Book-to-movie adaptations have been popular for decades, but sometimes the results of translation from text to screen aren’t quite what audiences would have hoped for. Here are 10 movies based on books that we’re not sure we really needed.
1. The Cat in the Hat
For many people, this book is a wonderful childhood memory – it helped us learn to read and become familiar with rhyming. The 2003 movie, however, currently sits on the IMDB Bottom 100 list and has a painful 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics felt that the film lacked the charm of the book, instead offering up obnoxious, inappropriate humor. Not to mention the visuals are utterly nightmarish. Dr. Seuss’s widow and executor of his estate, Audrey Geisel, hated this movie so much that she said she’d never agree to another live-action adaptation of one of his books.
2. A Wrinkle in Time
Another movie version of a childhood classic, this flick fared a bit better than “The Cat in the Hat,” with a more respectable 42% on Rotten Tomatoes. Reviewers noted that there was heavy use of special effects, and the plot got little attention as a result. Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal called it “a magical mystery tour minus the magic and mystery,” which doesn’t sound particularly tempting. All four of the lead actresses were nominated for Teen Choice Awards, but none of them won. It doesn’t seem this movie was the choice of many adults, either.
3. The Lonely Lady
This widely-hated movie is definitely more famous than the book it was based on. It stars the notorious Pia Zadora, who’s better known for winning a Golden Globe under controversial circumstances (people claimed her wealthy husband “bought” the award for her) than her acting ability. Most people seem to remember this film for one thing: a scene where Zadora’s character is sexually assaulted with a garden hose. Yes, really. While the novel isn’t exactly an American classic, it sold well, and the author absolutely hated the movie. Turns out Zadora did too, calling it “a real turkey.”
4. Faraday's Flowers / Shanghai Surprise
Madonna has made many, uh, unique films during her career as an actress, and this was not one of the better-received ones, with a three-star IMDb rating. Critics disliked nearly everything about “Shanghai Surprise,” including the fact that it seemed rather indulgent for its stars, who were then a married couple. George Harrison of the Beatles produced the movie and contributed to the soundtrack, and later admitted he hated working with Madonna and Sean Penn. The book itself seems to have gotten mixed reviews – maybe a sign that it needn’t have been adapted?
5. Tales from the Town of Widows / Without Men
James Cañón’s novel about a town with only three men after the rest are all forcibly recruited into war received several awards. Kirkus Review called the book “prime magic realism”; Variety called the movie “cheapo sex comedy stuffed with mugging actors.” It’s hard to know what transpired during the translation from story to script, but clearly, it was not good. Despite starring the quite famous Eva Longoria and Christian Slater, this movie didn’t seem to get much news coverage and is not widely-known. It’s probably safe to say that Cañón is happy about that.
6. Adams Fall / Abandon
This 2002 thriller is a “loose” adaptation of the novel, which got mixed-to-positive reviews. The film flipped the sex of the protagonist (evidently, a result of hiring Katie Holmes), and presumably changed some other stuff, because its Rotten Tomatoes score is an abysmal 16%. In fact, neither the critics nor audiences liked it, as evidenced by the movie’s inability to make back even half of its sizeable $25 million budget. Maybe the title would have been good advice to the filmmakers who were thinking about producing this.
7. White Bird in a Blizzard
I read this book (and loved it) about a year before the screen version came out, and when I saw the movie, I wasn’t totally satisfied. It’s not awful, but there were several odd changes from the book that I neither liked nor understood the value of. Shailene Woodley’s acting is superb as usual, and there is some truly gorgeous imagery, but neither is enough to elevate the film to where I would’ve wanted it to be. The ending was really effective in the novel, but the movie has a different one that’s just kind of silly and ruins much of the story’s impact.