It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the movie is never as good as the book that inspired it.
Okay, so we know that’s not always the case, but it happens often enough that it can seem like incontrovertible fact. Which is why watching the movie version of a book you love is such a risky proposition. When it works, it's magic. But too often it just goes horribly wrong. Like 2007’s abysmal attempt at Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. Sooo disappointing.
This subject has been on my mind for the past few weeks, ever since I read the book version of Practical Magic for the first time. Now, this is a movie that I’ve loved for years, and I always assumed that I’d at least like the book. Surprisingly, however, I didn’t. For a lot of reasons, not least of all because it was nothing like the movie. In fact, the two are so different that I’m still trying to figure out how the one led to the other.
Seriously. It was almost as jarring as trying to reconcile Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame with Victor Hugo's novel. I remember watching it with my kids for the first time wondering, "how in the world are they going to work this one out?" To be honest, I'm still not sure how I feel about it.
Interestingly, right before I read Practical Magic, I also read its recently released prequel—The Rules of Magic—which I enjoyed a lot more. But, then again, I think that's because it struck me as being more true to the movie than the original book. Go figure.
And it's not just because the movie isn't like the book that I feel this way. I can think of several cases where I liked both the book and the movie even though they were very different from one another —Field of Dreams (based on the novel Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella) and Under the Tuscan Sun (based on Frances Mayes book of the same title) are two that come to mind.
But up until now, my most notable movie > book moment was 1984’s The Natural starring Robert Redford. The movie was charming. The book...not so much. It was dark and dismal and its characters were far more flawed than they were portrayed in the movie. I can't remember now whether anyone in the book ever got a happily ever after, but I'm pretty sure they didn't deserve one.
So, what about you? What book/movie combos have left you disappointed?