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Worst butchering of a classic children's book on film

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang gets my vote.  And it won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1969!  It had almost nothing to do with the original story.  And it's three hours long. 

I suppose I'm biased a bit because I was 12 and the movie was a traumatic experience because when I went to get popcorn the high school girl at the concession stand cheated me out of my change. 

But my wife bought the video anyway, for one of our kids several years ago, and once in a while it gets dug up and watched.  Dick Van Dyke could never decide between an American accent and a lousy British accent...it was like he gave up about halfway through the movie.  But I admit Leslie Anne Howe could sing and was quite the looker.

But the movie still sucked swamp water.

What's your worst?
#1 - March 24, 2008, 10:31 PM
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witzl

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Those early animations of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were awful, though I know how much work went into even a bad animation back then, before computers revolutionized everything.  And a few years ago friends passed along the video of The Incredible Journey done back in the sixties. The acting in that is so bad it is almost surreal.  My husband cannot bear to listen to Dick van Dyke butchering a Cockney accent. (Mary Poppins is as far as he's gotten.) In fact, Dick van Dyke is infamous here in the U.K. as an actor who had no business being cast as a Brit. Kevin Costner is even more infamous; he just ignored the whole accent problem by sticking to his own.
#2 - March 25, 2008, 02:03 AM

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I may be in dicey water here, because I know this film has a strong following and it has, admittedly, very strong cinematic qualities and is visually beautiful.  But I don't care.  I despise the film version of The Polar Express.

It totally alters the book in just about every way possible.  The book is a quiet reflection of an old man recalling a mystical childhood experience in which his belief in something never wavered, with gorgeous illustrations which should be slowly and carefully savored for their proportions and use of light.

The film is noisy, the main character is transformed into a "non-believer" who has to be convinced.  The film has been stripped of everything that makes the story elegant, thoughtful, and mystical and turned into a vehicle creating as many roles possible for one of Hollywood's most overrated actors.  The story is totally lost in the shuffle.  Dazzling visuals do not a thoughtful story make.

I refused to watch the film for two years after it came out and when I finally compromised my principals to see it, it was even worse than I imagined.  And what's worst of all, all the kids I know like the film version better than the book. 

Sadly, one of the greatest classic picture books of our generation has been subjugated forever by a piece of Hollywood noise.

And now they're going to do the same to Horton .....  :sad
#3 - March 25, 2008, 04:26 AM

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...And now they're going to do the same to Horton .....  :sad

I have seen the trailers for Horton (one of my all-time favorite Dr. Seuss books!) - and I was most definitely under-impressed.
#4 - March 25, 2008, 04:39 AM
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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang gets my vote.  And it won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1969!

(Um, I've heard of people confusing Chitty with Mary Poppins, but this's the first I've heard of confusing Chitty with "Oliver!"...)   :eh2


Quote
It had almost nothing to do with the original story.

...WHAT original story?     ::) 
Like most adult authors "playing" at children's stories for their kids, Fleming didn't really give us that much of a plot--If anything screenwriter Roald Dahl came up with the"What if 007 wrote for kids?" that we were hoping to see in the first place...And if it isn't Fleming, it's still one of the two purest versions of Roald Dahl onscreen.
(Which reminds me to put "The Witches" and the Tim Burton "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" on the Butchered list too.)

My own choice though?:  I'll admit there's some tough competition from "Stuart Little 1&2", "Shrek", "The Borrowers",  "Nancy Drew", "The Westing Game" (on video as "Get a Clue!"), "Horton", "The Grinch", "Cat in the Hat", "The Ant Bully", "Night at the Museum", "Seeker: Dark is Rising", and of course "Polar Express"--
But--despite the protests of extended family and kids--I stand by my opinion that they all pale before...the live-action "Peter Pan":
Ohh, where do you START with the autopsy on that one??   :faint
#5 - March 25, 2008, 04:56 AM
« Last Edit: March 25, 2008, 05:00 AM by DerekJ »

1846,
I agree about The Polar Express. However, I loved the cinematic experience of seeing it in IMAX 3-D. I would never see it in a regular theatre or at home on DVD though.

Most people would disagree with me, I'm sure, but I wasn't overly impressed with To Kill a Mockingbird as a movie. I know. I know. Who doesn't love Gregory Peck? But after reading the book, the movie just seemed to take random scenes from the book and string them together. I don't know how people could understand it without the backdrop of the book in your head.

