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Top 10 Terrible TV Movie Adaptations
Why do they make movies out of old T.V. shows? That requires a two part answer: either a) because devoted fans of discontinued series have requested, or even demanded, to see their favorite characters return for one more encompassing scenario as a sort of closure, or b) because some creatively-challenged Hollywood executives are willing to squeeze a buck out of anything with a scintilla of promise. If the movie fails to star any of the original cast (discounting novelty cameos) or maintain any common ties to the original (e.g. creators, writers, directors), it likely falls into the latter category. Too many movies are cranked out under the impression that they are breathing new life into an old television series, allowing fans to revisit the worlds they were so enamored with while they still ran without fear of cancellation or contract expiration, when, in fact, it is usually just a means to pack seats by highjacking someone else’s intellectual properties to disingenuous ends. This is a problem that shows no signs of stopping, as about a handful of good movies come out every year with another thousand that are just revolting. Nonetheless, we must be aware of what dread our way comes. Here are the top ten terrible T.V. movie adaptations, proof that good things come (and stay) in small packages:
The Smurfs in the Big City: that basically sums up the idea behind this adaptation of what was originally ENTIRELY a cartoon, not to mention set in a little bucolic Smurf village, where little blue people walked around shirtless and got away with it. This movie just plays up the conflict in placing these miniature outsiders in the country’s foremost mixing pot, one not stirred by Gargamel. Speaking of, placing him in New York City, with his Igor-like posture and sinister, plotting ways is bound to get him into a one-on-one with Homeland Security. The original cartoon was about observing a unique group of simple beings in their natural habitat, complete with their own self-referential language system, not about making them look awkward when placed against our convoluted way of life.
Again, we have the CGI-live action juxtaposition, only this time the cartoon creature stays in its natural setting. The picnic basket-snatching bear and his miniature buddy, Boo-boo, reside in Jellystone Park and act suspiciously like humans, except for the whole part where they were superimposed into each scene by some computer animator. The one crime this movie didn’t commit is in hiring Dan Akroyd to voice Yogi, although that only brings his credibility sharply down, as this movie is lifted up a single hair (then again nothing but top notch names get paid for just their voices, just ask Morgan Freeman). The rest of this movie dissolves as expected, with a bunch of family-friendly schtick (expect a lot of bumps on the head). Yeesh.
Granted there may be more black bus drivers now than there were in the early fifties, but it is a bit of an artistic license to cast the movie with almost entirely black actors, seeing as how it really derails from the original. And how can you not have Ralph constantly threaten to beat his wife (“One of these days Alice…to the moon!“) and still feign to call it the Honeymooners. Granted there weren’t a lot of black actors in classic era television, especially not in lead roles, but you can’t just invert the whiteness of a beloved TV program and not consider it a separate entity just because the plot or central ideas are similar; that’d be like making all-black Beverly Hillbillies movie and not calling it the Jeffersons movie (it might be squirrel pie, but at least they’re finally getting a piece of it).
So this movie takes a metaphysical approach to adapting the TV show, being a movie about actors who star in a remake of the original Bewitched series. Only it turns out that the actress playing the witch in the series… is actually a witch. Neat twist on the remake formula, more than just creating a plot that concerns the main characters for roughly 90 minutes, like an episode on steroids (and budget). Only such an idea is like dragging out the intro credits of an episode, where a theme song sets up and sums up the show’s central conflict, for the length of a movie. It takes almost that long for Will Ferrel’s character to find out and come to terms with that fact, and it feels like a million years for the rest of us. For anyone whose never seen the show or been exposed to the idea of a witch who can make things happen magically, this movie may feel fresh. To devoted fans of the show, it’s a thought as impure as witchcraft itself. Most however, would agree this movie should be burned at the stake at least for its weak entertainment value and lack of humor, in spite of it being a so-called comedy.
