ByJerry Stark, writer at
Jerry Stark

For years Hollywood has proven almost incapable of making a good live-action version of a cartoon.

10.) Masters of the Universe:

The cartoon series “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” was considered a joke even when it first appeared in 1983, since it was nothing more than a half-hour commercial for a new line of Mattel action figures featuring a main character who looked like a cross between a 2(x)ist male underwear model and the logo for Dutch Boy Paints. So when it came time to make a live-action movie version apparently no one on the movie crew took the production seriously, especially since it was released long after the original fans of the series had long stopped playing with the toys in favor of attending college. How else to explain star Dolph Lundgren being forced to wear Khan’s mullet from “Star Trek II” while trying to save a teenage Courtney Cox from a shrieking Skeletor in a movie so bad that of course they are currently planning to remake it.

9.) Underdog:

Say what you want about the original “Underdog” cartoon. It was flimsy, repetitive and campy as hell, but at least it had character. After taking a pill, Shoeshine Boy would transform into Underdog and rescue his Sweet Polly Purebred from the nefarious Simon Bar Sinister. From the newsreel narration to Underdog’s peppy attitude, its tone always delivered a smile to viewers’ faces. But this Disney film is not interested in tone. It’s hard to tell if it’s interested in much of anything, actually. Casting a real beagle as Underdog is a questionable decision at best; in the series he always seemed more like a regular person who was born with floppy ears and a wet nose. Affected by a lab experiment gone awry, Underdog can suddenly talk and fly and accidentally blow things up. It all plays out like a cross between Benji and Blankman, except, you know, dumber. If they really wanted to make this a dumbed down kids film, they should have made a “Superdog” movie and called it “Air Bud: Pooper Trooper.” Or they could have gone in the other direction and hired Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. But this is family fare that will only serve to put your kids to sleep.

8.) Yogi Bear:

Hey, kids, remember the Hanna-Barbera cartoon “Yogi Bear”? Of course you don’t, especially since it hasn’t been on TV since before even some of your parents were born. But older Hollywood executives remember it and mistakenly thought the story of a tie-clad (but pantsless) bear who is apparently so hungry for human food that he’s just one missed meal away from a string of campground maulings would bring in both the wee ones and their folks. Starring Dan Aykroyd as Yogi and Justin Timberlake as his best friend Boo-Boo (a team-up that probably won’t be repeated on Timberlake’s upcoming album), the movie uses CGI for the bears and a random word generator for the script, resulting in a story so generic, so pointless, that 80 minutes later when you’re awoken in your chair by theater security you’d be hard-pressed to remember anything except your kids sobbing because you took them to see “Yogi Bear.”

7.) The Smurfs:

Once the Saturday morning cartoon “The Smurfs” was the #1 show on NBC, proving just how often that network has been in the ratings toilet. That’s something for a series that focused on a bunch of tiny blue people and the evil wizard Gargamel who wanted to boil them into gold. (A transformation you think would have resulted in a lot of scalding drownings back in the seemingly cash-strapped Smurf Village.) Then almost 25 years later the Smurfs were resurrected on film (by the director who unleashed “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” unto the world like a horrible contagion), in which they get lost in New York City, use the word “smurf” so much you’d think it was a Tourette’s tic, and generally make you wonder which family member the studio was holding hostage to make Neil Patrick Harris star in this admittedly very successful embarrassment.

6.) The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle:

“The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show” was a highly praised cult cartoon series from the early 1960’s, meaning this movie was already primed to be a financial disaster in the year 2000. But if “40-year-old cult cartoon” wasn’t a big enough nail in the profit coffin, the film offers a story in which the main cartoon villains Boris and Natasha become real thanks to a Hollywood contract, Rocky and Bullwinkle become living CGI characters because of a plot point, and Robert De Niro becomes “Fearless Leader” because he probably had payments on a fifth house he needed to make. The movie got a resounding “meh” from critics and audiences instead chose to stay home and watch Ross date Rachel, Rachel break up with Ross, or whatever the hell was happening on “Friends” at the time.

5.) The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas:

Though attacked by critics, the original live-action “Flintstones” movie from 1994 was such a success that a sequel was a given. Or a prequel in this case. A prequel that starred absolutely no one from the original film. (Hell, even Dino the Dinosaur isn’t in it, no doubt thanks to a wise agent who thought the pet was better off posing for Flintstones Chewables instead.) This time out we learn how Fred and Barney met Wilma and Betty with a little help from the Great Gazoo (the green alien from the original cartoon series) only to almost lose them to prehistoric rock singer Mick Jagged. Then Fred becomes a hopeless gambler, is charged with jewel theft, and is jailed because family film or not, Hollywood has a responsibility to show the dark underbelly of prehistoric life. Eventually all ends well…unless you invested in the movie, which took such a huge financial hit that it ended any plans for a third film, in which perhaps the Flintstones slowly sink into a tar pit and die.

