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Published: Sunday, 6/22/2008

Small-screen hits are being translated to the big screen

BY BARBARA VANCHERI
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
In Get Smart, Steve Carell, right, inherits the Maxwell Smart role made famous by the late Don Adams, left. In Get Smart, Steve Carell, right, inherits the Maxwell Smart role made famous by the late Don Adams, left.
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Television has always been fertile ground for filmmakers looking to transport their casts whether they re the Simpsons or the Sex and the City girls to the big screen, or to reinvent a show s concept with new faces.

You can pick almost any year or movie season and find at least one adaptation of a television show. The Hulk owes its origins to a comic book, but it also spawned a television show , not to mention a disappointing 2003 Ang Lee interpretation with Eric Bana.

In Get Smart, which opened in theaters Friday, Steve Carell gives a new spin to Sorry about that, Chief when he inherits the Maxwell Smart role made famous by the late Don Adams.

A look at the best and worst of the big-screen adaptations of shows (not characters, such as Borat or the Blues Brothers or Wayne and Garth).

The best

The Fugitive (1993) Tommy Lee Jones won a supporting actor Oscar as the dogged lawman tracking Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford), a Chicago surgeon accused of killing his wife. Both gave intelligent, sharp portrayals amid action centerpieces, as when railroad cars twist off the tracks with metallic squeals of pain and ram into a bus.

The Addams Family (1991) It was creepy, kooky, mysterious and ooky, with an excellent cast led by Anjelica Huston and the late Raul Julia as Morticia and Gomez.

Inspired by the Charles Addams cartoons, the ghoulish gang was all there, from Thing and Cousin It to Lurch and Fester.

The Simpsons (2007) A lunkheaded move by Homer Simpson puts the entire town of Springfield in jeopardy. It has to do with a silo of pig droppings, a toxic lake and the lure of free doughnuts. We wanted more of the supporting characters but still laughed harder than we thought possible 18 years into the series.

Maverick (1994) Many of the best adaptations bring their TV casts with them, and this comic adventure did the next best thing by turning James Garner from roguish gambler into upright lawman. He crosses paths with Mel Gibson s Maverick and Jodie Foster s flirtatious belle in this movie filled with silly, amiable takes on Western standbys, a sly Danny Glover cameo and triple-twist ending.

David Janssen, left, played Dr. Richard Kimble in the
1963 TV series The Fugitive.Harrison Ford, right,
played Kimble in the 1993 movie based on the TV show. David Janssen, left, played Dr. Richard Kimble in the 1963 TV series The Fugitive.Harrison Ford, right, played Kimble in the 1993 movie based on the TV show.
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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) Although some fans might lobby for Wrath of Khan, this one was accessible for devotees (look, there s Jane Wyatt, back as Spock s human mother) and casual viewers of the show. It used time travel to send the crew from the 23rd century to 1986 San Francisco, where they hunt for humpback whales.

Sex and the City (2008) Women, often ignored by movie studios who would rather cater to men or teenage boys, turned out in divinely dressed droves to see this update of the HBO series. It s a well-coiffed hair away from topping $100 million.

Dragnet (1987) Dan Aykroyd is no-nonsense Joe Friday, and Tom Hanks his new freewheeling police partner in this spoof of the TV show. In a nice nod for the old-timers, Harry Morgan from the original series pops up.

Rugrats in Paris (2000) Although it features the now played-to-death Who Let the Dogs Out, it s less frightening than the first Rugrats movie and features the voice of Susan Sarandon as a snooty French gold digger named Coco La Bouche. Plus, it s set in Paris, where the Rugrats and their families have come for work and play.

Transformers (2007) Much too long but a fun ride for audiences looking for a few rounds of Rock Em Sock Em Robots on the big screen. Shia LaBeouf, whose rising star shot into the stratosphere with this summer s Indiana Jones movie, and Megan Fox play humans caught up in the action when warring robots bring their feud to Earth.

The X-Files (1998) FBI agents Mulder and Scully brought their act to the big screen as they investigated the mysterious bombing of a Dallas office building. Although probably not for the uninitiated, our reviewer called this a smart, ideologically savvy movie about aliens that retains and builds on the spooky texture of the hit series.

The worst

Jackass: The Movie (2002) A haphazard collection of idiotic, juvenile stunts involving skateboards and bowling pins, a display toilet, and an alligator clamped to a sensitive body part. The 2006 sequel was no better.

The Avengers (1998) This vile permutation of the TV show, starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman, made our Worst Movies of 1998 list. Story and characters played second fiddle to the special effects.

The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000) For a prequel about how Fred met Wilma and Barney fell for Betty, the original live-action cast was jettisoned and replaced. That wasn t the problem as much as tired bits about dinosaur flatulence, a pie in the face and putting the boys in drag.

Car 54, Where Are You? (1994) Not in Pittsburgh, where this movie never screened . A Washington Post critic called it a stupid movie. Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid.

Got that?

The Mod Squad (1999) This attempted to take a concept firmly rooted in the 1960s turning three lost, law-breaking kids into hippie cops and move it to the 1990s.

Didn t fly, even with Omar Epps, Giovanni Ribisi, and Claire Danes as one black, one white, one blonde.

Dukes of Hazzard (2005) The premise of the series about Southern moonshiners who always outsmart the lawmen and Boss Hogg was transplanted into present-day Georgia. Closing credits and outtakes were more fun than the movie, although Jessica Simpson got a lot of mileage out of her Daisy Duke shorts.

Wild Wild West (1999) Inspired by the 1960s TV Western and starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, and Salma Hayek, this swept the Razzie Awards. It personifies what you need to do to win a Razzie in modern Hollywood spend too much, entertain no one, and fall flat on your face, a Razzie honcho said.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) This movie was a prequel, ending where the TV series started, with Laura Palmer s plastic-wrapped corpse in the water. Although new characters were introduced, it had nowhere to go that we hadn t already seen, for free, on TV.

The Honeymooners (2005) Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps stepped into the very large shoes of Jackie Gleason s Ralph and Art Carney s Ed . Critics reached for such adjectives as pitiful, wan, unfunny, and lackluster, while the Philadelphia Inquirer delivered this zinger: This one is so bad that even Ed Norton couldn t get this mess to move through the sewer.

Speed Racer (2008) When the history of the summer of 2008 is written , this will go down as one of the biggest disappointments. Made for $120 million, it earned $20.2 million its first weekend, placed second to a surging Iron Man, and never recovered its lost momentum. Based on the 1960s cartoon series, it looked great but was waaay too long for children s attention spans.

Not bad enough for the worst list, not good enough for the best: Bewitched, which proved Steve Carell s got game; Mission: Impossible, which has aged well but initially sacrificed the team spirit and camaraderie of the TV show; Lost in Space, which ditches the humor and sheer cheesiness of the campy series; Starsky &Hutch, a love letter to the original, starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.

And Miami Vice, with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx as the iconic Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs; Charlie s Angels, starring a woefully miscast Bill Murray as Bosley and Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu; The Brady Bunch, really a remake of the best of Brady, and The Beverly Hillbillies, which successfully re-created the spirit of the show.

Wellll, doggies!

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.Barbara Vancheri is movie editor of the Post-Gazette.

Contact her at: bvancheri@post-gazette.com.


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