I'm afraid for Horton. I didn't like the new Grinch version at all. I love the old cartoon version though. When it comes to Seuss, I'm a purist. Don't muddle with brilliance.

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#6 - March 25, 2008, 05:03 AM
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Jaina

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Really seriously didn't care for Polar Express.  I won't even go near the Grinch or Cat/Hat movie.

BUT, I have to tell you guys that the "fam" (husband, kid, sister-in-law) went to see Horton this weekend and really liked it a LOT.  And though my sis-in-law and the seven year old "like" everything they see, my husband doesn't say that lightly, so I think there might be some good in it.

There are many book-to-film adaptations I have found disappointing--many.  But one of my biggest grumbles as a kid was the changes they made when animating Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  When they got to the "magic amulet" part, I just wanted to scream.
#7 - March 25, 2008, 05:20 AM

Jaina

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Oh, I have to mention the worst thing ever done to Peter Pan (in my opinion)--Hook.  The movie, I mean.  Ouch.
#8 - March 25, 2008, 05:25 AM

YAmom

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I just went to see Horton, under duress, it was the only movie at the small town theatre and my kids wanted to go do something. Seuss purists will probably despise it, Steve Carrell and jim Carrey fans will like it I think. The animation was incredible, I must say that. But many of the kids at the movie did not seem captivated, they were whining and running around, so I'm not sure how much it really is intended for kids.
#9 - March 25, 2008, 05:38 AM

witzl

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Just looking at the trailers for Polar Express made us all cringe, and I've heard enough bad things about most of the rest of the movies mentioned to want to stay away. But I have to admit that I loved Shrek. I was dragged to see it almost against my will, but came out a convert. Shrek II was good as well, though the last one was just appalling.

My husband, who is picky (and also a great Susan Cooper fan) rather liked the movie version of 'The Dark is Rising.' My kids, who are not quite as discriminating, did not. I thought it was pretty good, but why did they HAVE to make the protagonist American?  I'm certainly not anti-American, and my kids aren't either, but this did irritate us. Imagine an American book done as movie and the protagonist turned into a Brit. Would we put up with that?
#10 - March 25, 2008, 06:20 AM

tonka

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Sign me up in the Cat in the Hat/Grinch camp.  They were both complete violations of everything I believe Seuss stands for.  I haven't seen Horton yet, though as someone who once played Horton in a rousing production of Horton Hatches the Egg at the tender age of 12, I'm naturally concerned.  Still, I've seen a few clips and it looks promising. 

I love Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  I don't care what anyone else says.

Eragon was dreadful, but the book was pretty derivative to begin with.  Not bad for an 18 year old, but still.   Nancy Drew.  I mean, come on.   I'm not a huge fan of the new Narnia series, but I will go see Prince Caspian and give them a chance to redeem themselves.  The Golden Compass was gorgeous to look at, but had no heart.  The books really don't either, but what's the point of having real actors if they're not contributing some humanity to the piece? 
#11 - March 25, 2008, 06:55 AM

HANDS DOWN....The Indian In The Cupboard movie. I mean...wow. Just wow. That movie ruined the book for me for YEARS.
I can accept a story being significantly altered for film-- I'm not one of those literary purists. I actually loved Hook, adored Tuck Everlasting, and am fine with "expansion" movies like Horton and Polar Express.
But it takes a special kind of talent to genuinely RUIN a great story like Indian In The Cupboard.
#12 - March 25, 2008, 07:01 AM
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Both versions of Charlie and the Chocolate factory have been major disappointments. One Wonka, mean and crazy and the other, creepy and weird.
Not to mention the peculiar Cat in the Hat and the scary Grinch.

Trying to make children's books into adult movies sets off warning bells in my head.
I have hopes for Horton, at least it's billing itself as a children's movie.
"Right?" she asks hopefully.
#13 - March 25, 2008, 07:27 AM

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I loved The Polar Express as well as The Grinch. Well, "loved" is a bit strong.  Maybe "liked a lot".  But The Cat in the Hat was simply horrid. We didn't even finish watching it. 

I have to agree about The Secret of NIMH.  As a kid I LOVED the book, and the movie was just terrible.  In fourth grade, we read the book and discussed what happened to Justin, who was my favorite character.  But the heroism of Justin was completely removed from the film!  Guess what, Hollywood...kids CAN, in fact, handle the presumed death of a character.  Really. 

