One of the worst things for me as a movie critic has been the dearth of quality movies over the past few years. DJK talked about the lack of good comedies since 1999, but I think it goes even further, and now at least 80% of all movies being released today are total garbage.
The biggest problem, as far as I’m concerned, is the complete lack of originality. It seems almost everything is either a sequel (“Scary Movie 4” and “Ice Age 2”, currently at the top of the box office charts), a remake of an earlier movie (“King Kong”, “Fun With Dick and Jane”), a rip off of a similar movie (“The Wild” having the same plot as “Madagascar)”, or lowest common denominator lowbrow comedy or horror flicks.
But worst of all are the remakes of old TV series into movies. Blame it on the Baby Boomers again if you will, but for some reason some idiots in Hollywood think we all want to see TV shows from our childhood brought back and recast with current movie stars.
One would think that after the recent bombs that were “The Dukes of Hazzard”, and “Starsky & Hutch” that this abomination of a genre would die a well deserved death.
Of course not. What do we have coming down the pipe but more unoriginal trash: “Mission Impossible 3”, “Miami Vice”, “Dynasty”, “The A-Team”, “Dallas”, “CHiPs”, and even “Welcome Back, Kotter” (why????) are all about to be released or about to be filmed.
“Dallas” has to stand right now as the biggest joke I’ve ever seen (it’s so bad already that the original director has already walked off). If I were to write a satiric column and make a facetious list of “name” actors to remake “Dallas”, I would probably guzzle several beers, and come up with something like having John Travolta play J.R. Ewing, Jennifer Lopez as Sue Ellen, Shirley MacLaine as Miss Ellie, and some non-entity like Luke Wilson as Bobby.
Hilariously stupid, right? Well, guess what? That’s the real cast at this point! All we need now is to add Jessica Simpson as Pamela Ewing, Burt Reynolds as Jock Ewing, Ben Stiller as Cliff Barnes, Ashlee Simpson in Charlene Tilton’s role as the Young Slut Ewing, Lisa-Marie Presley reprising her mother’s role of Jenna Wade, and Demi Moore playing Kristin, and we’re in business! (And if we find out later on that any of these have been cast in the roles I mentioned…I’m suing for a percentage).
Yes, they have finally come up with a dumber idea than making a TV show about “Casablanca” with David Soul (Starsky and Hutch) playing Rick Blaine (to say nothing of having Ray Liotta playing Sacha).
So as you can tell, I’m not exactly a fan of the genre…but that’s not to say that there haven’t been a few good ones made as well…so without (much) further ado, I give you the Top 5 and Bottom 10 TV Series remade as a movie. When I normally do a list like this, I would do a Top 10, Bottom 5. However, with this genre, there is no way in hell I could come up with ten decent flicks, so we’ll do the inverse this time.
A few disclaimers: I’m not including in this list any movie made with the original cast, such as “Star Trek”, “X-Files”, or “South Park”. Those are truly extensions of the series, and tend to be about as good as the series itself. I’m also excluding Saturday Night Live skits that have made it to the big screen…because if I didn’t they’d pretty much dominate my Bottom 10 (other than “Wayne’s World”).
Finally, just to be able to compare apples to apples (or rotten tomatoes to rotten tomatoes), I’m not including cartoon series remade to live action ones. Yes, I did find “George of the Jungle” amusing in a ‘put your tongue on a 9-volt battery’ sort of way, but the rest of those types are just too stupid to warrant any real discussion. If you have any arguments with that, my only three responses would be “The Flintstones Do Rock Vegas”, “Inspector Gadget”, and “Masters of the Universe”. ‘nuff said.
#5 S.W.A.T. – I almost put the first “Mission Impossible” in this slot…then I remembered how much I hate Tom Cruise, and how much I hated the fact that they made series hero Jim Phelps (Peter Graves in the original) into the villain. “S.W.A.T.” also was guilty of making one of the good guys from the series into a bad guy (T.J.), but no one (other than my wife) remembered him from the original. Regardless, it still stood on its own as a fun action flick. Great support casting with LL CoolJ and Michelle Rodriquez updating the originally bland supporting cast. And, of course, having Samuel L. Jackson playing Hondo to counterbalance Colin Farrell as Jim Street added a level of cool far beyond what the pedestrian script deserved.
