Read the Book! 26 Disappointing Movie Adaptations
The Great Gatsby (1974)
Look at the talent involved: Robert Redford and Mia Farrow as the leads, a script by Francis Ford Coppola, and clothes by Ralph Lauren. So why was this adaptation of the flapper-era classic, which premiered March 29, 1974, a bust? Lifeless performances, a staggering lack of chemistry, and a tin ear for F. Scott Fitzgerald's take on the idle rich. Gatsby is like a very expensive (and very, very shallow) game of dress-up. Zzzzz.
Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic can be as dry as Arrakis, but as a whole, the novel is as addictive as the spice. David Lynch's bloated, New Agey mess, on the other hand, features soporific acting, laughably self-serious dialogue, and Sting in a thong: A bad acid trip that just refuses to end.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
John Berendt's spellbinding 1994 book — a seductive blend of nonfiction and a certain something extra — brings Savannah alive as a Southern gothic hothouse of fabulous characters. But when director Clint Eastwood got his hands on it, he messed with the story, watered down the idiosyncrasies, and killed everything lush in the Garden.
The Golden Compass (2007)
Something about an alethiometer and daemon animal companions didn't quite fly on screen, grossing only $70.1 million domestically. Fans of the Philip Pullman novel were rightly disappointed in Chris Weitz's adaptation, which cropped an essential, plot-twisting ending concerning orphan Lyra's best friend and diluted its more sinister, religion-defying Magisterium elements into family-friendly pop soda. The iron-clad bear warriors still shocked and awed us though.
The Da Vince Code (2007)
Again, this one should have been a no-brainer. Oscar-winning director Ron Howard followed his critically acclaimed Cinderella Man with this soggy adaptation of Dan Brown's huge historical-novel best-seller. Unfortunately, costars Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou had absolutely zero chemistry — did they even make eye contact? — while Paul Bettany's chain-whipping Silas scared the bejeezus out of us.
Fever Pitch (2005)
We loved High Fidelity and About a Boy, so what the hell happened with Fever Pitch? Maybe Jimmy Fallon was the problem. Or the lack of good ol' dry English humor. Either way, Nick Hornby's third book-to-film adaptation, which features Drew Barrymore fighting the Red Sox for her fanatical boyfriend's attention, struck out.
Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
It had all of the elements of a classic: best-selling novel pedigree, a beautiful cast, and an Oscar-winning director attached to film it. Too bad Rob Marshall's version was lost in translation. Even with Asia's elite — Ziyi Zhang, Li Gong, and Ken Watanabe — in starring roles, their jilted English and the Hollywoodization of the Japanese rags-to-riches story didn't ring authentic.
A Sound of Thunder (2005)
It could have been a second Jurassic Park. Instead the sci-fi flick, based on a Ray Bradbury short story about a store called Time Safari that transports people back in time and allows them to hunt prehistoric animals suffered from cheap special effects and a kitschy tagline of ''Evolve or die.''
This dumbed-down version of Homer's Iliad was more an homage to Brad Pitt's bronzed pecs as Greek warrior Achilles than to the great Trojan War. In another risible accomplishment, the characters — Diane Kruger as Helen of Troy, and Orlando Bloom as Paris — age nary a white hair in the 10-year duration of the film's plot.—Youyoung Lee
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)
The rabid fan base of the first Bridget Jones flick turned to Helen Fielding's sequel eager to spend more time with the goofy, everyday woman heroine. The film adaptation was inevitable; the limited laughs and incessant fat jokes were not.
Vanity Fair (2004)
Mira Nair's glittering adaptation of the William Makepeace Thackeray novel sure looked pretty, but that's about all it had to offer. Even sweeping, panoramic views of Georgian-era English countryside couldn't save this film from falling from grace, or boost Reese Witherspoon's sadly personality-deflated heroine, Becky Sharp.
The Human Stain (2003)
Adapting a Philip Roth novel for the big screen requires a Herculean effort, and this intellectual thriller definitely lacked power. Anthony Hopkins's college professor and Nicole Kidman's janitor with a haunted past experience much of their action through flashbacks, which reads far better than it looks.
