7 Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations in Recent Memory
Look Hollywood, it’s not that difficult. A talented author writes an amazing book. You make a movie out of it, keeping all the parts that people love about the original work. Yes, I know that some changes have to be made when switching from the written word to film, but generally speaking, if the book’s incredible, you should be able to make a decent movie out of it, right?
Sadly, for every The Princess Bride we have a live-action Cat in the Hat. Hollywood has a knack for making bad movies based on great books. As proof, here aresevenrecent movies that managed to make cinematic lead out of literary gold (and one series that was awful in both formats).
The Cat in the Hat (2003)
Doctor Seuss is one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors, and The Cat in the Hat is one of his most popular works. It’s a frenzied twirl of rhymes and madness as the titular Cat turn a rainy day into a memorable afternoon. It’s also a wee bit too short for anything longer than a 30-minute animated adaptation.
So, naturally, Hollywood decided to make a full-length movie out of the classic, cast Mike Myers as a smarmy Cat, and fill in all the empty space with bad slapstick and off-color jokes. This Cat should have a restraining order keeping him at least 150 yards away from all children and lovers of Seuss.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
When making this adaptation, director Tim Burton said he believed that Alice in Wonderland had never been successfully adapted to the big screen. Without being too catty, his assessment still rings true.
On the surface, Wonderland seems custom-made for Burton’s bizarre, oddball filmmaking style. In practice, it’s like trying to build a Mustang with Jaguar parts. The film mangles the original story with an older Alice returning to Wonderland to fight the Red Queen and the Jabberwock while she wears armor left over from a Joan of Arc biopic.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts One and Two (2010 and 2011)
Okay, technically this is two films, and I’m tempted to cut both directors and actors some slack here. Why? Because the final book in the Harry Potter trilogy had a dark, complex plot that really didn’t fit well with the action-oriented films from earlier in the series.
Quite frankly, there was so much important information in the book that in order to make both movies huge (and vital), parts of the story had to be expunged, including Harry’s long struggle to reconcile his image of Dumbledore with the old wizard’s actual life. Perhaps the movies work better if you haven’t read the book, but as a Rowling fan, the last two movies in the series left me feeling nothing.
The Scarlet Letter (1995)
This is the oldest movie on the list, but it bears mentioning. Demi Moore as Hester Prynne? Bathtub scenes? A happy ending? I’d like to see a sequel in which Nathanial Hawthorne rises from the grave to wreak vengeance on everyone associated with this movie.
The movie was in trouble when director Robert Zemekis announced, “nothing about the original poem appealed to me.” Here’s an artistic tip: if a story doesn’t appeal to you, don’t make a movie about it. You’ll make a crappy movie.
The only thing the film has in common with the Old English epic is that some guy named Beowulf shows up and kills things. Not that I’m suggesting the Anglo-Saxons wouldn’t have appreciated Angelina Jolie in gold body paint and a prehensile tail . . . .
Actually, the movie’s anaccurate adaptation of the book. In that respect, this flick doesn’t belong on the list. As a lover of both literature and film, however, let me speak for millions when I scream, “Burn it! Burn it all!”
The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
A confusing novel becomes an even more confusing movie. That should have been the tagline for this book-to-film adaptation. The novel, written by Audrey Niffenegger, tells the story of Henry (a time traveler) and how he met his future/current wife, Clare. The book is written in first person and chapters alternate between Henry and Clare’s perspectives throughout different years of their lives.
The novel actually does a beautiful job of tying the storylines together in a beautiful and simple way. The movie struggles to keep that effortless flow. Multiple characters and arguably vital scenes from the novel are eliminated to attempt to simplify the still confusing film. This science fiction-esque, yet still classic love story, is one that would have been better left on paper.
Michael is a full-time blogger who has passions in all corners of the online world. In his down time he enjoys being outdoors, traveling, and blogging on everything from technology, to business, to marketing, and beyond.
Read more brilliant lists on Taste of Cinema