Here, There be a Writer

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Charlotte's Web: Book vs. Movie (and Muiscal)

“Look at Charlotte’s Web!”

Look at it, indeed! It has been a book, an animated movie, a stage musical, and a modern live action movie. I think one can say that it ranks in the upper echelons on people’s hearts and memories of their childhood. I grew up on Charlotte, both in book and animated form. Each holds a special place for me. 

Maybe not after I write this review? Okay, here does nothing...

I am so familiar with the animated movie that I think I can quote it forwards and backwards and sing all the songs. I was partial to Templeton myself. It was a favourite when we would go and rent videos from Tops Market, back when it was a thing to have video rentals at grocery stores. I also read the novel many times growing up. It wasn’t until years later that the live action movie was made (which I didn’t watch until this review); and later still when I encountered the musical adaptation when I got the chance to direct a full scale musical of Charlotte.

So, how do I feel about the movies?

Honestly…I was surprised by how each one fared. There is something truly amazing about this story. Each version I has held something different with me, yet there was still something marvelous about it. Here’s the thing, most of the time when I compare the original source material to a modern adaptation-in this case novel versus movie-I find all the differences that the author or screenwriter puts into their work. This time I not only saw these differences (from book to movie to musical), but I saw a number of elements, lines, and nuances that are in every single version of Charlotte’s Web. That's amazing that a story can captivate people so well and inspire them to tell a story that continues throughout the years, throughout multiple adaptations. In every version the story is always there, with many of the same lines, go from the book to the movies and are even seen present in the stage musical. 

What I did find fascinating is that with these two movies-at the same length (only a two minute difference in the run times)-the recent live-action movie did more with the original story than the animated movie did. I find it tough to swallow, but the 2006 live action movie, made by Paramount/Walden Media (same as "Bridge to Terabithia") /Nickelodeon is the clear winner.

Now, why would I say that, straight out of the gate in this review? Because sometimes I am wrong with my
predictions of how my reviews go. I usually tout that books are always better (most cases they are), but this time I feel the adaptation, the 2006 version is at least as good as the book. I went in wanting to find fault with the 2006 version featuring Dakota Fanning. See, I grew up watching the Hanna Barbera movie from 1973, with Debbie Reynolds as the singing spider, Charlotte and Paul Lynde as the smart ass, snarky rat, Templeton. I sang the songs, recited the lines, and probably even wished for a pet pig when I was a kid. But there is something magical about E.B. White’s story that keeps that magical child-like innocence, but so does the 2006 movie. I see it as the closest representation to the original story out there.

How so?

First, the novel does not have songs; it’s a story first and foremost. The 1973 version, even though it’s terrifically hard to say, but the songs feel tacked on. They don’t really add to the story, but if you were to take them out, you would still have a compelling story. This is not to say that I don’t absolutely love the theatrical musical version of Charlotte, because I do. The songs featured in the musical are far more designed to tell the story of Charlotte, Wilbur, Fern, and Templeton. You have far more character development in songs like “Eating”, “Whose Says We Can’t Be Friends?”, and “Charlotte’s Spinning Song”. Where the only song or two in the 1973 version that fits “Chin Up” or even "Mother Earth and Father Time", they are the most lovely and I like them. Debbie Reynolds is singing too. The songs were done by the Sherman Brothers who wrote songs for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (much of their careers were when they worked with the Mouse). So, the verdict with the music, not necessary (I will feature a more detail review of the musical in greater detail at a later time).

I never hated the 1973 animated movie, but after some of the following considerations I have altered my view of the animated movie.By adding unnecessary additions to the plot drag down the story from Jeffrey the Gosling, who is supposed to be a side-kick to Wilbur. Maybe it was cuter when I was younger, but looking at it now, it is unnecessary and he was an annoying character with no relevance on the core story. 

Another one is that Wilbur in the 1973 version is a very whiny and kind of a brat, something that the novel doesn’t feature heavily on, nor the 2006 re-make, or even the musical. Wilbur is a character that starts off young and kind of naive, but learns and become greater than himself. It's like any journey story, the character grows and changes as the story progresses. I feel that the 1973 movie is a poor representation of his journey, as he spends more time whining until right at the end. Where it’s forced into the last 10 minutes.

Something else, Wilbur doesn’t not talk until he arrives at the Zuckerman Farm, which isn’t obvious in the novel as it is in the movie. The goose ‘teaches’ Wilbur to speak. It feels not only unrealistic, but forced. In the musical,Wilbur talks from the get go, as he does the 2006 movie, even though you don’t hear him until after he arrives at Zuckerman’s. There really isn’t a need for Wilbur to talk until then, and then I prefer it to be that he just starts talking normally, as if he always knew how to talk. He didn’t really have anyone outside of Fern to talk to, so it does make some degree of sense.

There are a couple of items that were omitted in the 1973 movie that are most crucial to the story. First, Wilbur’s attempt to escape the farm is not even mentioned. Wilbur makes a break for it and breaks out of his pen. Yet, when presented with freedom, he chooses the farm and food over the freedom of life outside the farm.  It’s a critical moment in the book, and it’s not even acknowledged in the animated movie.   There is also the scene in the barn with the rope swing, prior to the rotten egg stink bomb. It not the most important of scene, but there is something about seeing Fern swinging on the rope just prior to Avery trying to get Charlotte for his collection. It really a short scene, but it gives you a feel of youth on the farm and lazy summer days playing. Also, there is the exclusion of the Gander. You never see the Gander in the animated movie.  

The 2006 re-make includes all of these and it enriches the story for the better. I feel that each of these items weakens the story when not included. There are a number a points that strengthens characters that without these points lessens the story as a whole.

The 2006 movie is not without its flaws either. They made Fern a bit too aggressive in saving Wilbur’s life. She all but takes Wilbur from her father, when originally he acquiesces and give Wilbur to her to teach her a lesson about farm life. It’s not so much that I can’t believe someone wouldn’t do that, but Fern is supposed to be eight years old and naturally it feel weird to have her act so mature. Maybe it's a Dakota fanning thing? There is also a whole scene where Fern takes Wilbur to school and keeps him in her desk. It feels like fluff. It contributes nothing except a bit of cheap humour. And with the addition of a couple of crows that torment Templeton throughout the move, it doesn’t add to the story. Overall, these are not enough to hate the movie, but acts as distractions. So the 2006 movie stands pretty strong on its own, regardless of these details.

What was good in each of these versions? Well, the dialogue in much of the story is word for word from Novel to Movie. Granted the movies have much more dialogue-as a movie hedged more on dialogue than a novel. But many of my favourite lines are in each, if not every version, "I only distribute pigs to early risers. Fern was trying to rid the world of injustice," or "You lack a sets of Spinnerets and you lack know how."  The story in itself is timeless, even if you were born far removed from the time that the story is set in, you can still relate to the characters. That is probably the biggest reason why I still go back to the story of Charlotte’s Web.

I feel compelled to note that after this review, I may have a harder time watching the 1973 movie, because it is the lesser story. Heck, even the musical’s story is much stronger character development. It feels as though the story doesn’t need music to be told, which makes the novel and the 2006 movie the clear winners here. But, I am not excluding the musical here, after all, the way it’s told and the songs are truer and stronger to the character’s personalities.

Time to rate: 1973 Animated Hanna Barbera Movie - 7 out of 10 it's more fluff than anything; 2006 Live Action Movie - 8.5 out of 10, truer to the story, greater character development; 1952 Novel - 9.5 out of 10, the first and will always have a special pace in my heart, ; and Musical - 9.5 out of 10, my first time directorial debut and I had the best cast ever.

I had a blast traveling down memory lane with these stories, some of which are deep rooted in my history. I hope you have enjoyed traveling the yellow brick roads and the roads to the Zuckerman’s Farm. I am always looking for Book to Movie Adaptations for future review, but after this month I plan to make October my Adaptation Month. You can leave me a comment in the box below with a suggestion and maybe some love.

Photos from Lake Country Players, and Google Search

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Wizard of Oz: Book vs. Movie

 I don’t think that I can adequately put into word my love for Oz and all things Oz related, but I am going to try.

I grew up watching the movie, singing the songs, and wishing I could go and visit the land of Oz (thought I was gonna say "Over the Rainbow", right?). Truthfully, I never read the novel until I was in high school. For the most part I hardly paid attention to L. Frank Baum and his work's. I enjoyed the sequel that was made in 1985, starring the little misfit herself, Fairuza Balk. Again, I seem relatively unaware that any other Oz stories existed, until sometime while I living in Dallas. I found the original 14 books (over a course of time at Half Priced Books, a dangerous placed for any Bibliophile). I bought them.I read them.

Then everything changed.

I re-read “The Wizard of Oz” and that was when I fell in love. Each book that I read made me more in love with Oz and Baum’s work. It was magical. A serious love affair began.

I grew up on the movie and can hardly find a way to hate the movie and its attempts to bring to life a world created by a dreamer. That is what L. Frank Baum is, a dreamer, but a wonderful dreamer. An actor, writer, storyteller. This man made world come to life for countless children both during his life and after. There is a delightful bio-pic about Baum that is included on the 70th anniversary “The Wizard of Oz” DVD, featuring John Ritter as the father of Oz. To anyone that loves Oz, you should check it out. It's called "The Dreamer of Oz".

There are a number of differences between the novel and the movie that I would like to point out. The major one being the witch’s shoes. This is probably the biggest and most obvious to anyone who read the book at all. In fact the cover of the Del-Rey version even has Dorothy wearing the silver slippers. Also, anyone who has watched the movie is all too familiar with the now uber famous ruby slippers. But the Baum originally had the Wicked Witch of the East wear a set of silver, not red slippers. It a slight change and honestly not one that ultimately makes a difference to the story. I think that when they made the movie, Technicolour was such a new thing that some one wanted the shoes to make an impression. 

Impression made!

The second major difference between the novel and the movie is that book acknowledges that Dorothy really was in Oz and that time had passed since she disappeared into Oz during the cyclone and her return to Kansas. While the movie makes the whole journey a figment of Dorothy’s imagination brought on by a bump on the head. It seems rather silly to just make the whole adventure just a dream when the original intent was to make Oz a true place. I understand the movie, but something inside me gets that warm happy feeling when you know that the Wizard, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and Cowardly Lion are real, and not just a version’s of the farmhands that work of the Gale farm or a traveling fortune teller. It leaves me feeling a bit odd about the movie, almost a disconnection from the story. 

But, moving on...

Other changes from book to movie range from Glinda-who was originally the Good Witch of the South-into the Witch of the North. Or omitting that each country in the Lad of Oz has a specific colour attributed to them, heck it’s barely hinted that there are separate countries in Oz at all. Note: there are four countries that surround the capital city of Oz: Munchkins (Blue, East), Quadlings (Red, South), Winkies (Yellow, West), and Gillikin (Purple, North). Much of the other Oz books feature characters and adventures that occur in these other lands, some of which do include Dorothy.

And what a set of stories indeed, there is even a fair amount continuity through all fourteen novels, except for a kitten that changes colour from one book to the next. That the  only major break in continuity that I can readily recall.

Yet, I can hardly turn my back on a classic movie. I don’t feel that movie movie is a terrible representation of"The Wizard of Oz." Or, the musical adaptation. There's The Muppets movie version too. and the countless animated versions.  Each version bring something of the original, while creating a new spin on the original story.Some are entertaining, while some are quite absurd.
Baum's work. There are a number of variations of the Oz story and each brings a feeling a youth and wonderment. There is a TERRIBLE silent vaudevillian movie from 1924. There are other movie made in and around the 1910's and 1920's, this was the first one I happened to watch. If you are curious, I can watch it here: "The Wizard of Oz."

I find myself siding with both versions for equally good reasons and neither fails at its job of telling a story to the enjoyment of all. Whereas, before I would find the changes unnecessary, annoying, and maybe aimed to a certain demographic. I feel less so about Oz the novel versus Oz the movie. There is much more detail to the novel, and there were parts that were cut out, but not to the detriment of the story.

Oh, I find the logistical changes to be annoying and unnecessary, as a completist, but there’s still a story there. A good story. So, what if Glinda lives in the North, instead of the South. Is the shoe colour really that important to its power? There are other questions that arise such as where is the Queen of the Field Mice? Yes, there is a whole chapter about the field mice pulling a cart with a sleeping Cowardly Lion out of the Poppy Field. That’s the good part, but bad part includes the chopping off of a Wildcat’s head at the chapters beginning. That is probably why it didn’t make it to the movie. Or, how Dorothy and company must wear the green glasses so they are not blinded by the brightness of the Emerald City. I wonder why some things were left out (I am sure the Wildcat losing its head is an obvious choice for the cutting room floor as to why it was not put into the movie).

The Muppet’s Wizard of Oz in fact used some of the original details, having Glinda reside in the South, wearing a more staple witch outfit (as the book explains), and having the munchkins wear blue (because it's the colour of Munchkin Land. I do recommend watching it. It’s an interesting and cute adaptation.

How do I rate this, well, the movie will probably always get an 8 out of 10 in my eyes. My reasoning is simple, as good as the story is ultimately is in visual form, I cannot get past the changes made to the ending, or Glinda's re-location. I could probably forgive their moving Glinda's location or the change in shoe colour, but I it doesn't feel right. When they were small enough changes that changing them wouldn't hurt keeping them in as is. Judy Garland was a fabulous Dorothy and I absolutely love the farmhand trio, their singing, dancing, and acting skills truly made the movie a classic. The songs still hold up after all this time, and even after stage crewing the stage production back in 2007 (with the raising and the lowering of the damned bubble and countless set pieces), I still love Glinda and the Bubble. Awesome means of travel!

As for the novel, it might not be Shakespeare, but there is something truly endearing in Baum’s writing. Simple and effective. Not grand, or eloquent, but to the point. I like that in a writer. Flowery language is great, but not if you lose something in the telling. I story has to make sense, to flow. Baum succeeds in every way imaginable. And for someone who was a born dreamer, writer, actor, Oz couldn’t have happened to a better person. 

For a book first printed in 1900, I think it has stood the test of time, one of the few books that has and continues to be a classic. For a man who started with a pressing print and his own newspaper as a child, to becoming a traveling salesman, store owner, then a writer and actor; Baum certain made his mark on the world.

Further reading on Baum: "The Real Wizard of Oz: the Life and Times of L. Frank Baum" by Rebecca Loncraine.

Pictures from Google Search 

Next Week: Charlotte's Web

Sunday, October 20, 2013

This is Halloween, this is Halloween....Halloween, Halloween, HALLOWEEN!!!

It's that time again for ghoulies and ghosties! So, while I am working on the third installment of my Book vs. Movie Adaptation Review: Oz Edition (up later in the week). I bring you some Halloween memories from the vault (the 80's vault).

Plastic Halloween Costumes:

If you were child of the 80's and the 70's, the plastic costume were a staple of many children's Halloween. I knew that I begged and begged for the Starlite costume one year (being really into Rainbow Bright in 1st grade. I managed to rip the butt of the costume before I got to take it to school for the Halloween parade . Thankfully my Dad had white duct tape to "fix" it. I was so happy to be marching around the school's grounds in a white suit that had a giant picture of Starlite across the chest and my plastic horse mask with eye holes that were probably too small to see out of. It didn't matter, because I was Starlite the Horse. The characters featured as plastic suits ranged from cartoon characters to television characters as the primary foci


Trick-or-Treat bags from school:

There was something exciting about getting my plastic trick-or-treat bag that the school would hand out prior to the big day and often included reflective tape and safety tips.

 School Halloween Parties:

Back in the day when it was okay to bring in treat around Halloween for the school's Halloween festivities. This included some kid's mother coming in to drop off boxes of cupcakes or container of cider. There was also candy corn, apples, and popcorn. Halloween at school often meant that your regular activities were suspended or reduced for the tricks and treats.

Halloween Safety videos(?):
Just watch Halloween Safety part 1 and part 2

Halloween Specials:

You know you got excited when the "Great Pumpkin" special came on!  Or Garfield!
Halloween was one of those magic times that still makes me feel like a kid even after all these years. I can get awfully giddy when the Great Pumpkin comes on, or seeing pumpkin patches, Halloween decorations, Halloween parties, and watching spooky movies.

Go dress up in your plastic suit, grab your sack, and go get yer candy!!

Happy Halloween to all and to all a Blessed Samhain!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bridge to Terabithia: Book vs. Movie

I wanted to hate this movie. I was really ready to note every flaw, every incorrect detail that the screenwriter wrote (son of the actually author), but I couldn’t. Seriously, I couldn’t. I cannot hate this movie. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to.

It’s a good enough adaptation to strand with or without the novel. The greatest crime is that it is way more Disneified than the novel.

Honestly, what did I expect from a Disney movie? Probably what I hate most about Disney and their movies. The saccharine sweet story plot? The not really defined characters? Or maybe, the addition of additional material unrelated? It’s true that all three thoughts ran through my head. Truth time, I couldn’t see anything but a relatively good kid’s movie, with a pretty awesome story and even good lesson attached to it.

Oh, there are things that I really hate, such as the attempt to pull the story into the 2000’s, when the original story is set in the 1970’s. I find that many film adaptations have forced modernization of the story, Terabithia is not a stranger to this. The biggest case of this is when the teacher tells the class that the use of electronic devises will not be tolerated. It could have been dropped and none would have noticed.

But as a whole, the movie is really very similar to the book. There are the standard items that got altered and things were added. Something that occurred to me during the writing of this blog is that a novel (in the general sense) does well with,  more often descriptions and scene setting; where movies tend to rely on action to move the plot, although dialogue is equally as important.

After re-reading the novel, I discovered that much of the story that was changed for the movie was changed
because it wouldn’t work in the style of a motion picture. The opening scene of Jess waking up to run in the morning in the book as a lot of subtext and internal monologue that doesn’t always lend well to a movie, while in the movie it’s more of a non-dialogue montage of Jess’s morning ritual. Both versions are valid, I may prefer the novel, but at least with this movie I can understand the motive behind the scene.

What I love about the book is the raw gritty feeling of the characters. They feel like real people, and as the author based the lead characters on her son and his friend, you can imagine Jess and Leslie as real people, even the bullies in Lark Creek are real Janice Avery and Gary Fulcher. It’s that realism that draws me into the world of Lark Creek and Terabithia. it makes me feel like I am actually there.

Terabithia in the movie is needs to be obvious, as it is through their imaginations are what fuel their reactions to their own worlds. It’s basically their defense mechanism to how they deal with their world filled with Janice Averys, Gary Fulchers, and Mrs. Myers. How often have we as children had an imaginary friend and make believe land that allowed us to be free, to sort through our problems? I know I did. Stylistically, Terabithia mirrored Lark Creek in the same way. That made me closer to the characters, in a greater way than the book had. Not a bad representation.

Not to say that Disney and David Paterson got it all right. There was the change in the dynamic between Leslie and her parents. She much more connected to Judy and Bill (as she calls them) in the book (and it’s Bill who is fixing up the house with the help of Leslie), where the movie forces the family to suddenly be close during the Golden Room painting. It feels much too Disney and a bit distracting. It’s like putting that scene into the Disney machine and cranking the crank and out pops a saccharine scene of familial bonding.

Or making the father work at the hardware store, instead of driving all the way to Washington for work. It feels less right. Maybe I am too accustomed to the original story, but when we see the struggle of his father leaving early everyday and returning late at night, it packs more of a punch that they are struggling.

I do love that the Twinkie scene with May Belle (Jess’s little 6 year old sister) and is mostly word for word, action for action. That makes me happy. It a crucial scene, when Janice Avery is about to get her comeuppance. Or when Leslie asks to go to church and May Belle says, “Don’t God damn you to hell if you don’t believe in the Bible?” The actress playing May Belle says it with such conviction; it gives me a warm feeling of damnation. It plays nearly the same it either version and it’s just a really touching moment in both versions.

Even with the death of Leslie (crying as I typed this), you can tell that both the book and the movie were a labour of love, handled with care, and treated with the right amount of respect that a Queen of Terabithia should be treated with. It is truly an awesome scene to read and watch, both are poignant in their own ways. The book simply because the words just feel right, and the movie, because not everyone can treat death in a movie with that kind of respect.

And, honestly, the acting is really pretty good too I can believe, even if they age some of the character a bit more. Robert Patrick (T-1000 from T-2: Judgment Day) play a great father and AnnaSophia Robb really makes Leslie stand out, although her Leslie at times feels a little more obsessed with Terabithia than the book Leslie. Zooey DeChanel is the perfect fit for Miss Edmunds, the hippie music teacher and it utilizes her guitar and singing skills perfectly.

But over all a very pleasant adaptation.

Which would I honestly prefer? I am not sure I can pin it down, as both are equally good. I will always like the novel just a tad bit more (it’s the literary geek in me). I recommend anyone to read it, it is a beautiful read. For the movie, I’ll give it a 8 out of 10.

Up next: "The Wizard of Oz"

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sonnet tribute to Gonzo the Great

It’s All in the Matter…(or Gonzo the Great)
from Muppet Wiki

It’s all in the matter of perspective--
A different point of view that you own
Of cannonballs and cream, is your missive
Or famous overtures of anvils flown.

You are not one to fit in precisely
No matter what you endevour to do.
The one you love with simple passion, she
Only deflects your courtly attempts true.

Now you nevertheless try to be bold,
To go the distance using your cannon.
With the love of the fairest fowl told,
To make your aspirations of fame run.

Know this, that after all is truly done,
You are uniquely the one that has won.

10/14/2013 6:01 pm

thanks to Muppet Wiki for the lovely picture of everyone's favourite weirdo!

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Wrinkle in Time: Book vs. Movie

I wanted to like this movie. I really did. After all, “A Wrinkle in Time” is one of favourite young adult fiction/science fiction-fantasy novels ever. I first read it in 8th (or 7th) grade in English. It was one of those books that gave me a warm feeling of happy when I read it, even years later it still holds up.

The movie, not so much! It’s not for lack of trying either. I tried to be forgiving. I tried to see it from all angles. I even tried to see the movie as a story for folks who may not have read the book before (a harder task indeed). But, the movie did so much wrong, even when they got things right. It doesn’t help when the CGI and green screening is pretty terrible.

I could go on and on about Madeleine L’Engle’s books, but I will say this, the woman knew how to tell a story (several in fact). A writer of Christian faith, as was C.S. Lewis, she found a way to use her beliefs and yet not ostracize readers of different faiths. I hardly knew that back in 8th grade. After reading the Time Quintet (as they are called) year later I see how she connected faith, art, fantasy, epic battles of good and evil all together into an amazing set of stories. If you get a chance to read any of the Time Quintet series, I highly recommended them: “A Wrinkle in Time”, “A Wind in the Door”, “A Swiftly Tilting Planet”, “Many Waters”, and “An Acceptable Time”. The best part is how she connects all of her books through her characters, even after the Time Quintet is over.

I think the appeal of L’Engle books are because her characters are real. People can relate, sympathize, and even empathize with Meg, or Calvin, or even Charles Wallace. I know was quite the awkward kid growing up being tall, or feeling very inadequate around my classmates, maybe coming from a poorer family, or only child, and also being terribly shy.

Okay, back to the review! Like I said, I wanted to like this movie. I had see it sometime earlier (alas, I cannot remember when) back when I hadn’t read the book in a while. I remember not hating it then, but totally liking it either. It was a Disney movie after all (not even accurate statement, as Disney just distributed the movie). It was made in Canada by a Canadian production company in 2003. After re-watching it, it feels much like a Disney movie. See, there is a formula to many of the Disney movies that are made now-a-days and often this formula is used by others to get the “Disney Effect” for a movie.

"Take a object or person; put them in the Disney machine,
turn the Crankendy Crank, and out pops a Disnefied object or person." (my own words)

This is what happened with this version “A Wrinkle in Time”, it has become a Disnefied version of the original story.

What is it that makes this movie so terrible?

Is it the plot? Oh, yes, there is a plot! But, no, it’s not the plot.

What I find bothersome about “Wrinkle” the movie, is a number of things; things that any storyteller or avid reader would agree with me on. There is weak character development. It truly bothers me when characters are not given a personality and there is no development. It’s even worst when I am watching an adaptation and I know there is a character there, but the movie doesn’t convey it. The biggest example of this crime is poor Calvin O’Keefe; he just sort of rides into the scene and sticks around throughout the story. You do not feel vested in him as a person, and the ONE time they try to give him back story, it’s pushed off as barely important, when in fact it is. It’s really kind of sloppy writing if you think about it. Calvin is the popular kid at school. Smart and athletic, but he comes from a horrible family; one of several siblings and a mother that hardly care of his well being. The book shows how Calvin, despite his near perfect exterior, is just as fragile as Meg. The movie Calvin I hardly care for, yet the book Calvin, I can feel for, even empathize with. He is just a pretty face in the movie.

It’s not just Calvin, but Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Aunt Beast are not fully developed, in some cases they are barely touched upon. Aunt Beast is hardly mentioned, and her name only brought up by Calvin in conversation. You get a whole scene within the novel with Meg and Aunt Beast because Meg was frozen by the Black Thing (IT); in fact Meg even gives Aunt Beast her name. Even more irritating is Ixchel, the planet where Aunt Beast lives is barely explained and even falsely represented. That is actually a greater crime than poor character development, when a movie falsely represents something. Ixchel is a planet within the same solar system as Camazotz (where Meg’s father is a prisoner) that they escaped to from Camazotz. This is not mentioned at all, there is no conversation between Meg and Aunt Beast about the Black Thing and the battle that Ixchel fights everyday, and the failure of Camazotz in the said battle. Even the representation of Ixchel in the movie is wrong; it’s a world of grays and brown, but beautiful scents and birdsong, not a frozen icy world. It may look pretty and flashy, but it’s wrong. I know, those who haven’t read the book, wouldn’t know, but it feel terribly wrong when you don’t at least have the moment between Meg and Aunt Beast.

You are introduced to Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which much later on the planet Uriel, while in the book each of the ladies are already on earth. Mrs. Who even interacts with the world by stealing bed sheet, while the movie just has them showing up on Uriel. Mrs. Which is not even represented properly. She is the oldest of the three and barely keeps corporeal form, but she is also the wisest of the three. Yet the movie makes her the prettiest and she actually insults Meg outright. I cannot understand why this change occurs outside of the reason that maybe the actress prefer to portray Mrs. Which in that way. The ladies are supposed to me non-corporeal energy beings, like angels. It makes the whole interplay between Meg and the ladies different, not as strong.

Something else that really bothers me about “Wrinkle”, it feels too long. With a run time of 128 minutes in far surpasses the 90 minute children’s movie span. Bet you didn’t know that this version was originally made to be a 2 part mini-series, which I think is the reason for the extra long exposition and the longer running time. It still feels like they were trying to cram extra character development and background information into the opening. Meg Murry is one of the few character that is developed, but much of her development is geared toward awkward emo teens. While Meg is clearly the awkward protagonist, they tried far too hard to make her a mopey emo teenager. Meg’s problems are very real, and part of the story, it just feels that the screenwriters tried too hard to show Meg as the struggling awkward genius and it just comes off and lazy and moody.

Also, the ancillary characters in “Wrinkle” are supposed to be far harsher than the movie portrays, whereas the movie sugar coats much of the real tension between Meg and her teachers, class mates, and family. These are things that define Meg as a character and when you make the character and her world less than what was originally written, you give less value to the story as a whole. Meg is a troubled character. She NEEDS to grow, find her faults, deal with her feelings, and become the person she is supposed to be, but she is also a character with emotion and that emotion is just as important and shouldn’t be skimped on.

I love the story of “Wrinkle” because it feels real. The characters feel real. You see and feel what Meg is feeling, you know how she distrusts Calvin at first and then starts open up to him without a forced attempted at a relationship. Never mind that in future books Calvin and Meg do get together. The forced relationship just makes Meg and Calvin’s relationship in the movie less valid. You need to see where they are and where they go, because hands down it’s a journey story.

What draws me to “Wrinkle” is the truth deeply embedded in the story. It’s a story of everyone’s journey to find themselves. And anything I have ever enjoyed has been on a journey, from seeing new places to discovering new things about the world and myself.

Alfre Woodard is on the left
As movie, “Wrinkle” falls so very flat; not just in the delivery, but in the purpose. While the acting is not terrible, it not stellar, there was so much that could have been done. I give Alfre Woodard, who played Mrs. Whatsit, she did a good job with the role. It was one of the better representation, she made Mrs. Whatsit real. The others were not given enough to work with, and what’s worst what they were given was incomplete or wrong. As an adaptation, it doesn’t work. Too much was changed and reworked to it's detriment. As a movie, it’s just barely watchable; even if you never read the book, I think you would. It has far too much exposition and tells you far too much, while not showing enough. It may be okay for a kid’s movie, but only if you don’t care to think too deeply.

Time to rate this puppy; I give it a 4 out of 10. Why? It was relatively true to the books, in some facets. There was some character development, but not enough for me to care about the characters. It would probably do well if someone riffed it, otherwise I will stick with the book.

Next week, I tackle “Bridge to Terabithia”.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October is Book vs. Movie Adaptations

I am excited to try my first ever themed month.

So, while Whorehouse goes into it's second weekend of performances; I am also tying to figure out what I am going to doing writing wise until November/NaNoWriMo. I did okay on Toasted Cheese's Mini NaNo. What with Whorehouse rehearsals, I fell short towards by he end. I did come out with some interesting  ideas.

How did I come up with Book vs. Movie Adaptations?

I am an avid readier and over the past year I have found pleasure in comparing books to their movie counterpart. I am a follower of the reviewers on That Guy with the Glasses and other similar reviewers; I tried my hand at reviewing with, "Eragon" (it's my highest viewed blog to date) and then with, "The Dark is Rising". Then there was this idea bouncing around my head. What about reviews of young adult fiction novels that has been turned into movies. There are a large number of books that have been made into movies over the years. Heck, I even have some of these movies! Why not, then?

It's a passion and part of doing something you love is because there is passion there. One must point out that it has also helped my attention to detail when viewing movies, television shows, and even books.

When picking out a specific theme, I didn't really have trouble. I kind of already knew that I would go back to young adult fiction. There are so many novels, stories, and prose that elucidates amazing stories, often stories that I have to return to time and time again.

There where so I start?

Probably, the easiest place, is to start with a standard (in my opinion) with the late and amazingly great
Madeleine L'Engle's, "Wrinkle in Time". Yes, there is a movie of this book. I actually liked in too. But now is not the time for a review (that'll happen over the weekend). Disney produced and filmed a movie adaptation that I will compare to the beloved novel (I will probably get angry, but that's okay. It's kind of my job).

And to make you come back for more, I am not going to ruin the surprise of the other three reviews I will be doing this month. You shall have to come back if you want to know (evil grin).  But, I am always interested to hear what books people are interested in, Dear Reader. I would to hear suggestions for future reviews, especially if there is a movie/television adaptation of it. Leave me a comment below.