The Cat in the Hat (2003) / How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
The Dr. Seuss children books are the kind that every child should have, tucked away on the nightstand. But an obnoxious Mike Myers and over-the-top Jim Carrey caked in makeup, mimicking the creatures? Exactly the kind of things that keep kids awake and scared of the dark.
The Rules of Attraction (2002)
The Bret Easton Ellis novel read like fun musings of college life; the Roger Avery-directed flick was more like a nightmare of terrible human behavior. The B-list cast — James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Jessica Biel (pre-The Illusionist) — likely jumped at the opportunity for edgier fare than their usual CW-friendly roles. Instead, Attraction had them repeatedly jumping into bed with each other, with neither rhyme nor reason.
Planet of the Apes (2001)
Tim Burton seriously misfired with this adaptation of the Pierre Boulle novel, which has Mark Wahlberg battling totally fake-looking chimps (including Tim Roth). Stick to the superior 1968 version, starring Charlton Heston.
Prozac Nation (2001)
Elizabeth Wurtzel made waves with her autobiographical tale of sex, drugs, and depression while she was still a student at Harvard. Sadly, the intelligence of her writing didn't come across in Christina Ricci's performance, which played more like a spoiled, entitled college kid complaining about all things postmodern.
The Musketeer (2001)
The great 19th-century French novelist Alexandre Dumas must have rolled over in his grave when this modernized version, starring Catherine Deneuve, Mena Suvari, and Tim Roth, slashed onto the big screen. Why? Director Peter Hyams swapped typical sword-fighting action for more avant-garde Hong Kong martial-arts sequences, which just proved that you shouldn't mix and match.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Few might be aware that Stanley Kubrick based this film on the Arthur Schnitzler novella Dream Story, set in early 20th-century Vienna — not modern-day New York — where the masquerade balls, swinger parties, and sleepy ominous tones make so much more sense. Instead, we're exposed to what seems like a masturbatory exercise in coupledom, with a then-married Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise baring more than just feelings.
Bicentennial Man (1999)
There are many things that Robin Williams can do well. But thoughtfully convey the mental and physical transformation of a robot who — thanks to technological advances — becomes virtually indistinguishable from a human being? Not so much, especially under the direction of Christopher ''Home Alone'' Columbus. Thankfully, the late Isaac Asimov can take solace in the fact that his original novella will, for at least another 200 years, remain unmolested by Patch Adams.
Simon Birch (1998)
Consider this: Author John Irving was so dismayed by director Mark Steven Johnson's tangential treatment of the book that he removed himself from the film and demanded producers change its title. Now that's taking yourself out of the picture.
A 300-year-old spaceship found nestled on the bottom of the South Pacific? Popular author Michael Crichton may have made the premise plausible in his book, but on screen, the film, toplined by Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson, is just as unbelievable as it sounds.
The Scarlet Letter (1995)
We admit to being enraptured in high school English class while reading the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel about a woman in 17th-century Massachusetts whose defiant pride is not shaken by public scorn. So it's not that we don't believe Demi Moore as the beautiful wife who dabbles in infidelity; it's that the film's mind-blowing alteration of the book's ending left us wondering why everything needs to be tied up in a happy ending.
The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
The Tom Wolfe novel was an intelligent, potent character study of the Wall Street types, racism, and social hierarchy of New York City in the '80s. So how do you whittle down 500-plus pages of a book for the big screen? You don't. The Brian De Palma-directed movie, costarring Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, John Hancock, and Saul Rubinek as the four interweaving characters, lacked Wolfe's complexity and introspection.
The Running Man (1987)
For every good Stephen King adaptation — Carrie, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption — there exists a bad one. Paul Michael Glaser's directing effort features Arnold Schwarzenegger as a wrongly convicted cop partaking in a morbid futuristic TV game show, and subsequently skirting stalkers and chain saws alike. Set in the year 2017, the film is about as lampoonish and moronic as most reality TV is today. It's the wrong kind of prescient.
The Cotton Club (1984)
Francis Ford Coppola steered this sinking ship, about a popular 1930s jazz nightclub in Harlem and the eccentric characters who slipped through its doors. Unfortunately, while the Jim Haskins book was a historical delight, the version with Richard Gere and Diane Lane hit a low note quickly, and grossed only $25.9 million in theaters.