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March 27th, 2013 RUTH BROWN | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

Plastic vs. Celluloid

Films based on toys: are they ever any good?

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The latest film based on the G.I. Joe action figure, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, is not being screened for critics. Is there any chance it won’t be a steaming pile of shit? Our culture scientists analyze 30 years of toy-to-film adaptations to find out.


1. Clue (1985)

The film: Better than expected, thanks to a surprisingly high-caliber cast, including Tim Curry, Michael McKean and Christopher Lloyd. The film was made with three different endings—sadly, none of which was Professor Plum in the library with the candlestick.

The toy: Superior to Snakes and Ladders but inferior to Monopoly, this board game is severely hampered by its three-player minimum and tiny pieces that you will lose immediately.


2. The Care Bears Movie (1985)

The film: Not a patch on its sequel (the remarkably dark and stormy Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation), it’s almost mind-boggling the distributor spent $24 million at the time promoting something worse than your average direct-to-video release.

The toy: Uninspiring pastel teddies that are a bitch to keep clean.


3. Masters of the Universe (1987)

The film: The casting of Dolph Lundgren as He-Man was inspired, but that’s the only good thing you can say about this live-action film that sent the most powerful man in the universe to 1980s California.

The toy: Little plastic beefcake He-Man was probably the least interesting (albeit most essential) figure in the Masters collection, but some of the other inhabitants of Eternia were spectacularly weird as shit: Battle Cat, Stinkor, Moss Man...every character makes perfect sense on an alien planet. 


4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

The film: All the cowabungas and nunchuck fights you could hope for, plus amazing turtle suits courtesy of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, in a pre-everything-CGI era when these sorts of films didn’t stray so far from the scope of the original franchise. 

The toy: Despite millions of stupid add-ons, the original figurines have barely changed in 25 years, and with good reason: How can you improve on mutant reptiles with ninja weapons? You can’t.


5. Mars Attacks! (1996)

The film: Criminally underrated at its release, Tim Burton’s B-movie spoof boasts an amazing cast (including Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Michael J. Fox and Martin Short), awesomely cheesy special effects, and equal measures of cynicism and silliness. 

The toy: Although these ’60s trading cards featured the excellent artwork of comics legend Wally Wood, trading cards are still the least fun of all toys.


6. Transformers (2007)

The film: A movie that makes you actually give a shit about the fate of anthropomorphized trucks. On the other hand, the cast is less impressive than the 1986 animated feature, which included Eric Idle, Leonard Nimoy and Orson Welles.

The toy: It seems fairly uncontroversial to say that Transformers were the best toys of the 1980s.


7. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

The film: Almost comically terrible, this movie may one day achieve a cult following for its appalling but highly quotable script (“When all else fails, we don’t!”) and scenery-chewing performances. 

The toy: An undeniable classic, but America’s movable fighting man feels a little outdated in a world of Halo and Counter-Strike.


8. Battleship (2012)

The film: If this had simply been a movie about really attractive people on boats shooting torpedoes at each other (you know, like the actual game), it might have been good, dumb fun. But they just had to add aliens. 

The toy: Enjoyable only for long car trips and three rounds of play, the main redeeming feature of this game is how easy it is to cheat. 


SEE IT: G.I. Joe: Retaliation is rated PG-13. It opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Eastport, Lloyd Center, Lloyd Mall, Pioneer Place, Clackamas.

 
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