From Sitcom to Cinema

Transferring a comedy from TV to film is sometimes no laughing matter...

Sitcom-inspired films have had a somewhat chequered history; some critics have gone so far as to say that they are ill-advised at best. Which is why there has been some trepidation as to the release of the Dad’s Army movie on February 5, notwithstanding age-defying shots of Catherine Zeta-Jones plastered across the media. To be honest. it’s hard to think of many standouts, but here are five that span nearly four decades, as well as varying success levels, between them, in order to provide a good overview of how the genre has fared. Okay, Dad’s Army, unlike these, won’t be featuring any original cast members of course, but it’s a decent excuse for a topical feature nonetheless!

Steptoe and Son (1972)

The trials and tribulation of rag-and-bone men Albert and Harold had made the TV show arguably the most successful sitcom of the 1960s. By the time the 70s had arrived, it was nearing its end and many fans were far from impressed with this attempt at a feature-length version. However, amongst all the sometimes painfully unfunny movie comedy that the decade was positively awash with, Steptoe and Son fared rather better than its many counterparts, making five times its budget at the box office, and a sequel followed a year later with Steptoe and Son Ride Again.

Bean (1997)

Why did the genre go quiet in the 80s? Who knows? Perhaps filmmakers had learned the lessons of the previous decade, or maybe it was because that this was an era where big screen comedies were ten-a-penny anyway. whatever the reason, we now skip forward 24 years to one of Rowan Atkinson‘s most successful creations. directed by the late Mel Smith, Bean came in for some flak by tweaking the formula of the TV series in order to enhance the film’s global appeal, particularly in America (Mr. Bean talking in an intelligible manner, for example). It obviously worked because Bean was generally well-received and grossed over $250m worldwide. Perhaps a little liberality is the key to making the leap of faith from television to film a successful one.

Guest House Paradiso (1999)

When Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson created Bottom, not only did they unleash one of the most successful sitcoms of the 90s, but they also enjoyed a host of sell-out live shows. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the show’s cinematic outing, which is the only entry on this list not to take its name from the sitcom upon which it was based (which is probably a good thing), nor garner a sequel (which is even better). When Mayall passed away in 2014, he left a golden comic legacy – thankfully, neither Guest House Paradiso and another of his few flops, 1991’s Drop Dead Fred, have tainted it.

Sex and the City (2008)

Sometimes, just sometimes, our American cousins tend to do comedy that little bit better, and here’s a perfect example. The biggest-ever opening weekend for an R-rated or romantic comedy, or one where all the leads are played by women, plus a grand total of $415.2m made at the box office. Yes it’s true to say that it did come in for a bit of a lashing by some critics, but the fans lapped it up.

The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)

This was a lot of folks’ introduction to the antics of Rudge Park Comprehensive’s finest, with so of those already familiar with them staying away so as not to ruin the legacy the TV series had created. Whatever your point of view, there’s no doubting that the film enjoyed major success – at least in Britain – as it recorded the biggest opening weekend for an independent UK flick. The Inbetweeners 2 followed in 2014, and there is even set to be an American movie version titled Virgins America. Mind you, if you thought a clip of that nightclub dance scene was going to find its way into this article somehow, you’ve got another thing coming!

Discussion feed
  • I went to the cinema to watch Guest House Paradiso with a bunch of mates and it was one of the funniest films I have ever seen!! I think that is partly down to the company that was with me at the time because I did watch it fairly recently with my girlfriend and it didn't seem as funny...I do still love it though " the eye!!!!"

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