I will say, I get annoyed by people being annoyed when a movie changes a book, though.  It has to happen.  The two are different mediums, and changes are often necessary for the purposes of the audience and method of story-telling.  That is why, for example, I felt the changes done in The Spiderwick Chronicles movies were terrific.  Different from the books?  Yes.  But very well done.

Still, if the changes for a movie change the overall intent of a book, I have issues.  That's why The Secret of NIMH didn't work for me.  It turned it into something magical when it wasn't supposed to be magical at all.
#14 - March 25, 2008, 07:28 AM

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has to top my list as a total disappointment as a movie.

There have been others but I've blocked them from my memory to keep my blood pressure down.


#15 - March 25, 2008, 09:42 AM
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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has to top my list as a total disappointment as a movie.

Agreed.  They just didn't do a good job translating that one.  However, my opinion on that has changed slightly after talking to a good friend of mine.  He hasn't read the books, but has watched the movies.  He felt Azkaban was the BEST of the movies (prior to Order of the Phoenix...I'm not sure of his opinion on that one).  So, as a stand-alone movie without knowing the books, it was, apparently, done well.  To me, however, they just left out so much and didn't explain key things that needed explaining.  When I watched the movie with my wife (who at that point hadn't read the books) I kept pressing pause to fill her in on all the backstory they left out for a given event to make sense.
#16 - March 25, 2008, 09:54 AM

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As a child of seven my husband had to be removed bodily from the theatre shortly into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because he had hysterics at what they did to it.

But the most painful one for me is Stuart Little.  It's such a thoughtful, quiet story and what they did to it makes me want to cry.  Or nuke Hollywood.

And yet the old cartoon version of Charlotte's Web actually stuck to the story quite well.  And Paul Lynde was such a hoot as Templeton.
#17 - March 25, 2008, 10:11 AM
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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has to top my list as a total disappointment as a movie.

There have been others but I've blocked them from my memory to keep my blood pressure down.




Ouch! I respectfully, but totally disagree. I am a rabid fan of the books, but knew going in that the movies are a separate entity. ( Like most adaptations). The first two hp adaptations are okay, the kids like them, but the third is the first time that they allowed an artful, dark dramatic approach that didn't scream cheesy hollywood blockbuster. The filming was wonderful, the story well crafted for length and appeal to non book fans, and as all along the casting was spot on.
How can you resist Emma Thompson as Trelawny?

Again, there will be cutting, but as a fan I have learned to appreciate the mediums separately and I think they have done a good job staying with the spirit of the books . . . and furthemore . . . JK approves!

Oh, and I like Polar Express a lot except the Aerosmith ending, what's up with that?

And nancy drew: another case of trying to bridge generations, but trying too hard. Loved the casting, cute plot, but could have done without the cool kids and short guy comic relief. Wanted more of the original friends from the book.

(sorry too much caffeine. Done now.)

monica
#18 - March 25, 2008, 10:40 AM

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I agree about The Indian in the Cupboard.   Changing the setting from England to the U.S. was just one of many bad ideas...

I can't think of a movie based on a book I liked that didn't annoy me.    :taz   The worst was a movie version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler that I saw on TV years ago.   Lauren Bacall was Mrs. F.,  and the writers "updated" all the witty dialogue in the book so that it wasn't the least bit funny.   And since movie Jamie didn't say "boloney!",  Claudia's solving of the mystery didn't make sense (Bologna,  Italy being the clue she needed).
#19 - March 25, 2008, 01:22 PM

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Here's a link to an old Fuse #8 blog post with a list of the worst childrens' book adaptations to film:
http://fusenumber8.blogspot.com/2006/05/worst-14-films-made-from-childrens_08.html

I have to agree with Pippi Longstocking. What a disappointment. It must've been hard work to make Pippi Longstocking boring.
#20 - March 25, 2008, 01:35 PM

Jaina

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Fun list.  I'd forgotten the Freddie Highmore Five Children and It which was just dreadful.  I liked the other version of that story--was it a BBC film?  I believe so.  Very faithful to the book.
#21 - March 25, 2008, 01:59 PM

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I agree completely about The Chocolate War.  It made me angry that the story was so distorted.  An even worst travesty, Cormier-wise, is the disasterous mess that was made of I Am the Cheese.  It started out promising with the casting - Robert McNaughton (Ellott's older brother from ET) as Adam, but after that the whole thing became cinematic mush.  Sadly, both of these books could have been brilliant films.
#22 - March 25, 2008, 03:49 PM

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I haven't seen most of those mentioned here (other than the HP movies, and I liked them simply because I love HP :D).

