When you love a show or a book or a comic strip and you want to make it into a movie, you demonstrate your adoration by changing everything about it. TV and film are very different mediums, so this often makes sense. But every now and then a movie adaptation gets it right by staying, more or less, true. With “The Peanuts Movie” hitting theaters — and in a beautifully exact (if high-def) simulacrum of the strip’s storied TV specials, complete with actual kids doing the voices — here’s a look at other movies that kept faithful.
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‘And Now for Something Completely Different’ (1971)
Source:‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’
As a troupe and individually, Monty Python made several landmark films that kept the spirit of their experimental sketch show without actually being them. But their first movie was exactly like the show. In fact it was simply a best-of sketch cavalcade, with greatest hits (the parrot sketch, “The Lumberjack Song,” “Upper-Class Twit of the Year,” etc.) re-shot, and with no laugh-track. The reason? They wanted to invade America and no one had heard of them. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” would take care of that better than their cinematic debut, but it’s still a fine entrypoint for newbs.
‘The Naked Gun’ (1988)
Source: ‘Police Squad!’
Doing a film of “Police Squad!” made sense: The show, which ran for only six episodes in 1982, found David and Jerry Zucker plus Jim Abraham (aka, “ZAZ”) trying to do for TV what they had done with “Airplane!” on film. In fact, it was the quick jokes and never-ceasing sight gags that got it yanked from the air; as one exec infamously said, it didn’t work because it required viewers actually pay attention. So back to film they went, keeping pretty much everything but adding big (or, well, biggish) names like George Kennedy, Priscilla Presley, Ricardo Montalban and O.J. Simpson, who spends the film either physically abused or hospitalized.
‘Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie’ (1996)
Source: ‘Mysterious Science Theater 3000’
How do you make a movie from a show about a guy and two robots watching movies? You just do the same thing. The film-within-the-film is a bit splashier — the semi-respected “Day the Earth Stood Still” knockoff “This Island Earth” (1955) — and the cutaway scenes slightly more expensive. But the bulk is still silhouettes of three characters cracking jokes over a questionable movie. It’s not even a top-notch episode, like “Warriors of the Lost World” or “Arizona Werewolf” — more like second or third rung, which, of course, is still absolutely acceptable.
‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’ (1999)
Source: ‘South Park’
There’s lots and lots and lots of swearing, a couple big name cameo voices, a barrage of musical numbers and even a couple effects that are more than two guys working with construction paper. But the “South Park” movie, which hit theaters in the midst of the show’s third season, is basically the same thing, only better than usual. Indeed, if it did anything it established that the show was no fluke, and that creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had a true, unique angle on America, repression, hypocrisy and anything else they saw fit to satirize. After this the show would be even more giddy about tackling hot button topics, to all of society’s betterment.
‘Jackass: The Movie (2002),’ ‘Jackass 2 (2006),’ ‘Jackass 3-D’ (2010)
Like the “South Park” movie, the inevitable “Jackass” movies were bigger and raunchier but essentially the same thing. In this case, the films are mere conveyor belts of gross-out stunts and body trauma, exploring what the physique can take or how far the squad members will go in the pursuit of their, um, craft. Not that they were simply TV on movie screens: by the third we get dildos flying out of the screen in beautiful 3-D — surely one of the more original uses of a technology too often used for the truly crass and lowest common denominator.
‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters’ (2007)/‘The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie’ (2004)
Sources: ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’/‘SpongeBob SquarePants’
One show is for stoned hipsters; the other is for kids (and also stoned hipsters). But both are riots of bizarre loopiness, crammed sick with jokes and gags and plots that are never less than nonsensical. And so it went with their movies, which retain the speed and frequency of jokes but at feature length. In fact, forcing viewers to essentially binge-watch the equivalent of a batch of episodes can cause insanity. Try watching the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” movie — maybe the most jam-packed fit of surrealism since Luis Bunuel’s “L’Age d’Or” — in one sitting and your brain will hurt for days after.
‘In the Loop’ (2009)
Source: “The Thick of It”
The British political comedy “The Thick of It” has such a strong hook it’s been repeated both in a spin-off movie and in “Veep,” the makers’ own American version of the show. In the original we spied, with speedy handheld camerawork, on a minister’s office as everyone badly freaked out over bungled work and swore at each other, none with the beauty and creativity of spin doctor god Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). For the movie, most of the actors got different roles (or just different names), but the structure is the same: one prickly one-liner and put-down after another, creating a portrait of government as bubbled workplace, peopled by venal monsters too stressed out to think if what they’re doing is right.
‘Shaun the Sheep Movie’ (2015)
Source: ‘Shaun the Sheep’
The incessantly English stop motion animation outfit Aardman have been wise to only minimally alter their dry, sight gag-heavy style when crossing from shorts to feature length. Even their “Wallace and Gromit” film just feels longer than usual. The same goes with their blow-up of their farmland show, which drags the staff into the big city but doesn’t, to cite one thing, add voices. In fact there’s no dialogue at all — just grunts and a story told purely in visuals and the occasional printed word.
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