#4 Charlie’s Angels – How can I possibly put a stupid update of one of the campiest, stupidest television shows this high? Because Drew Barrymore got it right. Great casting with Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu, all of whom could not have be more different than Farrah Fawcett, Jacylyn Smith and Kate Jackson. Add to that Bill Murray as Bosley, and such rich character actors as Sam Rockwell, Tim Curry, and Crispin Glover, and you end up with something that was far, far better than it had any right to be. Too bad they didn’t stop there, and we were subjected to “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”. Ugh.
#3 Maverick – Now we’re getting into some great flicks. Back before he became An Important Film Maker, Mel Gibson was one of the most entertaining light comedians you could find for a movie, and he was never better than in this remake of the old James Garner Western about a gambler who hated guns. There were some complaints that in the movie Gibson used guns quite often, but that’s nitpicking as far as I’m concerned. The casting was dead on with Jodie Foster (brilliant as a gambler/con artist), Graham Greene as an Indian con artist, James Coburn, Alfred Molina, and of course, James Garner as the law man with more than a few secrets, including the satisfyingly twist at the end. Even better were having all the old western TV/movie stars like Dub Taylor, Denver Pyle, Doug McClure, Leo Gordon, and Robert Fuller taking roles as poker players during the big tournament. I almost included this one as one of my Hidden Gems, and still highly recommend it to anyone wanting to watch a fun movie that won’t insult your intelligence.
#2 The Untouchables – Simply put; Sean Connery made this movie. Yes, Kevin Costner was the star, and did a decent job in a rather thankless role as the too straight laced goody two-shoed Elliot Ness, but Connery’s Oscar winning performance as Ness’s rough and tumble mentor Jim Malone is what truly stands out in this Chicago Gangland picture. Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith expertly round out Ness’s G-Men, fighting gangsters and internal corruption from the police and feds as they try to apprehend Al Capone. Robert DeNiro does his best “Al Pacino over the top” scenery chewing as Capone, but it works (the dinner scene with the baseball bat is a classic). Costner does ride a horse at one point in this movie, so it upholds the rule of “All Kevin Costner movies in which he isn’t on a horse or playing a jock sucks.”
#1 The Fugitive – Harrison Ford used to be one of our biggest stars before becoming uber-lame. For that, I blame Calista Flockhart as his Yoko Ono…I’m assuming she was the one who told him that a sixty year rugged action hero would look good wearing a really fem looking earring. Be that as it may, he was at his zenith in this remake of the old David Janssen series about the wrongly convicted Dr. Richard Kimble as he searches for the elusive One-Armed Man who killed his wife. Some of the most intense action sequences ever, plus Tommy Lee Jones in one of his finest performances (also an Oscar winner) as the dogged Lt. Gerard. Ford was at his understated best, never letting the audience forget his pain, desperation, and determination to see justice done. Wall to wall action that never disappoints, even after multiple viewings.
So much for the Cream. Now for the Clear(ly crap).
#10 Starsky & Hutch – I’ve never, ever forgiven David Soul for his lame Bogart Butchering in the aforementioned “Casablanca” TV show, or his hideous Top 40 hit “Don’t Give Up On Us, Baby” back in the late 70s. So the fact that Soul hated this movie should be enough for me to like it. But I can’t. The original series was actually a lot of fun, especially Paul Michael Glasser’s Starsky…and this remake was just stupid. Plus Ben Stiller is so lacking in talent that he makes Adam Sandler look like Sir Laurence Olivier in comparison.
#9 The Honeymooners – Cedric the Entertainer as Ralph Kramden. What’s next? Noah Wiley as Ben Cartwright in the movie version of “Bonanza”? Lackluster, boring, and totally worthless, this bombed big time at the box office, barely raking in $12 million.