Everyone’s favorite singing cartoon rodents, with voices that sound like tape recorders being fast-forwarded, find their way to the big screen with little variation. That is to say, with little variation on the turn-a-cartoon-into-a-live-action-movie formula. The only updating occurs in the place where it counts, the place where mass consumption meets a complete absence of contentious regard: the soundtrack. Replacing old doo-wop numbers and Elvis songs with contemporary songs by Train, Katy Perry and Beyonce (and whatever other potently mainstream R&B-pop-hip-hop sludge drips down the Top 40s these days) and filtering them through that familiar chipmunk is something no novelty-consumer can live without. This kind of multi-avenue marketing is aimed at the same kind of people who are compelled to download American Idol compilations after each new episode airs (as they do with Glee). In short, they are the Uroboros of the modern music industry, as it continues to void and re-digest its own excrement.
Starring Will Ferrel and some of his familiar proteges (Danny McBride), this movie should’ve been a hilarious comedy in the shape of a T.V. show adaptation. Not so. The comedy was on silent throughout, Ferrel only capable of milking a terrible script so hard before blood starts coming out. And there was little of the adventurousness of the original series, mostly just sight gags, the pairing of man and dinosaur and how easily “comedy” can ensue from that. Few movies besides Jurassic Park have pulled off making a dinosaur convincing or even scary (that’s to the credit of painstaking robotics, models and prosthetics); this movie is no exception.
Most spy-T.V. show adaptations don’t work; the one exception being Mission Impossible, which successfully pulled of the modern appeal while maintaining timeless essential elements. And, like an important part of any Bond film, there were memorable gadgets (exploding gum!). But movies like I-Spy and Get Smart are officially on the blacklist. They pull out all the spy movie cliches (agents with inferiority complexes/who don’t get along with their partner (at first), grouchy subordinates, expensive gadgets being broken/used incorrectly etc.), and because they are cloaked in comedy, there is more parody than purposeful innovation. Thus, it just feels completely superficial and hammy whenever the same film attempts to deploy any kind of a serious plot. Get Smart was more of a vehicle for Steve Carell’s post-T.V. career, employing him as the “little spy who could,” getting tripped up along the way. Surrounding his part, and everyone who get roped up into his nonsense, is a subpar action movie that isn’t even laced with enough laughs to make enjoyable (in spite of all the comedy namesake drop-bys).
Maybe an A-Team but the movie is a B, and just a cast stockpiler: Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, the lead guy from District 9, and a UFC fighter playing Mr. T’s part – well – to a T. This movie, like so many before and after it, is a nostalgic opportunist. It rides on a cultural adoration of the original by older generations who’ve grown up on it, while trying to just slick up an otherwise simple vehicle for shooting big guns and causing many explosions (it doesn’t take a lot of concept to crank out a blockbuster, why else do you think they’re called “blockbusters”?) What it keeps is that big-ass full-size van and the corny writing. What it leaves out is a wreath of gold chains.
This movie’s single selling point: Jessica Simpson in cut-off jean shorts (and a lot of eye makeup) playing Daisy Duke. Otherwise, the only thing this movie had was a cast of crudes (The Duke Boys played by Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame, and Stiffler) and a car bearing the Confederate Flag. The movie takes plenty of redneck cues from the original series, but other than that there’s little more to take away than high speed chases and freeze-framed jumps over which a voice narrates something along the lines of “Whelp, them boys sure got themselves some explaining to do.” And they do, because this film is just a lousy attempt to refill an empty spittoon. Even worse, we had to suffer another Jessica Simpson cover (of Nancy Sinatra) as a result. Meanwhile, Willie Nelson just keeps his head down and extends his check-collecting hand.
Scooby gets royally boned here, mostly because this movie is the first in a long line of crappy live-action cartoon adaptations to pair humans with a CGI version of the title character. In that way the movie remains not entirely live-action, which is frustrating. It’s not as if the two worlds are colliding a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Space Jam; it is just easier and cheaper to crank out a simulation with some computer software rather than paint and construct an elaborate set. Or in the case with Scooby, to hire a dog trainer and highly trained Great Dane to act the part. How hard can it be to entice a dog to eat a five-foot tall submarine sandwich? Hollywood often takes shortcuts if profits are all the same, and while subliminal hints at Shaggy and Scooby being stoners were kept true to the original series, the movie was mostly a cash-in (further illustrated by subsequent dried-up sequels, which begged for a big ol’ “ruh-roh”), and a topical tribute at best (e.g. Mathew Lillard’s Casey Kasem impression).