The idea of taking the premise and characters from a popular television show and turning it all into a movie — with different actors in familiar roles — has been a Hollywood staple. That doesn't mean it's always a good idea.
In fact, there are many examples of why it is not. Here are 25 of them listed in chronological order.
Let's give renowned director Penelope Spheeris ("Wayne's World") a mulligan for this one. The famed 1960s (and into the early '70s) television series was a hit, but taking it to the big screen proved silly in a bad way. Perhaps the idea of Jim Varney (you know, the Ernest guy looking for "Vern") starring as Jed Clampett was not a good idea. Some shows were just left to be made for television.
You now that you've messed up and flopped when your film receives a zero percent rating review on Rotten Tomatoes. The actual TV police series ran for a few years during the early 1960s and enjoyed some decent success. However, there was not much star power in the movie version, unless David Johansen (post New York Dolls), John C. McGinley and Fran Drescher were considered big enough for the film to make it big at the box office. They were not.
OK, the film version of this beloved prehistoric cartoon was a box-office success (over $340 million international gross). It even earned an even worse sequel, but this was a summer film, and people like to see movies during the summer. That said, John (Fred) Goodman, Rosie (Betty) O'Donnell and Co. seemed miscast in their roles, while the subject matter and dialogue was more mature and randy than in the fun-loving TV series.
Taken from "The Phil Silvers Show" of the 1950s, Steve Martin stars as the famed Master Sergeant. Even with Martin and co-stars Dan Aykroyd and the late Phil Hartman in tow, the movie could not be saved from a screen disaster. As is the case with many of the movies on this list, the storyline is key and Bilko's penchant for schemes in this particular instance does not draw enough laughs to prevail.
"McHale's Navy" was a funny but rather middling series in the '60s. The film take of it was much worse. There were some decent stars (Debra Messing and Ernest Borgnine, the latter from the original series), but Tom Arnold in the lead should have been a red flag from the get-go. It made just $4.5 million in ticket sales, which is a flop beyond a flop. Thankfully, most have forgotten about this film.
Somehow legendary film critic Roger Ebert gave this film three out of four stars. We can't all be perfect — or close to being right in this case. The movie had plenty of inside jokes regarding the famed original series that was beloved by many. However, the screen version of "Leave It to Beaver" never really worked, because to any fan of the show, Jerry Mathers will always be the Beaver, his TV parents Ward (Hugh Beaumont) and June (Barbara Billingsley), played here by Janine Turner, and TV brother Wally (Tony Dow), can't be remade.
Leslie Nielsen is up there with some of the great comedic actors of all time. Yet, trying to bring animated favorite character to life did not work. Trying to bring cartoons to a live-action, film format can be hit or miss. Sure, Nielsen's solid brand of physical comedy makes the movie somewhat tolerable, but for the most part it was not enough to keep it above water.
The 1960s TV series was quite popular, especially when it made it into syndication for other generations to enjoy. Science Fiction films are quite popular, but this one was not, maybe because the characters (like TV's Jonathan Harris as the often surly Dr. Smith) were not up to par in the film. Even though the great Gary Oldman portrayed the aforementioned Smith. That often tends to be the case with these TV-to-film projects.
Not to be confused with the folks from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this was actually a take off the popular British spy series from the 1960s. Though Hollywood heavyweights Sean Connery (a crazed scientist trying to control the weather), Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes were on board, they could not keep this flick from totally bombing. For those who actually remember this disaster, we're sorry.
One of the best aspects of the late 1960s-early 1970s television series was that the characters were extremely cool while fighting crime. Pete (Michael Cole), Julie (Peggy Lipton) and Linc (Clarence Williams III) just had that something about them that made it look good (in addition to the bell-bottom pants) in the face of danger. On the big screen, Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi and Omar Epps really did not deliver that same punch and flare as the originals.
Not everything Will Smith touches turns to box office gold. "Wild Wild West" is an example. Loosely based on the spy/sci-fi TV series from the 1960s that also was remade into a television film, Smith and Kevin Kline star as Secret Service agents ordered to protect President Ulysses S. Grant. Sound questionable? The critical reception was even harsher. At least Smith got a hit song out of it (with help from Kool Moe Dee).
The film version of "Inspector Gadget" enjoyed modest success at the box office ($134.4 million worldwide). Matthew Broderick was not bad in the lead role, but while there were enough pretty people in the cast, the overall plot and execution were rather clunky. Gadget was quirky, and Broderick really did not come through effectively on screen. Though it did manage to earn a sequel — direct-to-video and starring French Stewart. Ouch!
