Thanks to everyone who voted in the first ever Upstart Crow Poll(s) of Mass Importance. In case you missed it, last week, in anticipation of the Where the Wild Things Are film, I polled readers here on the blog and on Twitter to decide which films ranked as the best and worst adaptations of books, both for children and for adults.
The polls yielded lots of surprises. For example, two films, Jumanji and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, earned votes for both the best and worst adaptations of kid’s books. The first Narnia film also incurred the wrath of bestselling author Michael Grant, who complained that if Santa Claus were to show up with weapons, he should have just given the children some better firepower, claiming they, “Wouldn’t have even needed the magic Jesus lion if Santa had just turned the kids onto a tank.” A valid point, Michael.
There were a few bumps in the road, too. On the adult side, I decided to limit the choices to films that had been released in the last 20 years to, in my mind, make things a little easier. Probably a bad decision, since I received votes for Apocalypse Now (1979), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), and The Princess Bride, which came out 22 years ago (I know, I know … inconceivable!).
In the end, though, we had to have winners and losers. So without further adieu, I present to you the Best and Worst Adaptations of Films as Chosen by You, The Readers!
Worst Adult Film Adaptation: The Da Vinci Code
It seemed like such a simple formula, really: take the book that turned readers out of seemingly everyone, mix in one of our generation’s most beloved actors in Tom Hanks, attach an Academy Award winning director in Ron Howard and, just to make Chris Richman happy, add in Audrey Tautou (whose performance in Amelie makes me want to jump into the screen and date her each time I watch it), and you’re going to have a successful film, right? Um, wrong. Even though the film grossed over $200 million domestically, many found the greatest mystery to be why the movie stunk so much. Maybe it was because the book itself was already so cinematic that the film was almost pointless? We’ll never know.
Best Adult Film Adaptation: The Lord of the Rings
Despite a strong showing from fans of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption, and a near-upset by Bridget Jones’s Diary, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the classic fantasy series won out in the end. This is a tough one to argue with: if we’re basing the success of this film on Academy Awards and box office numbers alone, it goes down as one of the most successful film franchises in history. More telling to me, however, is how a series that was typically regarded as one of the cornerstones of nerdiness was able to transcend the dark basements of pimply-faced people everywhere to become a shared experience for the masses. This selection is especially touching to me, a boy who played Dungeons and Dragons as a half-elven ranger named Legosis (culled from Legolas and Aragorn, as well as other nerdy pursuits). Take that, cheerleaders!
Worst Children’s Book Adaptation: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Poor Ron Howard. Not only did his boyish appeal from Happy Days not last long enough to propel him toward success as an adult actor, but now he also has the dubious distinction of directing both selections for worst adaptations of books. Maybe Ron should avoid libraries altogether, huh? Or maybe it’s a Dr. Suess thing, since the Mike Myers atrocity that was The Cat in the Hat came in second in the voting. Whatever the case, it seems that every who down in who-ville liked this film a lot, but the readers, who living just north of who-ville, did NOT!
Best Children’s Book Adaptation: Babe
The best children’s book adaptation was the most hotly contested. Holes, Black Stallion, Anne of Green Gables, and several Harry Potter films received multiple votes, but none of them could topple this adorable little piggy. What set this film apart? Was it the hopefulness of the story? The wonderful supporting cast? How the pig had FREAKING ADORABLE HAIR? Likely, it was a combination of things that led you all to proclaim, “That’ll do, pig.”
Thanks to everyone who read and voted!