From the looks of it, Veronica Mars is more The Simpsons Movie than Scooby-Doo. That’s good news for “Marshmallows” who paid for the damn thing to get made and have been waiting eight years to tell Veronica she’s a fool for ever thinking Piz > Logan. Considering the hubbub over the Kickstarter decision and the incessant emails from creator Rob Thomas to all the backers (87 and counting), the Veronica Mars movie had BETTER be good, unlike most films based on TV shows. It’s not a total wasteland, though: with all due respect to Borat and Mission Impossible, here are the eight best TV show movies.
8. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batnerds love calling Mask of the Phantasm the best Batman movie, and they might be right. Or, at the very least, it’s a close second to The Dark Knight. Mask of the Phantasm, based on the must-see Batman: The Animated Series, is a bridge between the first couple of Batman films and the more recent Christopher Nolan interpretations, taking the best aspects of both: it’s stylishly dark (like Batman Begins), but still airy and fun (like Batman). It’s also far more sophisticated and violent than any animated kids movie about a superhero should be, with a collection of voicework actors at the top of their game, especially Mark Hamill’s giggle-sadistic Joker. But Mask of the Phantasm is nothing to laugh at.
The movies-based-on-TV shows Wiki is filled spectacular genre adaptations, in that they were spectacularly awful: The Avengers (the one with Sean Connery), Lost in Space, Wild Wild West, My Favorite Martian, sort of. They were either too ridiculous for their own good, or not interesting enough to warrant their own film. Plus, their tie to the original source material was flimsy at best — no one was happy with the end result, not newcomers and definitely not long-time fans. The amazing thing about Serenity is a) it got made, and b) it’s easy and fun to follow for people who were too busy watching America’s Funniest Home Videos to recognize Firefly‘s existence, and a thrilling continuation of the TV series “Browncoats” fell in love with. It only made $39 million in theaters, which is about $1.4 BILLION less than The Avengers (the non-Sean Connery one), but of the two, I’d take the adventures of Wash, Mal, and pre-Brody Morena Baccarin.
6. The Muppet Movie
To say that The Muppet Movie only goes downhill from its opening scene isn’t a slam on the cinematic spinoff of The Muppet Show. It’s an acknowledgement that Kermit’s touching performance of “Rainbow Connection” is arguably Jim Henson’s finest moment, even if the song didn’t win an Oscar. The rest of the fantastical film is charming and sweet, too, with an entertaining rags-to-riches-while-always-made-of-foam (or is that mops?) plot, witty references for adults to enjoy, and an impressive roster of famous people (Mel Brooks, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Orson Welles, Richard Pryor, etc.) that the movie’s intended audience, children, won’t appreciate until years later. Stupid kids, leave The Muppet Movie to us adults.
5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
The only flawless Star Trek film. The Voyage Home and J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot come close, but their goofiness and rebootiness can’t match up with the dark Wrath of Khan — the acting’s better (yes, even Shatner, who plays midlife-crisis well) while still hammy, it moves along at a much better clip than the terrible Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Khan’s the rare Star Trek villain who actually frightens the audience almost as much as he does the crew of the Enterprise. Unlike the recent Star Wars trilogy and Into Darkness, the special effects serve the story in Wrath, not the other way around, which gives the film a realistic feel, despite it being set in space. Plus, that ending. KHHHHAANNNNN on, give it a chance.
4. In the Loop
I’m ashamed to admit it, but before I saw an episode of The Thick of It, I watched In the Loop, Armando Iannucci’s razor-sharp satire of the Invasion of Iraq (I’ve since corrected the mistake). This was partially because of the always-welcome presence of James Gandolfini, but mostly because my American closed-mindedness kept me from hearing about the BBC sitcom, minus the occasional reference to the “swearing guy.” So boy was my face red (white and blue) when I put on In the Loop, and immediately wanted to know EVERYTHING about Malcolm Tucker. In the Loop is devastatingly funny, and a devastating look at how f*ckity f*cked government is, but mainly, it’s “don’t ever call me f*cking English again.”
3. The Fugitive
The Fugitive‘s so good, it’s easy to forget that it’s based on a TV show. With all due respect to David Janssen and Barry Morse, Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones own the roles of Dr. Richard Kimble and Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard. It’s one of the most rewatchable films of all-time: the taut action never flails, the set pieces are huge and filmed to perfection under director Andrew Davis’ leadership, and HOLY SH*T DID HE JUMP OFF THE DAM. Thrillers like The Fugitive are why the expression “edge-of-your-seat excitement” exists. If only current-day Harrison Ford could stop eating and buying pawn shop earrings, and make something as doggedly great again…
2. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
“Nice beaver.” “It’s true what they say: Cops and women don’t mix. It’s like eating a spoonful of Drano. Sure, it’ll clean you out, but it’ll leave you hollow inside.” “It’s fourth and fifteen and you’re looking at a full-court press.” “Jane, since I’ve met you, I’ve noticed things that I never knew were there before…birds singing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stoplights.” “It’s a topsy-turvy world, and maybe the problems of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans. But this is our hill. And these are our beans!” (The only way to discuss The Naked Gun‘s genius, and it IS genius, is to quote The Naked Gun.)
1. South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut
Not only is the super-sweet Bigger, Longer, & Uncut the best film based on a TV show ever, it’s also one of the greatest movie musicals ever. (Stephen Sondheim agrees.) It accomplishes the impressive feat of feeling like a three-episode arc of the show, while getting away with things the show can’t: extra swearing, extra guest stars in tiny roles (everyone from Eric Idle to George Clooney can be heard) and of course, extra songs. Those songs, though. You are worse than Saddam Hussein if you don’t enjoy the stirring “Mountain Town,” nasty “Kyle’s Mom’s a Bitch,” or epic “La Resistance (Medley).” Everything Les Misérables wasn’t South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut was. It should have received that film’s Oscars nominations.