Back in the '80s, Johnny Depp became a teen idol for his role on TV's 21 Jump Street. Now, for the big-screen adaptation, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum laughably play two undercover cops that try to pass themselves off as high school students to bust a drug ring. 21 Jump Street opens in theaters everywhere today and, despite looking much sillier than the TV show on which it is based, is getting excellent reviews overall.
Hollywood has a long history of adapting popular TV series into movies years after they originally aired on the tube with varying degrees of success. The Addams Family was a cartoon before it became a TV series in 1964 and later spawned two big-screen movies starring Anjelica Huston, Raúl Juliá and Christina Ricci. Other movies based on '60s TV shows include The Beverly Hillbillies and its sequel, the not-so-spellbinding Bewitched starring Nicole Kidman, the spy parody Get Smart with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway, the sci-fi misfire Lost in Space with William Hurt and Matt Leblanc, and The Mod Squad starring Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi and Omar Epps. The most successful film series based on a '60s TV show has to be the four Mission: Impossible movies starring Tom Cruise, the first three of which are available on DVD and Blu-ray.
The goofier, groovier aspects of the 1970s were mined for a lot of laughs on the big screen by translating a few of the decade's signature TV shows into hit flicks. Both The Brady Bunch and A Very Brady Sequel poked fun at well-publicized rumors about the TV show, like affairs on the set between the Brady teens. Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz had fun playing three sexy private investigators in Charlie's Angels and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Jessica Simpson parlayed her Daisy Duke shorts in The Dukes of Hazzard into something resembling a career. The children's Saturday morning TV show Land of the Lost got a weird, almost druggy big-screen update starring Will Ferrell. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson went full '70s—complete with butterscotch leather jackets and a Gran Torino—for the big screen's Starsky & Hutch, which is actually set in 1975 unlike the other films listed here.
The '80s were the last major decade with totally tubular TV shows that were recast and repackaged as theatrical movies. Inspector Gadget was a popular cartoon in 1983 that became a live-action comedy in 1999 starring Matthew Broderick as the eponymous character. Also based on an '80s cartoon are the three blockbuster Transformers movies directed by Michael Bay and starring Shia LaBeouf, all of which are now available on DVD and Blu-ray as well as an eye-popping Blu-ray 3D version of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. We pity the fools that missed Mr. T in The A-Team back in the Reagan era, but the big-screen adaptation starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton Jackson and Sharlto Copley was still outrageous popcorn fun. Lastly, before this week's 21 Jump Street, Colin Farrell also played a cop who goes undercover to bust a drug ring in Michael Mann's version of Miami Vice, which exchanged the TV show's signature '80s pastel threads for rat-a-tat action.