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Oct 25

Don't Judge a Book by its Movie I

Posted on October 25, 2016 at 1:34 PM by Lindsey Kult

We all know the feeling; your favorite book just got a movie deal! Who will play the main character? How will the director handle your favorite scene? But what if… What if the movie butchers your beloved book?

Sometimes moviemakers distort your favorite books by adding seemingly unnecessary scenes, removing characters, dropping plot points, or through poor casting. This isn’t always the case though! Some movies are just as wonderful as the books they are based on. Sometimes the movies add to the book. Occasionally, a movie does not live up to the book but is still fantastic! I’ve compiled a list movies based on books with the help of friends, families, and co-workers that I will cover over the next three months. If you have a suggestion for a book and movie to be covered let me know!

We do not have all of these movies at Howard Miller as some of them are rated R. I have given the location of the books in our library for your enjoyment!


The Hobbit

Author: J. R. R. Tolkien

Call Number: AF Tolkien

Date of Publication: 09/21/1937

Release Date: 12/14/2012; 12/13/2013; and 12/17/2014

The Hobbit is a 366 page adventure book about Bilbo Baggins who takes a rather unexpected journey out of his home in the shire. He joins the band of dwarves on a mission to take back their ancestral home from Smaug the dragon. As a book, it is very adventurous and introduces many creatures native to Middle Earth. The movies do not really leave out anything from the books, however… They manage to make one decently sized book into three full length films - about 8.5 hours worth film all told. The movies are still enjoyable but they have added Hollywood flair. The most obvious addition is the romance between Kili and Tauriel (an added character).

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Where the Wild Things Are

Author: Maurice Sendak

Call number: BLUE SE

Date of Publication: 4/09/1963

Release Date: 10/16/2009

While the producers and costume makers did a great job designing the costumes to fit the monsters created by Sendak, the script warps her silly tale. Rather than Max throwing a tantrum one night and the jungle popping up in his room, Max is a lonely child without any friends who displays behavioral problems. He runs away from home when his mother gets too frustrated with his bratty behavior. Up until this point the movie is very sad. The music and lighting are dark and the family situation is bleak. Once he arrives on the island the movie goes from sad to dark and somewhat scary. Carol, the striped monster, is destroying the little village the other monsters have created out of frustration. The other monsters try to eat Max until he bullies them into making him king. There are many instances of bullying in this movie and A LOT of violence. A cute children’s book has been transformed into a sad, somewhat scary artsy movie.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife

Author: Audrey Niffenegger


Date of Publication: 5/27/2004

Release Date: 8/14/2009

This is one of the times a great book has been turned into a very good movie! Two major changes were made as the 500-page book was converted into a 107 minute movie. The first change was cleaning up the interactions between Claire and Henry. The book has a lot more sex and swearing than the movie. The scenes are described in detail, a writing style that might disturb some readers. The second change was the loss of at least eight important characters from the book. Ex-boyfriends and girlfriends are dropped from the movie’s plot. The movie plot is still excellent and true to the plot of the book, but the book’s plot draws the reader in more. Leaving out the extra characters and less important scenes actually improved the movie. The beginning of the book, while very interesting, is quite confusing. The concept of time traveling has so many loops and theories that need to be addressed. Despite these difficulties, Niffenegger does a great job of creating Henry’s time traveling universe. I highly recommend the book, before or after you watch the movie!

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One for the Money

Author: Janet Evanovich

Call number: MYS EVANOVICH

Date of Publication: 8/26/1994

Release Date: 1/27/2012

It is so fortunate that the Stephanie Plum series is strong enough to survive this movie. All of Evanovich’s characters are so likeable and goofy, but this movie did not do them justice. The worst decision was Katherine Heigl as Stephanie. Her dialect is laughable and she seems incapable of being goofy.  Her attempts to be goofy, which is the epitome of Stephanie, are awkward. There was no chemistry between her and the actors playing Morelli and Ranger. The script is taken almost word for word from the novel but is somehow wrong. I actually thought the addition of the narration by Stephanie was smart! Unfortunately, they did not use the narration to introduce characters like Mary Lou - who is seemingly randomly contacted throughout the movie. I feel for the actors and actresses who were cast well - like Sherri Shepherd as Lula and Patrick Fishler as Vinnie Plum - because they were so perfect but are overshadowed by the cringeworthy performance of Heigl. Such a hilarious book was butchered by the casting director and movie director. I don’t have to tell Evanovich’s loyal fans to ignore the movie and read the Stephanie Plum books, but just in case you haven’t read them yet - they are a treat! If you are a big fan of this series, please do not watch this movie!