My votes go to ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, which was easily my most anticipated movie as a kid...I was bitterly disappointed.  All my favorite parts of the book were just skipped right over, and they changed the rest to some hokey Disney crap.  :ahh

The other would be 101 DALMATIONS.  Another book I absolutely adored, and the movie was so wretched in comparison.  Sigh.  Even the names were off (what was wrong with Missis, anyway?  And how could they just make her Perdita without explaining any of that?).  Oh, well.  Now we know why I generally refuse to watch movie adaptations of books.

One exception, THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE.  Yeah, it had some serious differences, but the chills I got when they all came out of the wardrobe for the first time...well, that's exactly how I felt when I read the book too :)
#23 - March 25, 2008, 04:04 PM
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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has to top my list as a total disappointment as a movie.

There have been others but I've blocked them from my memory to keep my blood pressure down.


Oh, that's so interesting to me because I thought it was the best of all of them.  I think JKR even said it came the closest to her vision of what the world looked like (not sure if that still holds true, though).  I thought the adaptation of Order of the Phoenix was decent, considering how much material they had to get into it... but Goblet of Fire was my disappointment.  :/
#24 - March 25, 2008, 04:14 PM

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O.K., I loved loved loved the Lord of the Rings movies, all three of them, so this doesn't really answer the question.  But I am still fuming actively that they cut off the end (and, in my opinion, a major POINT of the story: that we can't just sit in our shires and hope the world doesn't affect us).  Grr.  Now I'm all worked up again...
#25 - March 25, 2008, 05:07 PM

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I forgot about Harriet the Spy,  with Rosie O'Donnell as Ole Golly.   I avoided that one after seeing the previews.    :P
#26 - March 25, 2008, 08:33 PM
« Last Edit: March 25, 2008, 08:37 PM by yarnspinner »

I never read The Polar Express, but the movie was creepy.   I'll never look at Santa's elves the same way again...
#27 - March 25, 2008, 09:55 PM
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I thought they did a FANTASTIC job on Order of the Phoenix.  It was undoubtedly the best of the movies so far.  They did such a fantastic job whittling the story down to what was absolutely necessary without confusing viewers who hadn't read the books.  ANd they did it in such a way that those who HAD read the book just felt like they knew more about what was going on, rather than they simply "left stuff out". 

I still did NOT like Azkaban.  Not only did they leave out important details, but when you watch all the movies in a row, it doesn't flow at all.  The style of the movie is so different from the rest.  The soundtrack, alone, was incredibly disappointing.  It was way too classical sounding compared to the others. 

I enjoyed Goblet of Fire...but it isn't my favorite of the movies.  Even though I know why they did it, I think it was a major mistake to leave out Hermioni's organization to fight for the rights of house elves.  That was HYSTERICAL.  But, I don't know how they could have fit it in.  Anyhow, Goblet of Fire was a bit too episodic...but that is the nature of the story, with the three tasks.  But, Goblet of Fire was my favorite of the books...and the movie just wasn't.


#28 - March 26, 2008, 05:43 AM

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I have yet to see a picture book adapted into a movie I liked. Jumanji, Polar Express, any of the Dr. Seusses (haven't seen Horton)--TERRIBLE! Polar Express in particular didn't make any sense.

I didn't care for the first two Harry Potter movies--the casting and scenery were great, but I felt like they missed the entire emotional point of those stories. LOVED Azkaban--the best of the lot so far, in my opinion. Sure, they moved things around. But it made sense, the movie hung together as a story, and I think even for people who hadn't read the books they got something out of it. (Whereas the other two felt like moving wizard photo-illustrations or something.) And the Azkaban soundtrack is the only one I own. I thought Phoenix came in second, though--great acting; I'm looking forward to the same director for 7. But there was just so much in that book that couldn't fit that it doesn't *quite* hold together as well as Azkaban for me. I bet they do a nice job with HBP, though--not so much going on, and plenty of humor and romance to counteract the dark past of Lord Voldemort. (It's my least favorite book of the series, BTW, but I do see much film potential in it.)
#29 - March 26, 2008, 06:04 AM

Jeannine

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Yes, HARRIET THE SPY wins hands down! Ugh. Ugh. Ugh!   (I don't see a "barf" emoticon, so that'll have to do)
#30 - April 01, 2008, 07:53 AM

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