Calmatic is well aware of all the derision out there for Hollywood’s tendency to and over-reliance on remaking its most beloved old movies.
But the venerated music video director who’s lensed visuals for the likes of Pharrell, Kendrick Lamar and Lil Nas X brings a unique perspective to the debate over reboots, particularly when it comes to House Party, his new remix of the 1990 teen classic starring famed rap duo Kid ‘n Play.
“I know there's a lot of talk about remakes and you can't touch a classic and all that kind of stuff, but I feel like a property like House Party should be remade every 10 years,” Calmatic, born Charlies Kidd II, tells Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview.
“Like why not? Imagine if there was a House Party in 1970. I'm sure we would probably watch it and love it and enjoy the references. To be able to look back at how they did it [then]. And there needs to be a House Party 10 years from now and then another 10 years after that… Here I’m just glad I was able to come in at this point in the culture and give a snapshot of what’s going on right now.”
It's a valid point. American culture — particularly the hip-hop culture that Reginald Hudlin’s 1990 original helped popularize upon its release — changes so rapidly every year, from the music to the clothing to the fads to the slang, a House Party movie made every decade would undoubtedly look far different from both its predecessor and its descendant. (Also, it’s not like the original House Party brand wasn’t already untarnished: After two so-so sequels with Kid ‘n Play in 1991 and 1994 came two sacrilegious direct-to-video follow-ups in 2001 and 2013.)
There are similarities, like the knuckleheads that want to beat them up, and a requisite reenactment of the Kid ‘n Play kick step (aka The Funky Charleston). But sure enough, 2023's House Party takes a sizable departure from 1990's House Party, not just in its contemporary vibe, soundscapes and aesthetic, but also in its glitzier, cameo-friendly premise. The story follows best friends Kevin (Jacob Lattimore), an aspiring hip-hop producer and father of a young son, and Damon (Tosin Cole), a wannabe promoter, who work together for a housecleaning company. When they’re fired mid-job for slacking off at the mega-mansion they’re cleaning, the pair conspire to throw a legendary bash at the luxurious home.
Lattimore and Cole weren’t even born yet when the first House Party came out, but they were both much attuned to the film and its legacy.
“I grew up watching it with older cousins and older siblings,” says the 30-year-old Cole (The Cut, Doctor Who), who moved from New York to London when he was 8. “So I grew up knowing about it and being very aware of what House Party was and what House Party meant to the culture. And to people of that era and that generation.”
Adds the Milwaukee-raised Lattimore, 26 (The Maze Runner, The Chi): “I knew it was important. You’ve seen the cover, you've seen the hairstyle, you've seen the fashion, you seen that this was an important movie for that time… So I knew the weight of what we were stepping into.”
Calmatic was only 2 when the original dropped, and grew up not only hyper-aware of House Partyt’s stature (“It’s like he Bible,” he says) but as a big-time fan. So much so that he actively chased down the opportunity to helm the remake, which marks his feature film directorial debut.
Among the roster of music stars Calmatic had worked with was Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover. So when it was announced that the rapper-actor’s Atlanta collaborators Stephen Glover (Donald’s brother) and Jamal Olori were penning a new House Party movie, he slid right into their DMs.
“I was like, ‘Yo, I need first dibs on House Party!'”
House Party was developed by Springhill, the production company started by basketball great LeBron James and his creative partner, Maverick Carter.
This explains the origins of one of the best twists in the movie: The mansion where Kevin and Damon illegally host their rager belongs to LeBron, who has left Los Angeles during the offseason for a two-week meditation retreat.
King James also appears in the movie, first in hologram form, then eventually in the flesh. And like in 2015’s Trainwreck, the hoops superstar lands big laughs, though here mostly in self-effacing form (the hologram Kevin and Damon stumble onto is meant to provide the real LeBron daily affirmations like “You handled the decision to go to Miami perfectly” and “Your hairline is perfect”).
“Some of that stuff, we didn't write,” Calmatic says, pointing to a line where James vents about having only a 97 rating on NBA 2K. “And we had a bunch of stuff that didn't make the cut… It was fun to hear him kind of talk to himself… I think he wanted to explore his comedic and creative sides and just have a good time doing it.”
“He was cool man, real cool,” says Cole. “He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He laughs a lot [at the jokes about him] but at the same time, it's LeBron, isn't it? So he probably hears all that stuff in the game, anyway. People trash talking and all that type of stuff.”
“I think he's so locked in at this point,” Lattimore interjects.
Kevin and Damon use LeBron’s address book to rack up a star-studded guest list in the movie, which allowed the filmmakers the opportunity to stack the comedy with cameos from other famous actors, musicians and athletes.
We’ll only mention one, since that cat was long ago let out of the bag: The original House Partiers, Kid ‘n Play (né Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin), return for one particularly memorable moment.
“I remember seeing them for the first time and being like, ‘Oh, wow, we owe these guys a lot,'” says Calmatic. “Like this is the reason we’re here. So we definitely rolled out the red carpet and made sure they were comfortable.”
Martin (Play) even gave a speech to the cast and crew about how grateful he was for the opportunity.
“It just kind of made everything feel official,” Calmatic remembers.
“I feel like that was their stamp of approval,” says Cole.
Adds Lattimore: “It was definitely a comfort. Like they were passing the torch to us.”
If it was up to Calmatic, Lattimore and Cole would be passing the torch off again in 10 years.
House Party is currently playing.
Watch the trailer: