A-List: Worst Live Action Movies based on Cartoons

By J. Don Birnam

April 14, 2016

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Last week, we saw one of the new rites of movie spring - a funny Melissa McCarthy movie. This weekend, we face another: a Disney live action adaptation of one of its classic cartoons. From Cinderella to Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland, the House of Mouse has done well for itself in turning well-known stories into real-life depictions. Indeed, this weekend’s The Jungle Book is but the next step in a long list of upcoming such movies, from Dumbo to the beloved Beauty and the Beast.

But today, we will not dwell on these well-to-do and reliable movies that we have come expect from Disney & Co. Today, we look at some of the least fortunate adaptations of cartoons into live action movies. There is something about the movies that follow that makes them hard to swallow. It is not that they are meant to be kids’ movies - many live action adaptations of cartoons have done very well and deserve recognition as solid movies, from the first adaptation of The Flintstones and Scooby Doo, to even Jim Carrey’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Sadly, there are many more adaptations on the other side of the ledger, which is why we are doing a “worst of” list today. The task was so daunting, in fact, that I’m going to exclude live action adaptations of comic strips superhero movies. That sound you heard was Catwoman fans everywhere breathing a sigh of relief. So, for that matter, did Ryan Reynolds fans (I was going to say Green Lantern fans, but there are no such people).

I could fill this column with dishonorable mentions so I’ll try to limit myself. Still, if you have hate for a live action ruination of a favorite cartoon of yours, you know where to find me on Twitter. Suffice it to say that the new adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really has turned off even this diehard, lifelong fan, but I will forgive them out of the main list only because the original adaptations from the 1980s and 1990s were solid. I also have much disrespect for two pet-themed movies I wish I had skipped, Garfield and Marmaduke. But, both being technically comic strip movies, I’ll also give them a slight pass and leave them in seventh and sixth places.

The odious five this time around are:


5. Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)

Sorry Jason Lee, but you ain’t Jason Segel. While the lumpy dope is a perfect sidekick to the not-too-serious Muppets, the scrawny nerd simply is not up to the task next to the uber-annoying Chipmunks.

It is hard to know where to begin with a movie like Alvin. Is it the annoying Alvin character and his voice? The ridiculous chipmunk gags or situations? I can take people treating talking animals like humans a la Ted if the entire premise of the movie is that one has to be literally high to understand it. But, if the premise is some sort of whimsical mix of seriousness with childishness, it does not fly - it becomes simply ridiculous.

Yeah, okay, the movie did well at the box office, but that is no measure of success. And though some of the gags do play good homage to the original - Alvin and his brothers running Dave’s dating and professional life - the movie too often resorts to potty humor instead of giving its audience a real chance.

Did I mention Jason Lee is nowhere near as funny as Jason Segel?

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