#8 The Mod Squad – This one was a bigger disappointment than most simply because of “what might have been”. A hip cast with Clare Danes, Omar Epps, and Giovanni Ribisi as the young delinquents turned cops and Dennis Farina as their boss, this had the potential to be a great movie. Too bad they forgot to hire a director, screen writer, or editor.
#7 I Spy – Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy. One really doesn’t need to say anything else. The shame of it is that they took a show that was so brave and admirable for being the first TV show ever to have a black actor as a lead (Bill Cosby, if you’ve forgotten), and turned it into a snooze-fest that stands up to the original like Godfather III stands up to The Godfather.
#6 Dukes of Hazzard – I would probably rate this one even lower, given my ‘druthers, but I won’t due to the fact that I readily admit to hating the TV series so much. The TV show sucked and the movie sucked, so what else can you really say? Other than the fact that Daisy Duke looks damn good in those Daisy Dukes in both of them.
#5 Wild Wild West – Another “what the hell where they thinking?” show. Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Salma Hayek, and Kenneth Branagh brought so much credibility and star power to this project that only an incompetent of Chris Palmer level could screw it up. So now we know what Palmer was doing right before taking over the Browns; directing this disaster.
#4 McHale’s Navy – Tom Arnold headlining a movie…which is the equivalent of hiring Joseph Hazelwood to pilot your new cabin cruiser with an 18 pack of Fosters in the mini-fridge next to the wheel. But then let’s add David Alan Grier as Ensign Parker (played to perfection by Tim Conway) and the original McHale, Ernest Borgnine, as a crew member just for some additional humiliation. You would have thought that this garbage barge would sink the genre forever…but nnnooooooo.
#3 The Beverly Hillbillies – Almost as stupid as having Tom Arnold leading a movie would be having Jim Varney playing Jed Clampet. Buddy Ebsen made the series a success by playing Jed as a kindly undereducated man with a PhD in experience and dignity. Varney played him as “Hey, Vern!” in a stupid hat. Add in several other “we think they’d be funny in this role” actors like Cloris Leachman as Granny, Dabney Coleman as Mr. Drysdale, and Lily Tomlin as Miss Hathaway, throw in a plot that would have been considered too dumb and boring for the original series back in the 60s, and you have something that would make me pine away for a “Dukes of Hazzard” marathon.
#2 Bewitched – This one at least got early credit from me for having a very unique approach to the plot. The movie was to be about the TV remake of the original series, with Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, and Shirley MacLaine playing the actors playing the new Samantha, Darren, and Endorra; with the secret being that the Nicole’s character was a witch in real life. Pretty clever concept. Too bad the movie was such a train wreck. Will Ferrell was dreadful (Also just in from the Department of Redundancy: the sun rose in the East today) as the egotistical ‘movie star’ trying to make his comeback in the remake, with Darren being the lead character, and Samantha having almost no lines. Nicole Kidman tries to keep up with Halle Berry in “how to follow-up an Oscar winning performance by acting in a stupid bomb” as the zero charisma neophyte who got the role of Samantha just because Will saw her twitching her nose like Elizabeth Montgomery.
#1 Lost In Space – This debacle and “Battlefield: Earth” stand out as the two worst science fiction movies I’ve ever seen. Ludicrous plot, bad acting, disjointed editing, and the lamest animated CGI effect ever, in the form of a spastic space monkey, combine to make this mess completely unwatchable. Matt LeBlanc as a dramatic action hero? Riiighhhttt. I defy anyone to distinguish his Major Don West from Joey Tribbiani, plus Will Robinson as a whiny, precocious brat that you just want to slap every time you see him. Even with the great Gary Oldman in the plum role of Dr. Smith, this dreck can’t even rise to the level of “amusing camp” (like the original series). And the ending was obviously made with the studio brass thinking there’d be several sequels. Oh, the pain…the PAIN.
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