Technically, "Dudley Do-Right" was a segment was part of "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends" show. He's a classic character who is adored in Canada. However, was there a need to make a movie about him? Brendan Fraser did not do the role justice, and the jokes seemed forced most the time. Another example why television characters don't always need to be brought to life.
Great TV series — whether the original or even the more recent reboot. Now, about the movie version . It grossed $207 million worldwide, which is a solid haul and commercially was worth the effort. But even with Colin Farrell, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson in tow, there was not much of a "wow" factor that one would expect from an action movie with this level of star quality.
The 1960s series featured Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. The film adaptation saw Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson in the lead roles with Famke Janssen along for support. One of the big knocks on this mediocre film (at best) was that it did not have much in common with the popular series. Now that's not always a bad thing, but fans of the series might have expected a little more of an homage to the original.
There was no problem in making a movie version of this cool 1970s cop series. The problem was that Ben Stiller, and especially Owen Wilson , as the popular detectives seemed to try too hard. Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul were smooth operators — on and off the job. The movie duo was more off the wall and a little too much. Now, Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear was spot-on.
Bill Cosby's personal life has fallen apart, but "Fat Albert" should still go down as one of the great animated series of all time. However, when it was time to take it to the big screen for live-action take, it fell flat. Kenan Thompson continues to do good work on "Saturday Night Live" but is mediocre at best. It seemed the "Fat Albert" film was destined to fail after taking this famed animated characters out of that element.
Even with Cedric the Entertainer as Ralph Kramden and Mike Epps offering his take as Ed Norton, the pair could not save this movie from seriously falling short of the legendary black-and-white series . Ralph and Ed's hi-jinks and schemes have been updated but are not anything to write home about. Two positives were co-stars Gabrielle Union (Alice) and Regina Hall (Trixie).
Will Ferrell has made some classic comedy films, as we know. However when he's taken his crack at film adaptations of popular TV shows, he's stumbled. Case in point: "Bewitched ." Ferrell's character, Jack Wyatt, is an actor playing the role of Darrin Stephens and the whole premise of a show within a movie just doesn't work. Ferrell and co-star Nicole Kidman actually received a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple for their work in this film.
Another movie that really did not need to be made , at least with these actors in the starring roles. At the time, Johnny Knoxville (Luke Duke) was still somewhat relevant while Seann William Scott (Bo Duke) was pretty much close to being yesterday's news with the "American Pie" movies in the past. Jessica Simpson was essentially useless as Daisy Duke, who was a much better character on the TV show. Just wrong in a lot of ways.
This avant-garde, sci-fi animated series grew to be somewhat of a cult hit for MTV in the early 1990s. So why not make a movie version of it? Starring Charlize Theron, the storyline, which deals with a massively lethal virus (somewhat fitting for these times), has caused the survivors around the globe to reinvent themselves for further survival. Critics tend to use the word "dull" when describing the film, which fans of the show mostly want to distance themselves from.
We talked about Will Ferrell's swing a miss with "Bewitched." His take on this NBC Saturday morning dinosaur program can best be categorized as taking three straight strikes right down the middle of the plate. Traveling through a time warp back to the age of dinosaurs, Ferrell's Rick Marshall and friends maneuver a tale that never should have been told on the big screen. It is considered by many critics to be one of the worst mainstream movies ever made.
Based a season for Nickelodeon's "Avatar: The Last Airbender," there was a lot of hope and hype for the screen version. However, trying to combine all that made the show strong proved tough to do on film. It seemed rushed, and the characters never had a chance to not only develop but to also actually allow the audience to draw any real conclusion about how they felt about them.
"CHiPs" was a super cool show in the late 1970s and into the '80s. Maybe if the film version was made in the mid 1990s, it might have fared better. It's not easy living up to the legend Ponch (Erik Estrada) and John (Larry Wilcox) created. And Michael Peña and Dax Shepard were unable to do it. The plot of the movie was all over the place and totally gratuitous more often than not.
The "Baywatch" TV series was a guilty pleasure at best, but had a surprisingly long life. With so many pretty people of both sexes involved in the series, it was actually no surprise a "Baywatch" movie — not starring the TV cast — would be made. Dwayne Johnson is no David Hasselhoff - and that's being serious when talking Mitch Buchannon. Plus, the plot was choppy and weak, and the attempts at humor usually disappointed.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.