I saw a tweet recently that said that all movies based on TV shows were bad, basically because they, more often than not, went for the nod & wink to the audience and instead of laughing with the the program that inspired them, preferring to laugh at them. Now at first thought I would agree with this statement. Most of them do in fact do this, and lets face it, most of them suck because of it. But while researching this article I was surprised to find that not all TV based films are crap, and in fact, some of them are actually pretty good. I also found that these films aren’t a recent trend. There are cinematic versions of classic TV shows dating back to the 50’s and were actually kind of a big deal.
The list of these films is quite extensive, so I decided to limit myself to the following: no animated (so no Simpsons The Movie, which lets face it is basically a long episode of the show, or SpongeBob Squarepants, which is a shame ’cause it’s hilarious), no sketches or shorts stretched into a movie (so no Blues Brothers unfortunately), no films used to finish or extend the show (ie Firefly/Serenity or Twin Peaks), no Star Trek (they’ll get their own Spotlight On), and no telemovies – cinema releases only. I’m also not going to do the Dr Who movies, I’ll leave them for Richo and his Who Reviews. That still leaves a heap of options so this article will be split into 2 parts. I hope you enjoy it!
Fun Fact: Get Smart actually had an earlier cinema release called The Nude Bomb (1980). It was a total bomb (pun intended) and nominated for a Golden Raspberry. It was so bad that the revival TV show ignored it completely for continuity.
Directed by: Peter Segal
Plot: Maxwell Smart, analyst and wannabe agent for the secret spy agency CONTROL, working alongside the experienced Agent 99, must prevent KAOS, an enemy agency, from detonating a nuclear bomb in America and save the President.
For: I’m a big Steve Carell fan. I think he’s good in everything he’s in, it’s just that he’s often in very ordinary films / Doesn’t disrespect the source / Alan Arkin is great / Patrick Warburtin as Hymie / a few laughs / Terrence Stamp always good
Against: Doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to be a comedy or an action movie and so fails at both. The action isn’t exciting enough and the comedy relies too much on Carell’s natural charm / the love story simply doesn’t convince.
Favourite Scene: Hymie / the Cone of Silence.
Rating: 2 Lukes
Based on the TV show and New Yorker cartoon strips. Followed by a sequel in 1993.
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Plot: Con artists attempt to fleece the eccentric Addams family using an accomplice who claims to be their long lost Uncle Fester.
For: Brilliant cast. Every single actor gives it their all to bring the Addams Family to life on the big screen, without just being pastiches of the original TV cast. Ricci and Huston in particular are standouts / Funny in all the right places and even though they slightly changed some of the characters personalities, they remained respectful of the source / Production design is magnificent
Against: The story isn’t all that interesting
Favourite Scene: Every scene involving Wednesday, especially her interactions with Pugsley
Rating: 3.5 Lukes
Almost universally panned by critics and fans of the TV show, Dukes of Hazzard is one of the best examples of how these types of movies get it wrong. That being said though, it was quite a financial success (which I attribute to the presence of Jessica Simpson).
Directed by: Jay Chandrasekhar
Plot: Cousins Bo and Luke Duke love nothing more than to drive around in their car, cause mischief, and seduce the local ladies, but when they discover that Boss Hogg plans on turning Hazzard County into a strip mine, they team up with their cousin Daisy and Uncle Jesse to fight to save their beloved town.
For: Nothing. Ok, I’ll go with the General Lee is an awesome car.
Against: Everything else. Knoxville can’t act, it’s not even slightly funny, and is incredibly boring. Some critics have branded it sexist, and it is, but in it’s defence, it’s not all that much worse than the show. Every episode I’ve seen featured a Daisy butt shot, and it’s no surprise that denim shorts are commonly referred to as Daisy Dukes 🙂
Favourite Scene: None
Rating: 0 Lukes
Directed by: McG
Plot: Three female detectives, who work for a mysterious boss, solve crimes and fight bad guys (and girls) using their fighting skills and sex appeal.
