10 of the Worst Book to Film Adaptions
When we first heard that David Sedaris' essay 'C.O.G' was being made in into a film, we were excited. Unfortunately the movie, which came out last week, falls short of our expectations. The movie tells the story of David (played by Jonathan Groff), a Yalie who journeys to Oregon to go apple picking and learn about life from "real people." But unlike the David in the original essay, his movie counterpart does not have the same nuances or likability. We know nothing of his personal history, his motivations or thought process. We leave the movie not knowing much more about Groff's character than we did when it began. In the end, we are left with a distant protagonist that does not embody the charm and humor of Sedaris' essays. To revel in the sadness that comes from having your favorite work so misrepresented, we've rounded up some of the worst book to film adaptions.
'The Scarlet Letter' (1995)
The meter stick of bad book to film adaptions, The Scarlet Letter commits too many sins to fully list. What’s with the added story lines about Native American attacks and witch hunts? These superfluous elements, in combination with the super sexualized version of Hester Prynne, took the film in a completely different direction from the book. A bad direction. The huge liberties taken with the film didn’t really phase Demi Moore though, who said, “In truth, not very many people have read the book.”
'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' (2011)
This movie received polarizing reviews and was nominated for an Academy Award, much to the surprise of many. The film does not really capture the book at all, instead focusing its attention on trying to make the viewer feel. But the emotions that the movie plows out are not specific to the 9/11 tragedy on which Jonathan Safran Foer ruminates; they are simply stock emotions meant to elicit a response.
'Breakfast At Tiffany's' (1961)
This movie is great — but it’s not a great adaption of the book. Audrey Hepburn gives an enchanting performance as the one and only Holly Golightly. But the Hollywood happy ending of the movie goes completely against the ending of the pages on which it's based. In the movie, the girl ends up with the guy and all is well. In the original, Holly ends up in Buenos Aires, and the narrator wonders whether she’ll ever be happy.
'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' (2005)
The Hitchhiker novels are hard to adapt to a screen, and this movie makes that point pretty clear. Unable to keep up with the novels' crazy subplots, the movie instead relies on character dialogue and throws away almost all of Douglas Adams’ hilariously crazy narrative twists in the process. The worst crime of the movie, though, is that it tried to tie the story up into a neat, perfect ending, going against the very essence of the opened-ended narrative of the novel.
'The Count of Monte Cristo' (2002)
The adaption of The Count of Monte Cristo, directed by Kevin Reynolds, is best summed up by Jeff Stark's Salon review: “To say the film doesn’t quite recapture the thrill of the novel is like saying that soda pop doesn’t really have the same kick as heroin.” This isn’t just a horrible adaption, it’s a horrible movie. With action scenes that seem out of place, characters that are completely cut out and an entirely different ending, this movie feels like it’s longer than the novel — quite the feat.
'Atlas Shrugged' (2011 and 2012)
This movie does an okay job at getting Ayn Rand’s point across (in a very general way). What it doesn’t do is entertain you. Stiff dialogue, anticlimactic endings and bad casting make the first movie, not to mention the sequel, hard to sit through.
'Bicentennial Man' (1999)
Through telling the story of a robot who learns to think and feel like a human, Isaac Asimov’s work of fiction is beautiful rumination on humanity. But the movie, directed by Chris Columbus and starring Robin Williams, does not have the nuance of the original story and is inundated with Hallmark sentimentality. The magical and profound fantasy world that Asimov creates is marred by a not-so-subtle and stiff script.
'Alice in Wonderland' (2010)
So, Tim Burton took some liberties with this film, upping Alice’s age from 7 to 19 and creating a feminist plot where she is trying to escape an engagement. These changes maybe could have worked if the whole film wasn’t just a jumble of cool 3D effects that lacked character development and real relationships.
'The Bonfire of the Vanities' (1990)
The movie version erases all of Tom Wolfe’s social satire and narration that made the book so compelling in the first place. The film wastes time trying to humanize the main character, and adds in a lot of over-the-top unfunny comedy instead of moving along the plot line and giving justice to Wolfe’s nuanced observations.