Sumner Redstone: The Best Movies Paramount Made While He Owned the Studio
Sumner Redstone died on Aug. 11 at the age of 97. The media mogul built Viacom into a television empire. In 1994, he bought Paramount studios in a hostile takeover. Sherry Lansing ran Paramount from 1992 to 2004 and delivered Redstone three Academy Award winners (Forrest Gump, Braveheart and Titanic).
Paramount was on a roll in the ’90s and early 21st Century with movies we still talk about today, or at least that we should. Here are some of the other Paramount movies released under Redstone’s ownership, some fun stuff, exciting action and a few other acclaimed ones.
The ‘Brady Bunch’ Movies combined Paramount and Viacom for Sumner Redstone
The original Brady Bunch series was already produced by Paramount Television, so with Redstone it all became part of the Viacom family. The two movies the studio made in the ’90s are among the best examples of adapting classic shows into feature films.
The 1995 Brady Bunch Movie transported the ’60s family into the ’90s for a satirical culture clash. With that established, 1996’s A Very Brady Sequel took it further and explored more classic Brady episodes like Jan’s fake boyfriend, Greg and Marcia’s lusty feelings and the family trip to Hawaii.
‘Clueless’ would’ve made Sumner Redstone a hit with the kids
1995 saw Paramount release perhaps the definitive movie of the ’90s, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Clueless was a high school adaptation of Emma that probably got more kids to read Jane Austen than the Gwyneth Paltrow movie a year later (although that was a good one too). It proved Alicia Silverstone was a movie star and popularized catch phrases like “as if” and “I’m audi.”
The ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise continues after Sumner Redstone
In 1996, Paramount turned its classic CBS TV show into an action movie franchise starring Tom Cruise. That franchise is still going with a seventh and eighth film returning to production this year.
‘Beavis and Butt-Head’ did America and conquered Hollywood
Another TV adaptation, Paramount released the Beavis and Butt-Head movie when the series was still airing on Viacom’s MTV. Three act structure worked for the 14-year-old slackers. In the beginning, their TV got stolen and Beavis turned into Cornholio by taking caffeine pills. Thus established a cross-country road trip that culminated in Cornholio wandering through the White House.
Beavis and Butt-Head are coming back to Viacom. Comedy Central announced a new season of animated episodes with creator Mike Judge.
‘Breakdown’ is a smalltown thriller
Breakdown is an example of the kind of solid movie Paramount could produce in the ’90s. Kurt Russell plays a man whose car breaks down in the middle of the desert, and must rescue his wife (Kathleen Quinlan) from the “good samaritan” (J.T. Walsh) who gave her a ride back into town.
The kidnappers first try to gaslight Russell that they never met him or his wife. Then they try to blackmail him for ransom money that he doesn’t have. The tension is palpable in the town away from creature comforts and authority figures, and plenty of big rig truck chases.
‘Face/Off’ should be the feather in Sumner Redstone’s cap
At a 2019 Q&A before a screening of his Hong Kong classic The Killer, John Woo discussed making Face/Off for Paramount. Woo said Lansing protected him from studio notes, saying she just wanted a John Woo movie. She sure got one and Redstone should be proud.
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Face/Off would be an awesome action movie under Woo anyway, but what makes it truly transcendent is how seriously it takes its absurd premise. No, you can’t actually swap faces, but if you could, maybe Sean Archer (John Travolta) would start to see the good in Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage)’s family, and maybe Troy would end up being a good father to Archer’s daughter (Dominique Swain).
‘Hard Rain’ is the wettest high concept
When disaster movies were all the rage, Paramount tried to top Twister and Volcano with a flood movie. They ended up with Die Hard in a flood as Christian Slater had to evade and fend off gangs of thieves and corrupt policemen in a town flooded and evacuated. It was even called The Flood originally but they wisely went with the more bombastic title Hard Rain.
‘The Truman Show’ should have meant more Oscars for Sumner Redstone
Fans and critics recognized The Truman Show although the Academy only nominated it for three awards: Ed Harris, director Peter Weir and screenwriter Andrew Niccol. Nothing for Jim Carrey. The Truman Show premiered at the dawn of reality TV and has only become more prescient as people voluntarily document their entire lives without elaborate domes necessary.
‘A Simple Plan’ was a simple drama
Bombastic horror director Sam Raimi showed he could do a movie without his bag of tricks. A Simple Plan is the story of two brothers (Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton) who discover a downed treasury plane. Their plan to keep the money ends up tearing their families and friends apart.
‘Jackass: The Movie’ showed any Viacom show could be a movie
MTV had success with the Jackass TV series, so they gave the gang a budget to do a movie. There were three theatrical releases, the best of which is the masterpiece Jackass Number Two, with a fourth on the way.
The second and third films had enough deleted pranks and stunts to release additional spinoffs on home video. Mock if you will, but the Jackass team put creativity and skill into every one of their silly shenanigans.
‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’ became a classic rom-com
The ’90s had Sleepless In Seattle and Four Weddings and A Funeral. The ’00s had How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It established Kate Hudson as a movie star after the acclaim she received for Almost Famous, and solidified Matthew McConaughey as a leading man.
Hudson plays Andie Anderson, a journalist working on a story about the mistakes women make to drive men away. She bets she can drive any man away in 10 days. Meanwhile Ben (McConaughey) bets he can keep any woman no matter what. Not only does hilarity ensue, but this elaborate scam reveals they actually have feelings for each other.
‘Mean Girls’ was Sumner Redstone’s next ‘Clueless’
Nine years after Clueless, there was already a new generation of teenagers who needed their own teen movie. Mean Girls proved to be just that. Tina Fey’s adaptation of Queen Bees and Wannabes introduced the world to The Plastics (Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried and Lacey Chabert), the Heathers of the new millennium.
Cady (Lindsay Lohan) was the outsider with a way into The Plastics. The film contributed such phrases as “stop trying to make fetch happen” and pink Wednesdays to society. It also spawned a stage musical.