Worst Movie Adaptations
Worst Movie Adaptations. We decided to look back at ten of our favorite novels and how they were completely bastardized for the screen, both big and small. Here are the results:
The Dresden Files
Come batter me with your plastic lightsabers and foamcore PVC broadswords, but I feel like nine times out of ten, the Sci-Fi Network fucks up anything they get their hands on. They can’t even spell their own fucking name right. You have to be some kind of hardcore nerdcore devotee to get into most of their offerings. For a network that commits itself to creating science fiction and fantasy series, the special effects budget looks like it was handled by two guys with a Casio and a Collecovision. I adore Jim Butcher’s clever novels about a wisecracking wizard for hire in the mean streets of Chicago. SyFy used their special brand of magic to complete wheat-paste the ever-loving fuck out of anything enjoyable about the novels. Harry Dresden is supposed to look like the fucking Gunslinger with Chuck Norris’s beard. Instead, they cast a dude who looks like he should be repairing your Dell or selling you renter’s insurance. They took tough little Karrin Murphy and turned her into a weather girl for Telemundo. Murphy’s not eye-candy, she’s a fucking bobcat that will tear your goddamn eyes out. Even the actress who played her — and the only person in the cast who actually read the fucking series — auditioned for Susan because SHE KNEW SHE WASN’T RIGHT FOR THE PART. And for a series about a wizard — where was the fucking magic? They sewed a retarded “Law and Order” to “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and ended up with the bastard cousin of “Charmed.” Except “Charmed” had hot chicks to look at. This cosmic abortion took the wisecracking, seedy skull Bob and turned him into The Weehauken Shakespeare Festival. Terrence Mann is a nice enough guy, but seriously, this needed one of the Jerky Boys. And don’t get me started on that fucking magic hockey stick. Were they subsidized by The National Film Board of Canada? Anyone who read past book three realized this series was fucked like a frog prince in France, and thankfully was yanked. Butcher’s able to buy back the rights in two years, seven months, sixteen days, eight hours, and three minutes.
Indeed, the essence of Hornby’s mania is something I have longed to see on the big screen, but it took only two words to dash all my hopes: Drew Barrymore. As soon as I saw Drew Barrymore, I knew the Farrellys had all but abandoned their source material. You see, Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch had no romantic lead; in fact, there were no women at all in the novel. It’s a nonfiction account of one man’s relationship with a sports team, and it had nothing in the world to do with Drew fucking Barrymore. In fact, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel — the inspired writing team behind such classics as Forget Paris and Edtv — didn’t lift a single goddamn line from the brilliant memoir upon which they supposedly based their film. Instead of making a movie about real Red Sox fandom, they decided to bring Ione Skye in to talk to Barrymore about relationships and fitness routines; these assholes infuriatingly attempted to epitomize one’s love for a baseball team by having Jimmy Fallon (who is from Long Island, for Christ’s Sake) sniff his Fenway Park tickets. Sniff! This is not passion for baseball, folks — it is retardation.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a bastardization because it completely misinterprets the original text. Atwood’s novel takes place in the dictatorship of Gilead and follows a female concubine or “Handmaid” called Offred (Natasha Richardson in the film). You see, widespread infertility has spread across Gilead and Handmaids are offered up as sexual slaves to men of power with the hope of sustaining the republic. Moreover, the novel is a narrative about a woman who is ultimately passive and that is its point. Atwood uses Offred, who is incapable of embracing feminist activism, as a cautionary tale while the film turns her into a heroine: she kills her sexual owner and flees Gilead. In this sense, the original meaning of the novel has been inverted.
Moreover, the film takes a book about sexual exploitation, told in Offred’s first-person, and offers up an odd moment in which the camera seems to leeringly gaze upon her body. This moment takes place in a scene in which Offred bares her breasts to a man (her Handmaid duties are completed while clothed). While her action once again seems out of character, it’s Schlöndorff depiction of the scene that is particularly troubling. Instead of filming it from Offred’s point-of-view, he films Offred from the on-looker’s point-of-view, making sure everyone in the audience gets a look at her rack. This is the sort of representation that provided feminist film theorists with their critical ammunition and its coming from what was originally a feminist text! Oh sweet irony.
And I, Robot could’ve been a great movie, given the brilliant screenplay written by Harlan Ellison (with input from Asimov) in the 1970s. But that screenplay is not the I Robot movie you know (it was published about 15 years ago, however, and it’s a great read). The movie you know features the Three Laws, shares a few character names and elements from Asimov’s stories, and even feebly tries to stick its toe ever-so-gently into the psychological waters of Asimov’s story. But it amounts to little more than a boiler-plate Will Smith summer blockbuster. The depth and heart of the film is entirely manufactured and unearned, and it ultimately lacks the Asimov stories’ spirit and inventiveness, replacing intellectual depth with robots that climb walls like Spider-Man. I don’t despise the flick for what it is — a relatively watchable popcorn flick — but an Asimov tale, it is not.
And that’s the problem with Running With Scissors, the feature film. The characters, the unheard-of idiosyncrasies, and the holy-shit-that-didn’t-just-happen! events from the memoir are still there, but Burroughs’ tone didn’t make the cut. His matter-of-fact voice is gone, as is the dry, anti-pitiable first-person perspective. In their place is a film that described setting and character and drew on period-appropriate props and a big, expensive cast, but it wasn’t really about Augusten Burroughs. Aside from the unnecessary attention to detail and the muddled translation, Running with Scissors is also kind of dull, filled too often with stillness instead of the crackly fluidity of the memoir.
And the casting, my god, picking names out of a hat would have yielded a better cast. At least then it would be deliciously random like a high school production of Rent. The Stand was so badly cast, it seemed like they went part by part selecting the actors who least resembled in any way the character to be portrayed. The only thing Molly Ringwald shares with Fran is a vagina. Pudgy, whiny, faux-intellectual Harold is naturally played by Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. Weather-beaten, weary, working class East Texan Stu should be played by Gary Sinese, the poor man’s Tom Hanks! And Randall Flagg, the walking dude himself, who Stephen King visualized as Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, the master manipulator, yanking at the marionettes of human weakness with mad charisma, they toss that to Jamey Sheridan. Who? Exactly. Sheridan looks bloated the entire film, his constant smiling conveying less menace than a chia pet. Flagg in the right hands could have been a tour de force like Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker, but in Sheridan’s hands the character just comes off as that creepy weird uncle at Thanksgiving who tries for six hours to convince the kids to show him their tree house before passing out in the garage with one hand down his pants.