Power Rangers (2017, dir. Dean Israelite)
I can’t say I loved this movie at first, but thinking about it in the years since has endeared it to me. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is a ridiculously cartoonish show, so a movie reboot seemed like a bad idea. However, this adaptation does a lot of unexpected things. Our group of friends starts out in conflict, all given detention which becomes their bonding experience. We don’t see the Power Rangers in costume, using their animal-like Zords well into the picture. The characters are incredibly nuanced and layered. Billy is the biggest stand out to me in this version; they present him as being on the autism spectrum. The result is someone whose neurodivergent way of seeing the world makes him better at being a Power Ranger. There are some flaws, of course, and a case of sequel bait, but I think few adaptations of this kind have elevated the source material in the way Power Rangers does.
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Dora and The Lost City of Gold (2019)
Written by Nicholas Stoller, Matthew Robinson, and Tom Wheeler
Directed by James Bobin
Of all the shows I have reviewed in this series on cinematic television adaptations, this is the only one created during my adulthood. Not having children or having spent a lot of time around Zoomers as babies, I don’t really have any emotional attachments to the source material. I’ve seen the numerous parodies of Dora that show up in pop culture, and I understand the show’s concept, though. So I was a bit surprised but intrigued when it was announced that a live-action Dora movie was in the works. I always prefer an unexpected and weird take on a well-known property rather than regurgitating something we all know. This is why I am very interested in the Greta Gerwig Barbie film. It sounds like something that isn’t just a straightforward adaptation. And that’s what we get with Dora and The Lost City of Gold, a movie that balances a genuine love of the show with the ability to poke fun at it.
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The Man from UNCLE (2015)
Written by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram
Directed by Guy Ritchie
I have never seen a single episode of The Man from UNCLE, but I understood the basic premise via cultural osmosis. An American spy and a Soviet spy team up to fight the menace of a third party, THRUSH. This group was composed of people so dangerous that even nations that were ideologically opposed would join forces to stop them. When you understand the depth & breadth of red scare propaganda in the United States, then the fact that the seriesThe Man from UNCLE was such a huge hit is pretty extraordinary. The main enemy in the story is the remnants of the Nazis, which given historical context, is sort of funny that the U.S. is fighting against them. My biggest takeaway from the movie adaptation is that this is one of the gayest films I’ve seen in quite a while.
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The A-Team (2010)
Written by Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, and Skip Woods
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Some of my earliest memories of watching television are of The A-Team. This might be seen as troubling to some because this action series was criticized at the time for delivering a way too sanitized version of violence. This was because no one ever died in The A-Team. No matter what happened to them. They could be bound & gagged inside a vehicle filled with C-4 and blown up. There would be a take after the explosion that showed the person scrambling out of the inferno to safety. In that way, the show was seen as possibly encouraging the youth to do violent things to each other. I have never found any stories of a direct connection between the violence of the A-Team and any act performed in real life. The same cannot be said for the likes of Tucker Carlson and his ilk.
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Written by Nora Ephron & Delia Ephron
Directed by Nora Ephron
By the time 2005 rolled around, television to film adaptations were pretty standard in Hollywood. That year alone, we got movie versions of The Honeymooners, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Firefly (Serenity). Nora Ephron was also a known quantity in the studio system. She’d been responsible for big hits like When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle. Bewitched was a popular sitcom when Ephron would have been a young woman, and its themes of feminism and identity hiding inside a “silly premise” felt perfectly fitting to the filmmaker’s talents. And then your stars are Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, both of whom are in high demand in the mid-2000s. What could go wrong? Everything actually. Every-fucking-thing.
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My Favorite Martian (1999)
Written by Sherri Stoner & Deanna Oliver
Directed by Donald Petrie
When I decided to do this first round of Television to Movies, I wanted to do at least one movie where I had little to no knowledge of the source material. My Favorite Martian is one of those shows. I was vaguely aware of the premise without knowing much detail, so the film was a reasonably fresh experience for me. That said, I could key in on specific elements being carryovers from the series because they were presented in a way that the audience was meant to see them as important. I also picked this movie because its two leads, Jeff Daniels & Christopher Lloyd, are pretty good actors, and so they might be able to elevate what could otherwise be a lame script.
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The Addams Family (1991)
Written by Caroline Thompson & Larry Wilson
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Few television-to-film adaptations are as good as the first two Addams Family movies. I didn’t realize it until recently, but The Addams Family television series only ran for two seasons, with an impressive 64 episodes total. In syndicated reruns, the series would gain a cult fanbase that kept it in the cultural spotlight. Beyond the theme song and encounters with “normals,” the film’s tone is not based on the television show. Instead, the filmmakers drew inspiration from the original New Yorker comics by Charles Addams. This was the correct decision, and the result is studio comedy that sits in the perfect middle ground between crowd pleaser and dark humor. It’s also a strange case where the sequel is arguably better than the original film.
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The Naked Gun (1988)
Written by Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Pat Proft
Directed by David Zucker
Most television to film adaptations are based on programs that were popular when they aired. This is not the case with The Naked Gun, which I suspect many people don’t even know was based on a television show. In 1982, ABC broadcast half a dozen episodes of the spoof series Police Squad! The film Airplane! was a massive hit in 1980 and opened many doors for the comedy writing team of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker, including a television development deal. Apparently, ABC executives and audiences weren’t ready for this constant barrage of jokes. While I didn’t watch Police Squad! when it originally aired, I was lucky enough to catch it on CBS in 1991 when they reaired those six original episodes. It’s a type of humor that isn’t around anymore and honestly only could have existed when it did.
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Written by Dan Aykroyd, Alan Zweibel, and Tom Mankiewicz
Directed by Tom Mankiewicz
In the 1960s, just a couple decades into television’s public rollout in the United States, studios began producing movies based on shows. One of the most common methods of making these films was to edit and repackage episodes of the show as a movie. There were original stories, though. The Batman movie in 1966 was created in response to the first season’s explosive success. In the United Kingdom, Doctor Who was spun off into two films that completely reimagined the program’s concept and centered it around the Daleks. As soon as The Munsters wrapped filming of the series, Munsters Go Home went into production for theatrical release. The 1980s was when Baby Boomers had gotten into positions of power within Hollywood and were ready to greenlight some of their favorite shows as feature films. Sometimes this was done with great reverence to the source material, while others were extremely tongue in cheek. I’ll be looking at just a few of these movies, a mix of ones I’ve seen and some new ones. I’ll be reviewing them not just as movies but also in how well they stayed true to the conceit of the original series and if that was the right choice.
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