Cartoons shape our childhood. Regardless of if we read comic strips in the paper, or watch them on TV, these characters are held so dear by so many. That being said, it’s no wonder movie powerhouses such as Paramount often decide to take our favourite cartoons to the big screen, convinced that they’ll rake in the cash. More often than not, it’s a smart financial decision, making millions in ticket sales.
However, just because a movie makes money, that doesn’t make it worth watching. What gets people through the movie theater doors is a well edited trailer and the promise of a great viewing experience, spurred on by the deep-rooted love for characters we’ve known for years. Sadly, it’s often not all it’s cracked up to be, and we leave disappointed.
With Disney currently spending a fortune on making live-action versions of their classic animations, it’s time to take a look back at the worst remakes ever made that left audiences and critics seething. Neither big names or big budgets could save these flops – they were met with a colder reception than Bambi on Ice. Let’s reminisce on 15 Live-Action Remakes That Should Never Have Been Made.
15. SCOOBY DOO
The 2002 remake of the beloved Scooby Doo cartoon should’ve been a sensation. The animated dog is one of the most recognizable characters of modern times, so in theory a live action remake is a recipe for success. The Scooby gang foiling the plots of criminals and con artists is enough to captivate audiences, but instead it left a sour taste in the mouth of viewers. The intrigue of the movie was enough to see it rake in $275.6 million worldwide but critics weren’t impressed. Empire said, ‘Anyone looking for sophistication from a movie which features a two minute-long farting contest between man and a CG dog is going to be sorely disappointed.’
Casper the pint-sized ghost made his way from cartoon to reality in the 1995 flick starring Christina Ricci. Although it did pretty well at the box office, taking in $287.9 million, this was another one that left film critics and audiences seething. Personally, this film is one of my favourite movies ever, but in the interest of honesty, I’ll struggle on. The movie was largely panned for its apparent lack of soul, having lost some key messages important to Casper’s story line. Entertainment Weekly was one of the first to bury it, ‘The movie version is like the cartoon without innocence – a fairy tale with the soul of a re-run.’ Ouch.
13. THE FLINTSTONES
The sets were admirable, the cast was stellar – but even that couldn’t save the 1994 live action remake of The Flintstones. Let’s face it, remaking this classic was always going to be a huge risk. John Goodman, Rick Moranis and Elizabeth Taylor all jumped on board this highly anticipated remake. This is a prime example of how a film can make money, but be critically panned. Audiences were disappointed in the corny lines and slapstick gone wrong. Washington Post didn’t provide good press either. ‘It isn’t just awful. It bombs itself into the Stone Age. As Fred Flintstone might have put it: Yabba-dabba-boo.’ The movie made $341.6 million worldwide, which was enough for bosses to commission a sequel, which took a measly $59 million.
Everyone’s favourite little blue people were sure to make it to the big screen at some point. There was so much potential there for the 1980’s hit cartoon, but it just didn’t translate well in the 2011 movie. Audiences flocked to cinemas to see Smurfette and co, and makers were more than pleased when ticket sales reached $563 million worldwide. This didn’t stop the Daily Mail going in on the movie when they reviewed it, though – ‘103 minutes of utter tripe.’ Just like The Flintstones, bosses got greedy and made a sequel which tanked at $71 million. Somewhere, Gargamel is howling with laughter.
11. MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
I HAVE THE POWER! He-man was the ultimate cartoon in the 80’s and 90’s, with a plethora of young fans that were hungry for the toy range, too. Shuffling it onto the big screen made complete sense, the only issue was that it was terrible. The potential for what could have been a blockbuster hit was sorely missed as the movie took $17 million in the US upon its release in 1987. It’s a sad state of affairs when the LA Times say, ‘You couldn’t get a more polyethylene performance than Dolph Lundgren gives. A misfiring, underdone epic.’ What a shame. Do you think it’ll ever resurface?
10. JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS
Nashville star Aubrey Peeples landed the lead role of Jem in one of the worst movies ever, 2015’s Jem and the Holograms. The cartoon was much loved, which meant the terrible adaptation was slated throughout the world. One of the main issues behind its supersonic failure was the marketing. The movie was aimed at an audience too young to be familiar with the original cartoons, meaning it had little to no relevance. The movie took $2.3 million worldwide, not even breaking even on its $5 million-dollar budget. Forbes seethed, ‘It takes a cartoon that was originally about a group of women who unquestionably held power and turns it into a tale of a meek and weak-willed young woman who is arbitrarily given fame and holds zero agency except for that which is granted to her by the men in her life.’
The fat ginger cat that everyone loves to hate hopped onto our screens for his movie debut in 2004. With the voice talents of Bill Murray, it was met with a lukewarm reception and average box office profits of $200.8 million worldwide. Critics thought the movie was less than purrfect, with BBC Films calling it ‘a misguided attempt to construct a feature-length vehicle around a cartoon creation who was barely tolerable over three panels – the result is not so much catnip as catnap.’ These reviewers really pack a punch, don’t they? Of course, there was a sequel that did nothing for anyone, taking $28 million domestically.
