Friends With No Strings Attached: Five Pairs of Movies That Are Basically The Same Thing

The Hangover II got a lot of flak earlier this year for basically being a re-hashing of the original Hangover tale. I don't understand why people were so upset. You don't go see an Austin Powers sequel without expecting a reference to bad teeth, you don't go see a Harry Potter sequel without expecting an intense gaze from that Malfoy kid and you don't go see a Batman sequel without expecting some kind of firefight involving the Batmobile and carnies.

What I have a problem with are movies that purport to be completely separate franchises but are essentially the same story. To make matters more confusing, these movies tend to appear around the same time, have actors of similar bone structure and have the same number of words in their titles. I don't mind that Hollywood has a formula (in fact, most of the time, I welcome it). But to produce two movies with the same storyline with similar actors is a little...infuriating.

Case in point: Friends With Benefits, which opens on July 22. The film stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis as two friends who like to have sex with each other without all of that icky relationship stuff. I really liked this movie the first time I saw it...when it was called No Strings Attached. OK, maybe that was a rehashing of a David Spade joke, but if the studios aren't even going to try, why should I?

And why are these movies coming out within months of each other? Did Hollywood think that we were just dying for yet another movie about a guy and a girl who are friends but decide to have sex because it's easier than being in a "real relationship"? Did they not think we could just rewatch that episode of Sex and the City?

In any case, this is nothing new, and Hollywood has remade itself time and time again. So, just to drive home our point, we came up with five pairs of movies that are way too much alike.

1. The Illusionist and The Prestige. Both are gothic dramas about magicians. The Illusionist gets points for being "artier." The Prestige, on the other hand, has Michael Caine.

2. Love Actually and Valentine's Day Both have star-studded casts and revolve around multiple stories about love and relationships. Love Actually, however, has touching performances by Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson; Valentine's Day, lamentably, has Ashton Kutcher.

3. Armageddon and Deep Impact. Comets are out to destroy the world in each of these movies. In Armageddon, a team is sent to space to destroy the comet. Deep Impact focuses on those who are chosen to survive. Armageddon has better special effects, more Hollywood badassery and a more satisfying ending, but Deep Impact paints a better picture of human nature. Kind of.

4. Volcano and Dante's Peak I took a course in geology for summer school one year. Apparently, Dante's Peak is accurate in terms of what happens when a volcano erupts, and Volcano isn't. Dante's Peak also has eye candy in the form of Pierce Brosnan.

5. Murder By Death and Clue Both are about groups of people invited to a dinner party and eventually called upon to solve the murder of the host. Clue was based on the popular board game and was released with three different theatrical endings. Murder by Death was written by Neil Simon and has a killer cast that includes Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith and David Niven; Clue's got hilarious performances by Madeline Kahn and Tim Curry. In the end, though, it's MBD's understated script and performances that triumph over Clue's overblown ones.

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