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Tuck Everlasting

Author: Natalie Babbitt

Call number: JF BABBITT

Date of Publication: 11/01/1985

Release Date: 10/11/2002

The movie Tuck Everlasting is a classic 1990s film in direction and editing (despite being released in 2002). It is a well done movie, but it strays from the innocence of Natalie Babbitt’s book. In the movie, Whinnie is 15 (she’s 10 in the book) and has a romantic relationship with Jesse. Unlike the book, she spends the majority of her time with Jesse and does not get to know the rest of the Tucks as well. There is more violence in the movie than the book as well. There is no blood, but the director decided to prove that the Tucks are invincible rather than just state the fact. The movie also downplays Whinnie’s relationship with her grandmother and makes her father the most important member of her family. Much of the additional scenes are created because the book is quite short. The script managed to maintain most of the book’s scenes while adding more to establish the characters.

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The Notebook

Author: Nicholas Sparks

Call number: AF SPARKS

Date of Publication: 10/01/1996

Release Date: 06/24/2004

The movie version of this book changes much of the relationship between Ali and Noah. This is not necessarily a bad thing. A great deal of the movie is focused on the young couple’s path to love. While enjoyable, it really makes the character of Ali fit the spoiled rich girl stereotype - something that is less noticeable in the book. Her character is further built by the glimpse into her relationship with her fiancé. The movie is much more romantic than the book; for example, in the book Noah and Ali kiss after they get out of the rain whereas the movie has the ultra-romantic rain kiss. The ending scenes with the elderly version of Noah and Ali is true to the book and even sadder. The book is a rewarding and quick read.

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Water for Elephants

Author: Sara Gruen

Call number: AF GRUEN

Date of Publication: 5/01/2007

Release Date: 4/22/2011

The movie version of Water for Elephants dropped one of the most important characters in the book. Rather than having two antagonists, Uncle Al and August, the movie combines Uncle Al into August. This allows the movie to slim down Gruen’s plot. The movie also accomplishes this by essentially removing the elderly Jacob. The book has an elderly version of Jacob who is lives in a nursing home and hates his life. While this is how the movie begins and ends, it leaves out the majority of elderly Jacob’s plot. The script takes 355 pages of writing and creates a two hour film, resulting in the loss of characters and scenes.  The movie also cleans the language used and removes the graphic sexual descriptions of the book. However, it shows more of the animal abuse than the book described. These are two reasons most people do not read this book - the descriptive sexual content and the animal abuse passages. Despite these downfalls, the story is well written with an incredible twist at the end!



Author: Roald Dahl

Call Number: JF DAHL

Date of Publication: 10/1/1988

Release Date: 7/28/1996

Both the book and the movie are incredible and fill the reader/viewer with a sense of magic. The biggest difference between the book and the movie is the setting. The book takes place in England, while the movie is set in the United States of America. The transition from book to movie resulted in more adventures for Matilda, but adventures that make sense with Dahl’s book. Dahl’s characters are wonderful in the book, but the casting for the movie was amazing and only adds to their charm (or villainy)! Overall, both the book and movie are fun for all ages and excellent to read/watch with the whole family.

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Big Stone Gap

Author: Adriana Trigiani

Call Number: AF TRIGIANI

Date of Publication: 4/3/2001

Release Date: 11/6/2014

Big Stone Gap is an amazing book and a good movie. Like numerous other movies, some characters were dropped for the movie - but others were added this time! The movie changes the time table of the book. Rather than Ave Maria being 35 she is 40. The movie also begins prior to her mother’s death, however, this helped the audience understand the importance of their relationship. The casting for this film was excellent! Nearly all of the characters are so relatable (with the exception of Theodore - who was turned into a dramatic jerk) and those who are meant to be nasty are portrayed wonderfully.  The book is much more humorous than the movie, but the romantic aspects of Jack Mac and Ave Maria in the movie make up for it! Personally, I did not like how the movie treated Theodore’s character but overall it is still a good movie.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs

Call Number: YA RIGGS

Date of Publication: 6/7/2011

Release Date: 9/30/2016

This is one of the rare cases where a movie was made from multiple books. It appears that the studio realized the second book would destroy the movie series, as it did the book series (in my opinion).  The majority of the movie consists of the first book, which is excellent. The second book is skipped altogether in the movie. The final scenes are based on the third book. The movie made numerous changes to the characters and made the scenes darker than the book. Tim Burton changed the ages of all but 3 of the children in the home and switched the powers of Olive and Emma in the movie. Due to these changes, some scenes are modified or completely removed. For example, in the book Jake is not immediately accepted by the children and has to earn Emma’s loyalty. In the movie, they court him and he resists their attention. The movie also made the already disturbing Enoch into a psychotic bully. Overall, the movie was good because of the special effects and, admittedly, some of the changes made. However, the first book explains things better. I do not recommend reading the second book - there is a reason it was not incorporated into the movie.

