The Peanuts Movie is how movies based on comic strips and TV cartoons should be done, animated to emulate the creator's original spirit. Hollywood too often believes it knows better, casting flesh-and-blood actors either as characters like The Flintstones, Dick Tracy and Popeye, or sidekicks to CGI abominations like Garfield, Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear. Things could be worse, if Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang clean up at box offices. With tongue firmly in cheek, we offer five classic comic strips Hollywood can muck up with real actors, if given the chance:
You can argue that Hollywood already did this one, in every goofball military comedy from Buck Privates to Delta Farce. But imagine the U.S. Army's lovable goldbricker trading KP duty for an assignment training Iraqi troops. Slap an olive drab cap over Paul Dano's blank squint for Beetle and add John Goodman as Sarge and Bruce Dern as befuddled Gen. Halftrack. Can't be any worse than Operation Dumbo Drop.
One comic strip way overdue for a movie update. Blondie Bumstead was dutifully in step with male-centric American culture in 28 comedies between 1938 and 1950. Now she needs Jennifer Lawrence's spunk and reluctance to toe the line. Special guest appearance by Lena Dunham as Cathy from the comic strip panel next door, who awakens feelings in Blondie making her question her commitment to husband Dagwood (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
Actually, this one isn't a bad idea. There's never a shortage of social and political ignorance to lampoon, and imagine the stars lining up to take a swipe: Brad Pitt as stoned tanning champion Zonker Harris, Meryl Streep as feminist role model Joanie Caucus, and Johnny Depp reprising his Hunter S. Thompson impersonation as Uncle Duke, for starters. Hire South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone to compose a score as scathing as The Book of Mormon and you're onto something.
Dinosaurs are dynamite at box offices, so a prehistoric comedy has that going for it. Hedge the bet by casting Dwayne Johnson as the time-traveling caveman since he already owns the loincloth from Hercules, and Chris Pratt as Oop's friend Foozy, since he knows his way around raptors. Cameo appearances by Ringo Starr as Atouk from Caveman, and Rae Dawn Chong from Quest for Fire, confirming 1981 was a good year for Neanderthals in movies.
Calvin & Hobbes
This one will never happen, given creator Bill Watterson's steadfast refusal to license his characters for any sort of merchandising. But let's daydream anyway, like 6-year-old Calvin with his trusty stuffed tiger Hobbes. Not many Tampa Bay moviegoers have seen Room co-star Jacob Tremblay yet (the movie opens Nov. 13), but this extraordinary child actor would nail it. And I've always imagined Jeff Bridges' voice as Hobbes.
I Smile Back
Add Sarah Silverman to the long list of funny people who'd prefer making audiences cry. It has become the next step in comedy progression: standup, sitcom, Lorne Michaels producing your movie, do a 180 turn to drama, earning respect but disappointing fans. Hasn't anyone learned anything from Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler?
Silverman stars as a clinically depressed wife and mother in I Smile Back (R), offering her a chance to portray substance abuse, promiscuity and other Oscar-baiting behaviors. This one opens the same day in select theaters and on VOD, so don't hurt yourself rushing to the theater.
Miss You Already
Drew Barrymore hasn't made audiences laugh in years, so we can excuse her dramatic stretch in Miss You Already (PG-13), playing an infertile wife with a best friend (Toni Collette) suffering breast cancer. The movie's diagnosis is equally grim.
in theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1 The Peanuts Movie: Charles M. Schulz's beloved characters make an overdue return to the screen.
2 Sicario: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro battle a Mexican drug cartel.
3 The Martian: Matt Damon survives outer space through science.
4 Bridge of Spies: Cold War drama starring Tom Hanks.
5 Crimson Peak: Sexy Gothic horror yarn from Guillermo del Toro.
Nov. 13: The 33; Suffragette; Love the Coopers; My All-American
Nov. 20: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2; Spotlight; The Night Before; Secret in Their Eyes
Nov. 25: Creed; Victor Frankenstein; The Good Dinosaur; Brooklyn
Nov. 27: The Danish Girl; I Saw the Light
Dec. 4: Krampus; Christmas Eve
Dec. 11: In the Heart of the Sea; The Big Short
Dec. 18: Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens; Sisters; Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip