Failed Movie Adaptations: Now With 100% Less Bonfire of the Vanities!
The AV Club compiled a list of great novels turned into lousy movies and for the most part there are few surprises – Newsflash, Bonfire of the Vanities makes everyone’s list; referencing its spectacular fail has become its own trope. Nevertheless, I agree with their assessment of the film and I’ve given my reasons why before so I won’t go into again.
In addition most of these lists sound like echo chambers. Really Tropic of Cancer was bad? I am shocked by this development. Are you trying to tell me a soft core treatment of a novel by Henry Miller, which moves the novel’s events to the 60s and stars Rip Torn is bad? Wow, that’s quite a grasp of the obvious. That said, I’m not completely sure I trust your analysis, so please indulge me as I read a dozen lists – picked randomly by google – telling me the exact same thing. Folks, there is a great untapped pool of awful film adaptations. Why keep analyzing same 20 or 30 films we’ve all come to agree are TERRIBLE? Let’s have some new terrible experiences!
Breakfast of Champions
Bruce Willis, Albert Finney, Barbara Hershey, Glenne Headly, Omar Epps, Nick Nolte
written & directed by: Alan Rudolph
- Bruce Willis – a lightning rod for negative acting criticism – is not the problem here. In fact, he’s actually the most enjoyable aspect of the film, which otherwise is nothing but awful. Hands down winner of “the main thing wrong this movie” award goes to Nick Nolte who is just dreadful as Dwayne Hoover’s (Willis) cross-dressing, close talking, wildly problematically depicted sales manager Harry Le Sabre. Willis, saddled with yet another insulting hairpiece – was Carpet World having a sale – attempts to keep the film on course with his rather restrained performance as Hoover, a car dealership owner who is slowly descending into madness. Keeping Hoover company is an unlikely person – namely his dead wife Celia – who the filmmaker saw fit to resurrect so the plot could be more efficiently derailed by her suicidal behavior. Barbara Hershey is ten kinds of stinky and about eight kinds of tedious in a role best left in the grave. Meanwhile, Omar Epps – not usually given to terrible performances – does so here, but I can only assume it this is because he was not given a script and isn’t a strong improviser. Otherwise what could account for his inability to make any goddamn sense.
You know a beloved classic is being butchered when upon seeing Vonnegut’s cameo the audience is not inclined to celebrate the event, but rather someone stands up in a crowded theater and says, “Someone arrest this man for these terrible crimes against his own work.” And by somebody, I mean me.
Drive Me Crazy
Melissa Joan Hart, Adrian Greenier, Ali Larter
- Todd Strasser – a prolific and extremely talented YA novelist – created a witty series called “Time Zone High” chronicling the lives of a group of teens from Timothy Zonin High in several novels: How I Spent My Last Night on Earth and the horribly adapted How I Created the Perfect Prom Date. Strasser’s body of work is not limited to these novels, but also includes the truly sublime pair of novels – Workin’ for Peanuts and A Very Touchy Subject which tackle the challenges of growing up male the way Blume does for gals. All this chow chow is to make you aware that prior to its WB-like transformation, Drive Me Crazy had been a wonderfully witty teen book known by a much better title. Everything wrong with this adaptation can be traced to its depiction of female characters. Female characters, who are generally featured in complex and actualized ways in Strasser’s prose are rendered flat, shrill and vapid on the screen. The character played by a pre-Heroes Ali Larter somehow has transformed from a thoughtful and intriguing juxtaposition to Melissa Joan Hart’s character, to a mean spirited, stock high school “slut” throwback last seen in films like Joysticks.
The Door in the Floor
Jeff Bridges, Kim Bassinger, Jon Foster
- To be fair, I do not like this film because of the retitled trickery which found me spending an afternoon settling down to watch what I thought was some kind of lightly traumatic film of the Unbearable Whiteness of Being genre. I must have been cycling laundry through and missed the part in the credits where it said:
Based on the John Irving novel A Widow For One Year
Because believe you me, had I known that I would have bypassed this film and watched The Ice Storm (wonderful adaptation of Rick Moody’s novel) instead, as it’s exponentially less disturbing than this sneaky ass, tawdry adaption of Irving’s novel. Technically, it’s based on the first third of this door stopper – my least favorite Irving novel – which by far to me is the most boring, though perfectly appropriate if one wishes to mine its riches for material to offend, disturb and traumatize its unsuspecting audience. Watching the trailer only makes me more insulted as it presents a disingenuous representation of film and has the cheek to reveal the MONEYSHOT/SPOILER too. Nobody’s stinks in this film and it looks real pretty, but in terms of being a good adaptation of a challenging, yet great novel, it’s utterly a disappointment. Yeah, that bait-and-switch trailer is all kinds of chicken fried fail.