4.) Garfield:

OK, let’s start with the fact that outside of tracking down lasagne from the kitchen, Garfield isn’t supposed to “do” anything. That’s the whole point of his existence and the reason suburban 40-somethings paste his image on their cubicle walls. After a cursory look at his laziness, the majority of this film consists of Garfield running around town, trying to save Odie, a dog he hates. Bill Murray supplies Garfield’s voice, a transgression for which he will be forgiven largely because he’s Bill Murray and because it’s only his voice, so nobody will casually recognize him while flipping across TBS. But worse than the nonsense surrounding the main character is the romantic subplot played out between Breckin Meyer and Jennifer Love Hewitt. After seeing Hewitt’s “The Tuxedo,” I recently remarked to a friend that the most notable thing in the film is that Jackie Chan acts circles around her, and he can’t even speak English. In this case, the real dog playing Odie easily outdoes them both, though this his hardly surprising. I realize making a movie out of a character that is used to occupying our attention for three panels a day is a daunting challenge. But nobody held a gun to the heads of the filmmakers and demanded they take up such a challenge.

3.) Inspector Gadget:

This was probably an idea doomed from the start, but casting Matthew Broderick in the titular role certainly didn’t help matters. Broderick can play the bumbling fool, but not an arrogantly incurious one. And since arrogant incuriousity was the whole point of the original series, it was clear that they weren’t even aiming at the right target. The movie finds itself completely derailed from its source material, but has a myriad of other problems as well. Whoever thought it was a good idea to take a character who has a helicopter come out of his hat and “play it straight” had a couple screws loose. Instead of giving Gadget a wild series of clues to follow (with help from his niece Penny and her computer book), we get a maudlin backstory of a security guard who always wanted to be a police officer, and is also a really nice guy. After being nearly killed, they turn him into an android who then goes about saving the day and whatnot. It’s like Robocop, but for comotose kids. Maybe they were trying to set up a series of films that would better follow the gleefully obtuse antics of the original series, but the film was such a disaster that the inevitable follow-up featuring French Stewart and went straight to DVD. Thank goodness. Trust me when I say that this video is better than any scene in the film.

2.) Scooby-Doo:

You knew this would be a bad idea the moment you heard about it. While nobody would ever go as far as to call the cartoon “smart”, at least it had a somewhat hair-raising edge to it. But of course, the live-action incarnation was directed at those 8 and under which meant all the spookiness, sense of fear, and pot jokes would be left out of the script. (Seriously, what exactly is in a Scooby-snack? Why do they crave them so much and become wildly paranoid after eating them? But I digress.) Combine that with the casting of Hollywood’s “up and comers” in the four human roles and this thing was doomed from the first moment director Raja Gosnell said “Action.” Matthew Lillard puts a lot of effort into his Shaggy voice, but aside from that, none of the principals can keep up with the CGI dog, and the plot is worse than any episode of the original series. Also, instead of the Harlem Globetrotters, we get the band Sugar Ray. Things were so bad that I was longing for Scrappy Doo. Perhaps the movie’s biggest crime is casting a hotter actress as Velma (Linda Cardellini) than the one they picked for Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Whose idea was that? At least we can thank this film for lowering the profile of both Freddie Prinze Jr. and Gellar. So in that sense, I suppose it’s not completely worthless

Now, for the number 1 worst cartoon adaptation of all-time, really isn't a surprise!

1.) The Last Airbender:

Once M. Night Shyamalan was considered an innovative, engaging writer-director by people other than M. Night Shyamalan. Oh, how times have changed as the result of several high-profile flops (and every time he opened his damn mouth), including this critical and commercial bomb that hoped to launch a movie franchise based on the Nickelodeon cartoon series. The controversy began when the director hired many white actors to play roles originally intended as Asian. Then the real backlash kicked in when the audience realized Shyamalan had forgotten to write a plot (even one with a twist ending). Instead, he chose to rely on random 3-D effects, a voiceover that describes every meaningful scene Shyamalan forgot to shoot (which was clearly all of them), and acting so atrocious that it would make parents at an elementary school play scream at their own kid to get their sh*t together or get lost.


What do you think is the worst live adaptation?


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