. Two others that are only somewhat similar are “Shutter Island” and “Inception”. Both starred Leonardo DiCaprio playing a guy who’s not handling the death of his wife very well and goes on a mission that is purely imaginary. And, all the while, the audience is getting more and more confused by the convoluted storyline. Ok, I could go on all day with these loosely related films, but here are five pairs that were really way too similar:
“Revenge of the Nerds” (1984) vs. “Monsters University” (2013)
“Nerds” was a trashy classic in the 80’s with plenty of gratuitous nudity and “Monsters” was an animated kiddy movie in 3D from Pixar that was released in 2013 by Disney. Both plots involve kids on a university campus who are total misfits and outcasts and get bullied regularly. They end up having to fight back to regain their self-respect. The interesting thing about these two is that the sleazy version actually encouraged kids to stay in school whereas the kiddy version celebrates being a drop-out. Not a very good lesson for kids in the audience, but then again, maybe that was the filmmakers’ attempt at making the “Monsters” plot at least end differently from its predecessor.
“Turner and Hooch” vs. “K-9” (1989)
Although “K-9” was released three months before “Turner and Hooch” was, the latter was definitely the better of the two. But still, they did have the exact same plot. A cop in California ends up reluctantly teaming up with a dog, ie Hooch and Jerry Lee, in an effort to successfully foil an evil ring of criminals. Both dogs get shot in their respective films, but Hooch dies whereas Jerry Lee doesn’t. In one, Tom Hanks is playing the lead role as Turner. He’s a detective who’s a bit of an OCD neat freak, but in the end, he abandons those fussy ways and ends up loving Hooch and his carefree personality. In “K-9”, James Belushi is Michael Dooley, who’s also a detective, but one who is just plain grumpy. Belushi is a good actor for sure, but not nearly the caliber of Hanks and “K-9” doesn’t really make audiences cry nor even laugh as much as “Turner & Hooch”.
“Tombstone” vs. “Wyatt Earp” (1994)
“Tombstone” was released six months earlier than “Earp” and, in all fairness, it’s kind of hard to have a different storyline when the film revolves around a real-life character, but still these two were just a bit too close in their plots. They did, however, each have excellent casts. Whereas “Tombstone” had the always great Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, “Wyatt Earp” had the inimitable actors Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, and Dennis Quaid. And, both films had fantastic directors, namely George P. Cosmatos directed “Tombstone” and Larence Kasdan directed “Wyatt Earp”. Kasdan directed such greats as “Silverado” and “The Big Chill” and Cosmatos directed “Rambo: First Blood Part II” and “Leviathan”. Both did an excellent job and the two films were both really entertaining, but perhaps “Tombstone” was a little better mainly because it had Sam Elliott, without whom no western can ever be complete, as well as the late great Robert Mitchum as the film’s narrator.
“Volcano” vs. “Dante’s Peak” (1997)
“Dante’s Peak” beat “Volcano” to screens nationwide by three months. Both movies share the same plot. Scientists and volcano experts make a valiant attempt at warning everybody that a volcano is going to erupt but nobody wants to listen. It’s a typical disaster movie storyline that’s been thrilling audiences all the way back to “Towering Inferno” when Paul Newman and Steve McQueen kept trying to tell everyone that that big beautiful building was ripe for the burning. And, the casting in these two volcano-oriented movies was excellent, each in their own right. “Volcano” had Tommy Lee Jones, Keith David, and Anne Heche, but “Dante’s Peak” had “007” himself, Pierce Brosnan, teamed up with Ms. Terminator, Linda Hamilton. Both movies were equally as good, however, some might give extra kudos to “Volcano” for the fact that the volcano destroyed the entire city of L.A.
“Deep Impact” vs. “Armageddon” (1998)
Having been released two months prior to the release of “Armageddon”, “Deep Impact” got quite a jump on its copycat competitor. Both plots involved a giant rock from space that was heading toward earth. In spite of those similarities, though, both films had very different directing styles. Michael Bay, who directed “Armageddon”, also directed previous big-budget action movies like “The Rock” and “Transformers”. On the other hand, the director of “Deep Impact”, Mimi Leder, directed something a bit warmer and fuzzier, and it was “Pay It Forward”. Now, even though the comet in “Deep Impact” killed more people than any single event in the history of movies, “Armageddon” was a bigger box office success and had a screenplay co-written by the great J.J. Abrams, as well as an all-star cast lead by Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, William Fichtner, and Owen Wilson. On the other hand, “Deep Impact’ had Tea Leoni, Robert Duvall, and the great Morgan Freeman, but it just didn’t quite measure up to “Armageddon” even though it was released first.