Children’s Book Adaptations: The Good, Bad & God-Awful

December 11, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

neverending-story_lWith the release of Spike Jonze’s adaptation of the classic Where The Wild Things Are this Friday, we present to you the best and worst of children’s book to film adaptations.

Although we remember feeling a little bit cheated when The Neverending Story…well ended, the memories and the poorly contained delight we felt when we rediscovered the video aged 23 and secretly watched it again (maybe that was just me) were priceless.

Here is our list – and not a vampire in sight…

1. The Princess Bride (1987)

Many people are unaware that The Princess Bride, one of the finest comic movies of all time, is actually an adaptation of William Goldman’s book of the same name. It’s got everything: adventure, comedy, romance and fantasy and possibly the greatest swordfight in film history. It’s not only one of the best adaptations ever; it’s one of the greatest films ever. Leave it off the list? Inconceivable!

2. Harry Potter Series (2001-2009)

The most popular book series in history has also seen fairly faithful film adaptations with all star British casts and some cracking action scenes. I’m not a devotee of the books like our fearless leader Sean, but I’m told that that’s because I’m just a Muggle…

3. Coraline (2009)

Henry Selick’s adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novella is a riot of colour and sparkle, with characters fizzing with life and a female protagonist with guts, bravery and charm to spare. The stop-motion animation is a joy to watch and it’s actually pretty scary too (Teri Hatcher’s Mother character has buttons for eyes!), so it’ll keep even the most difficult kid enthralled. A brilliant antidote to Disney-dominated animation.

4. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

Here’s another 80s classic that many don’t realise is also a book. The NeverEnding Story is a German book by Michael Ende first published in 1979. He reportedly hated what they did with the film so much that he sued the studio when they refused to change the name of the film.

If you’re a child of the 80s, I bet you can still remember Atreyu flying on the back of Falkor (a luck dragon that looked curiously like a flying dog) and that iconic soundtrack. Despite the author’s protests, it’s a marvellous film.

5. Alice In Wonderland (1951)

Tim Burton is filming a new version with Johnny Depp next year which looks absolutely cracking but the 1951 Disney film is still the one that most of us think of when someone mentions Alice. It had everything, a great music score and wonderfully imaginative and creative characters (who can forget the pipe smoking caterpillar or larger than life Queen Of Hearts?). Curiouser and curiouser…

1. Astérix at the Olympic Games (2008)

A true abomination, I’d rather be uppercutted by Obelix than watch this again. Not even Gerard Depardieu could save this utter travesty. Quite why he decided to play Obelix in all three movies is a mystery – I just hope they paid him well. The most recent adaptation won the French equivalent of a Razzie for Worst French Film Made in 2007. The Gauls are revolting? Indeed.

Hang on a minute! Was that Michael Schumacher?

2. Eragon (2006)

The adaptation of Christopher Paoloni’s Eragon was one of the worst movies of 2006. Even some good CGI, John Malkovich and Jeremy Irons couldn’t save it from being a wooden, cliche cannon. Who’s have thought that dragons could be so dull?

3. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005)

While the original was a wonderful triumph that saw Gene Wilder excel in the role of the eccentric chocolatier, the modern version was an unpleasant surprise – like that Revel that nobody likes. Usually Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are a winning combination, but the new story gave Willy an abusive dentist for a father (Christopher Lee) and made Johnny Depp look like a confectionery obsessed Michael Jackson. Creepy.

4. The Polar Express (2004)

While it was instrumental in pioneering the 3D motion capture which is becoming common place these days (James Cameron’s Avatar being the culmination of this new technology), the Polar Express’s cast look like undead monstrosities. With a plot that most adults will shrug at and motion capture that will scare the wits out of kids and adults alike, it’s a Christmas “treat” best avoid. Only go see this if you fancy lying awake at night thinking about Tom Hanks’ vacant dead eyes. Fancy it? Thought not.

5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Or “How Jim Carrey ruined Xmas”. The classic Dr. Seuss tale is a film devoid of wit, charm or any merit at all. It’s actually almost the polar opposite of the book which was lively and engaging and fun for all the family. Crude slapstick and Jim Carrey in latex are two things we can definitely do without.

Jez Sands

StumbleUpon It!


  1. Kobe says:

    This is a really cool blog! I wish I had found it sooner. Keep up the good work.