For: Lets face it, this film is a bit of a mess. 18 writers & 30 re-writes don’t bode well, but for some reason I enjoy this movie. It’s fun and tongue in cheek, and doesn’t take itself seriously. And it’s always good to see Bill Murray, Sam Rockwell & Tim Curry.
Against: Not as funny as it thinks it is / the plot is kinda dumb
Favourite Scene: Pete makes the bouncers laugh / every Creepy Thin Man (Glover) scene / Alex at Corwin Enterprises
Rating: 2.5 Lukes
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Plot: Thinking he can overshadow an unknown actress in the part, an egocentric actor unknowingly gets a witch cast in an upcoming television remake of the classic show “Bewitched”.
Against: Will looks embarrassed to be in the film (and that’s saying something considering the some of the crap he is in), and he and Nicole have zero chemistry/ The plot is boring and disrespects its source. By trying to be meta, it actually ends up being stupid. / Nicole looks bored in every scene / Maybe Ephron should stick to just writing – I expected much more from the writer of When Harry Met Sally (one of my favourite films ever).
Favourite Scene: None
Rating: 0 Lukes
Adapted from the animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender, but not allowed to use the name Avatar because of James Cameron’s overblown film of the same name.
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Plot: Follows the adventures of Aang, a young successor to a long line of powerful Avatars, who must put his childhood ways aside and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations.
For: The martial arts sequences are very good, with a great sense of fluid motion and are really quite beautiful / Some of the SFX are great, especially the fire / Visual design is excellent.
Against: Despite no previous acting experience, Ringer does a credible performance as Aang. Shame the same can’t be said for any of the other actors, especially Patel, who is just awful in this / Unlike the cartoon it is based on, the story is mostly nonsensical and the characters are flat and lifeless / Over use of SFX.
Favourite Scene: Anytime any of the characters are summoning their elemental powers
Rating: 1.5 Lukes
Fun Fact: So as not to confuse British audiences with this film (and the TV show it was based on), the recent Marvel ‘Avengers’ film was renamed ‘Avengers Assemble’ in that region.
Directed by: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Plot: British secret agents, John Steed and Emma Peel, team up to stop Sir August De Wynter from destroying the world with a weather changing machine.
For: Great cast
Against: Everything else. I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘They just didn’t get it’ in reviews, but it is so obviously applies in this case that feel I have to use it. I honestly don’t believe that the writer or the director have ever seen the TV show. Most damning is that it fails to deliver any of the unique British quirkiness that the show was famous for, which is very strange considering the writer, Don Macpherson, is British. The best example of the filmmaker’s misunderstanding of the source material is the opening. It starts with a cool sequence of Steed walking along and having to fend off attacks from bad guys. It is very clever and spot on to the show, until it is revealed that this entire sequence is a training range for the agents….Needless to say it shouldn’t have done that.
Disregarding all that, this film is still a huge mess. It originally ran for around 115 minutes, but after a disastrous test screening the studio ordered it re-cut, creating the nonsensical 89 minutes it ended up being. I admit I wouldn’t mind seeing the original version, it would be interesting to see if it actually made any sense before they hacked at it.
Favourite Scene: The opening, until you know what 🙂
Rating: 0 Lukes
I thought I’d end this batch with my 2nd favourite of the TV to Film remakes (my 1st favourite will be in part 2!). This is of course based on the 1970’s sitcom of the same name, however the film uses the scenario of placing the original sitcom characters, with their 70s fashion and morals, into what was then contemporary 1990, but the Bradys don’t realise this.
Directed by: Betty Thomas
Plot: The original ’70s TV family is now placed in the 1990s, and need to fight to save their home from their neighbor, a shady businessman.
For: Awesome idea / Never takes itself seriously / Actually funny / Great use of cameos / Gary Cole is awesome / Great dialogue
Against: Probably need to have seen the Brady Bunch to get the joke / Not all of the jokes work.
Favourite Scene: The opening sequence (“Dad, there’s a Brady in our yard!”) / the Search for the Stars contest / Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
Rating: 4 Lukes