Adaptations are a crapshoot. Some are doomed from conception, like a live-action musical based on Spider-Man. Others are shocking successes, like the 11-season classicM*A*S*H. However, in recent history, very few movie-into-television adaptations have worked. So why, might you ask, is someone trying to re-make the popular 2002 film About a Boy?
Twelve years ago, the comedy film was born itself as an adaptation a of the successful Nick Hornby book. It stars Hugh Grant as a wealthy man-child who lies about having a son to impress women. He befriends Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), a boy with an overbearing flighty mother (Toni Collette). Over time, the man and boy teach each other.
Now, we have a new television series version of About a Boy, developed by Jason Katims, who worked on Friday Night Lights and developed Parenthood (there seems to be a trend in Katims' projects). But despite his prior success, this show seems doomed to fail.
Comedy series have had a majorly difficult time recreating the success of films. We choose not to remember Jennifer Aniston’s turn in the regrettable Ferris Bueller sitcom. Sandra Bullock started a short-lived television career as the lead in a Working Girl remake. Party Girl was an adaptation of a cult-indie film starring Parker Posey. It starred Christine Taylor, Swoosie Kurtz, and John Cameron Mitchell. And it just doesn’t work. One exception from the era is Clueless, which was more a television sequel and included a bulk of the original cast and the film's creator. It also only survived by moving to a syndicated network.
There are a few anomalies of successful remakes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that series was reworked almost entirely by creator Joss Wehdon. Rather than settling on remake form, Buffy had the priveledge of being the original material Whedon intended to create with his film. Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, and La Femme Nikita also all found television success, but as dramas, adapting different tones than their source material. The About a Boy adaptation seems to be veering dangerously close to the original with a few slight changes to account for the translation to American audiences.
Not only does the show have one strike against it automatically with being an adaptation, but the cast includes people with a ton of failed series on their resumes. Are they cursed? Minnie Driver is an amazing actress, but the last time she headlined a series, The Riches, it did not live long. David Walton and Leslie Bibb have also had a string of failed series launches including Perfect Couples and GCB, respectively.
From the series trailer, it looks like multiple moments from the film will be worked into the series. It’s tough to not notice the great source material being repurposed for 30-minute episodes. Of course, the series may shock everyone and rewrite rules for TV remakes. It may create a golden age of television series (*based on movies). Or audiences could check out the film, available at most DVD bargain bins.
If you had any doubts check out the trailer for the series vs. the original.
Spoiler alert: anything you don’t get from the movie trailer you can gloss from the TV series promo.
Did Hollywood have anything to do with the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement? The whole thing seems a little bit convenient. Last month saw the behind-the-meltdown docudrama Margin Call and the sci-fi metaphor In Time. Now we have Tower Heist a comedy that pits the blue collar staff of the Trump Tower against a thieving Bernie Madoff-esque tenant. The movie's an Ocean's 11 for the 99% with a sense of timeliness that makes the simple plotting and wisecracking that much more effective.
Ben Stiller stars as Josh Kovacs overseer of all the goings-on at the Tower. He wakes up before dawn and heads home after sunset spending his day catering to the occupants of the ritzy apartment complex and managing his eclectic crew—including former Burger King cook Enrique (Michael Peña) Jamaican maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) and his slacker brother-in-law Charlie (Casey Affleck). The crew's greatest concern is multi-billionaire Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) the penthouse resident Tower board member and thanks to attention paid trusted friend of Josh.
Trusted...until the FBI busts Shaw for stealing millions including the Tower employees' pensions.
Like all good tower heists Josh's titular harebrained scheme is prompted by a drunken night out with lead investigator Claire (Téa Leoni) who tips the irked manager off to Shaw's hidden stash: a possible eight-figure sum hidden somewhere in his apartment. In pursuing the American dream of revenge Josh recruits his slighted co-workers along with distraught former-millionaire Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and Josh's childhood friend-turned-thief Slide (Eddie Murphy). Together the motley crew concocts a plan to retrieve what's rightfully theirs—all while sinking Shaw in the process.
Tower Heist isn't as slick or intricate as the Ocean movies but its straightforward take on the crime genre is strengthened by Stiller Murphy and the rest of the cast's ability to inject ridiculous humor into sympathetic characters. When Josh realizes his decade spent commanding the operations of the Tower were for naught he wigs out marching up to the top floor to beat the crap out of Shaw's priceless convertible (it was owned by Steve McQueen in case you were wondering why anyone would keep an antique car on the top floor of a building). Not entirely realistic but relatable which sums up every over-the-top satisfying scenario these characters find themselves throughout the film.
Most importantly Tower Heist delivers on the funny. Playing the straight man is an art and Stiller's one of the masters (although you'd never know it from his Night at the Museum shtick or wackier roles like Zoolander) riffing off his co-stars while giving them ample time to be complete weirdos. The movie is being touted as a comeback for Murphy but he wisely steps into a supporting role delivering on his character's manic charm while never trying to steal the spotlight. The one who really steals the show is Broderick whose clueless neurotic Fitzhugh can't help relapsing mid-heist into memories of luxurious trips to Greece.
Credit goes to director Brett Ratner who cranked out three Rush Hour movies and an X-Men threequel while never really nailing down what it takes to make a group dynamic work. Here he pulls it off finding the right beats to make Tower Heist funny and thrilling. There are moments during the actual heist scene set during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade that cause quite a stir—a rarity in today's run-of-the-mill thrill rides.
Tower Heist is the definition of a cinematic softball avoiding risky choices and utilizing each actor to their previously known (and successful) traits without feeling lazy. As the holidays roll in and families look for something they all can enjoy Tower Heist delivers a little something for everyone. Except maybe Bernie Madoff.