This week’s theatrical release of ’21 Jump Street’ is just the latest example of Hollywood dragging an old TV show to the big screen, hoping to convince nostalgic fans to pay cinema ticket prices for something they used to watch for free every week. This strategy works better in some cases than others. For today’s Roundtable, we look at both the best and the worst movies based on television series.
Worst: ‘Get Smart‘. As a kid, I grew up watching old reruns of ‘Get Smart’ after ‘The Price Is Right’ every morning. The big screen Steve Carell version of ‘Get Smart’ was downright awful. I remember watching a 1980-something made-for-television ‘Get Smart’ movie that was a thousand times more entertaining than that Steve Carell turd.
Best: ‘The Fugitive‘. When ‘The Fugitive’ opened in 1993, as a 13-year-old dumb kid, I fell in love with it. I went back several times to see it while in theaters, and I watched my VHS copy of the film so much that it literally wore the tape out. When it was re-released on the big screen prior to the Academy Awards, I went back to see it yet again. I was much too young to be familiar with the television series, but my mother was a huge fan, so we made a combined super-fan of the property. When it was released, the movie had the right amount of action and spectacle to keep a young mind like mine entertained, and a solid complex story that got my cinematic wheels turning. I still love ‘The Fugitive’ and hope that someday it will get a decent Blu-ray release.
Best: ‘The Fugitive’. Hands down. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times since it came out. It was probably one of the biggest reasons I ever wanted to make movies. It’s perfect in every single way. I’m ready to watch it again right now!
Worst: ‘The Dukes of Hazzard‘. If I could strangle Jay Chandrasekhar with my bare hands, I would. He’s the most untalented director working in Hollywood, and ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ is the most pathetic of all his worthless, unfunny directing gigs. I hate this movie. Willie Nelson and Jessica Simpson almost, almost make it worth checking out, but watching this bullshit really is like having a frat boy walk in and piss on your childhood.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
Best: This is probably considered heresy in the wake of the billion dollar success of ‘The Dark Knight’, but my favorite Batman movie is still ‘Batman: Mask of the Phantasm‘. Never mind the fact that it’s animated or spawned from a network TV cartoon; there’s a far greater element of psychological torment in ‘Mask of the Phantasm’ than any live-action incarnation of the Dark Knight to date. The bleaker side of Bruce Wayne’s all-consuming obsession is a focal point. The relationship between Bruce and Andrea feels far more genuine than any of the love interests cast in Christopher Nolan’s films. The emphasis is more heavily placed on story and characterization than one might expect for an animated Batman movie, and the action sequences are swift and brutal. I greatly prefer the origin story woven here than what would later be explored throughout ‘Batman Begins’. The dark-deco art style that defined the animated series is carried over faithfully, establishing a brilliant sense of atmosphere. Though it’s entirely appropriate for younger viewers as well, Mask of the Phantasm is so thoughtful, mature, artfully crafted, and emotionally resonant that it clearly refuses to pander. Here’s hoping a 20th anniversary release on Blu-ray is on Warner’s release slate next year.
Best: ‘Star Trek: First Contact‘. In their second feature film, the original ‘TNG’ cast must travel through time to take on the menacing Borg and save humanity. The movie has everything: action, suspense, drama, a drunk Betazoid, robot porn and so much more. Patrick Stewart’s speech (“The line must be drawn He-YAH!”) is just awesome, too. Hands down, it’s my favorite of all the ‘Trek’ films.
Worst: Well, they definitely don’t get much worse than the 1994 live-action version of ‘The Flintstones‘. Actually, wait a sec, they do, thanks to ‘The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas’. Eww… Ewww… EWWW!!! I’m so creeped out by both of these movies that I’m giving myself the willies just writing this stupid paragraph! All I keep having flashbacks of is feet – lots and lots of feet. Maybe it’s because director Brian Levant’s foot fetish seems to be instilled with the power of Dr. Scholl’s, judging by the sheer amount of disturbing foot imagery on display here. Thanks, Josh, for bringing up painful memories.
M. Enois Duarte
Worst: I think one of the worst TV-based movies ever made is ‘The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle‘ from 2000. It’s simply one of the worst executed experiments of bringing a clever, beloved animated series to the big screen. An expensive film to make, it was intended to be Des McAnuff’s follow-up to the far-more successful ‘The Iron Giant’, in which he served as producer. Even worse, and terribly embarrassing, the debacle stars Robert De Niro, Rene Russo and Jason Alexander in the lead roles.
Best: The best movie based on a TV show, in my opinion, is ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan‘. It’s a terrific continuation to a rather middle-of-the-road beginning. It’s full of drama and emotion, and has a great finale. The real genius and beauty of this movie is that it’s both a sequel to the franchise’s big-screen debut and a direct follow-up to the episode ‘Space Speed’. This is an intentional meta moment for fans of the show, one that beautifully relates the film series to its television origins and finishes with a heartbreaking conclusion.
Best: ‘The Untouchables‘. Brian De Palma’s biggest mainstream commercial success (nominally based on the old TV series starring Robert Stack) is what every Hollywood movie should be. It combines a talented director, a great script, a top-flight cast, and the sort of lavish production values that only a major studio can provide. The movie has gangsters, cops, guns, booze, vintage cars, huge operatic shootouts and some of De Palma’s best suspense set-pieces. ‘The Untouchables’ works on every level. I’m also a fan of the director’s adaptation of ‘Mission: Impossible‘.
Worst: ‘Speed Racer‘. I’m aware that the Wachowskis’ mega-flop based on the beloved 1960s anime series has some fans, including one member of the Bonus View staff who didn’t participate today, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out why. A film critic friend of mine described the movie’s seizure-inducing visual design as like having someone repeatedly puke Skittles directly into your face for two-and-a-quarter hours. I couldn’t put it better. The movie is a gaudy eye sore. It’s also dead-stupid, repetitive, and (at its inexcusable length) agonizingly boring. Flawed as they are, I’ll still defend the ‘Matrix’ sequels. But this, no. This is the Wachowskis’ real fall from grace.
Tell us your picks for the best and worst movies based on TV shows in the Comments below.