8. INSPECTOR GADGET
The 1980’s popular cartoon Inspector Gadget got the live action treatment in 1999, with Matthew Broderick as the title character. Broderick was awkward, the plot was thin and audiences knew it. When you take a character as beloved as the bumbling detective, you have to do it right – but that’s near impossible. With terrible casting and a plethora of other bad decisions, it’s no wonder that the movie didn’t even break even, taking $134 million worldwide against a budget of $90 million. What do you think the main issue was with this flick? Could it have been saved by a different actor?
7. YOGI BEAR
The park dwelling wise guy, Yogi Bear had all the ingredients to become a sure-fire hit. Instead, it was one sandwich short of a picnic and left viewers hangry. It seems that no matter who is at the helm, Hanna-Barbera cartoons are never well received by film critics. Justin Timberlake even jumped on board, voicing Yogi’s sidekick, Boo-Boo. USA Today said, ‘Yogi needs to go back into hibernation’ and Empire asked, ‘What drug did they use on Justin Timberlake to get him to sign on as Boo-Boo?’ My guess is, he just had that feelin’. The film still managed to gross $201 million in 2010, but as yet there is no sign of a sequel. Thank God.
6. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS
The 2007 reworking of the cartoon, Alvin and the Chipmunks took in a pretty penny at the box office, amounting to $361 million dollars worldwide. The sheer amount of cash saw it spawn into a franchise, with the help of star Jason Lee. However, we’ve seen enough by this point to know that just because a movie makes money, that doesn’t mean it’s actually any good. The Observer’s Peter Bradshaw giving it one star out of five and called it a ‘thoroughly brain-dead semi-animated family comedy’, which was the general consensus of the movie. Let’s face it though – this is a film for kids and chipmunks are cute.
5. JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS
Stemmed from the Archie comic of the same name, Josie and the Pussycats was supposed to appeal to the 2001 teen market. Instead, it appealed to no one, and became one of the biggest live action remake flops of all time. Despite a relevant cast of Rachel Leigh Cook, Tara Reed and Rosario Dawson, it did nothing for audience appetites. The movie took an extremely poor $15 million against a $39 million budget, making small change. Critics dubbed the movie a disaster, panning it for its sheer amount of product placement and advertising. This kitten definitely had no claws whatsoever, barely leaving a mark on viewers.
This 1980 remake disappointed everyone that saw it, including Disney and Paramount executives. Although anticipated to be a huge success, makers couldn’t make Popeye pop off the screen, and the film was written off as a flop despite making double its budget. Critic Leonard Maltin was quick to snub the spinach guzzling character, ‘E.C. Segar’s beloved sailorman boards a sinking ship in this astonishingly boring movie. A game cast does its best with an unfunny script, cluttered staging and some alleged songs. Tune in an old Max Fleischer cartoon instead.’ There were some positive reviews, but many thought it was time to put the old seadog down.
Another remake starring Jason Lee here, with Underdog. The 2007 movie based on the 1960’s cartoon took $65.3 million worldwide. On the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an average rating of 14% based on 69 reviews. The critical consensus reads, ‘Underdog is a mostly forgettable adaptation that relies far too heavily on recycled material and sloppy production.’ It left little to no impression on audiences, making it a feeble film that many haven’t even heard of. But hey, someone’s got to keep Jason Lee in work and this puppy drew the short straw. Better luck next time, Underdog.
The 2010 movie Marmaduke took the cartoon strip character to the big screen, with the help of Owen Wilson and George Lopez. The 20th Century Fox movie was a financial success, taking $83 million worldwide on a $50 million budget, but critics hated it. Lopez was even nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor. Roger Ebert wrote in his review, ‘The moment I saw Marmaduke’s big drooling lips moving, I knew I was in trouble.’ Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like it either, with the general consensus calling it ‘Dull and unfunny.’ It looks like our four legged friends just can’t catch a break.
1. THE CAT IN THE HAT
Dr Suess’ beloved Cat in the Hat was done a great disservice when made into the 2003 comedy starring Mike Myers. Although it was a financial success, grossing $134 million, it was enough to make Suess’ widow, Audrey Geisel, to disallow any further live-action remakes of her husband’s work. Does it get worse than that? Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film one star, stating, ‘Cat, another over-blown Hollywood raid on Dr. Seuss, has a draw on Mike Myers, who inexplicably plays the Cat by mimicking Bert Lahr in The Wizard of Oz.’ Critics didn’t just dislike this movie, they hated it with a full blown passion. Leonard Maltin said it was ‘A betrayal of everything Dr. Suess ever stood for.’
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