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Jurassic Park

Author: Michael Crichton

Call Number: AF CRICHTON

Date of Publication: 6/10/1991

Release Date: 6/11/1993

This might surprise fans of the Jurassic Park movies but the book has more action scenes than the movie! However, in order to get to the suspense-filled dinosaur scenes in the book the reader must get through the 100 pages of plot set-up. This is the best change in the movie. The movie is able to quickly set-up the plot and lightly explain the science that Crichton researched for the book. All of his books are heavily detailed in academic science articles and Jurassic Park is no exception. Another surprise for the fans of the movie is that Jeff Goldblum’s character does not survive in the book! Both the book and movie are full of action and will keep you at the edge of your seat.

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Bridget Jones’ Diary

Author: Helen Fielding

Call Number: AF FIELDING

Date of Publication: 1/1/1996

Release Date: 4/13/2001

This book and its corresponding movie are equally hilarious! Unlike previous books made into movies on this list, the movie actually has more sexual situations than the book. It also leaves out some of the dramatic subplots of the book. One way the movie improved upon the book was Mark Darcy and Bridget Jones’ awkward relationship. In the book, Darcy is present in the first month and then at the end of the year; the movie has him showing up periodically throughout the year. This movie might have done the best job at staying true to the book that I’ve ever seen. If you’ve ever been a single woman living alone, you’ll appreciate the goofiness of this book!

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Rocket Boys/October Sky

Author: Homer H. Hickam, Jr.

Call Number: BIO 920 HICKAM

Date of Publication: 9/15/1998

Release Date: 2/19/1999

Rocket Boys is the memoir of Homer H. Hickam Jr. It describes his childhood in Coalwood, West Virginia in great detail. All of this detail could not be incorporated into the two hour film based his story. Like so many movies in this blog, characters are dropped from the story during the transformation to the big screen. There are more than six Rocket Boys in the book and only four make it into the movie. Often these characters are merged with other characters so that their story is still told, just by someone else. This is the case with Miss Riley; in the movie she gives Homer a book that helps him determine the distance his rockets flew, this book was actually given to him by the CEO’s playboy son. The movie is extremely well done and I highly recommend it, but the book is even better! Hickam includes the antics of a teenage boy living in a small town. It makes you laugh out loud and feel for his mother as she struggles to find happiness. Just a warning, the movie also changed the names of the Hickam men. Homer is the father (the movie calls him John), and Sonny is Homer Jr. (the movie just calls him Homer).

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Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince

Author: J.K. Rowling

Call number: JF ROWLING

Date of Publication: 7/15/2005

Release Date: 07/15/2009

I am not going to be kind to the movie version of this book. Without having read the book it can be quite confusing! Granted the book is 652 pages and cannot possibly be crammed into a concise movie; but the acting is stiff and awkward and important plot points are dropped completely. The addition of the attack on the Burrow makes no sense and added nothing to the film. Rather than destroy the house that is important in the 7th film, the filmmakers could have addressed the relationship between Fleur and Bill. Speaking of Bill, he is not included in the fight at the tower - so his injuries (in addition to his engagement to Fleur) seem inexplicable in the 7th movie. Harry and Ginny’s relationship is fleeting and without Hermione mentioning Harry’s crush on Ginny you would be surprised by their kiss in the Room of Requirement - a kiss that did not happen in the book. Don’t even get me started on how the movie dropped Lord Voldemort’s history! Instead of showing the similarities in Harry's and Tom Riddle’s childhood the viewer sees a poorly detailed clip of Riddle’s time at the orphanage. The best addition made by the movie was the development of Draco’s mental distress. But if you have read the book, the movie is still entertaining.

The next installment of this blog will be published on November 29th. It will include: 
  • The Da Vinci Code*
  • The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory*
  • Blindside
  • Something Borrowed
  • Maze Runner
  • Percy Jackson
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • If I Stay
  • Little Women
  • Cheaper by the dozen (1950s* and modern)
  • Marley and Me
  • The Green Mile
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • Martian