Last year was chock full of great adaptations of children’s literature, from Fantastic Mr. Fox to Coraline. And while we’re always curious to see how Hollywood handles the books that defined our youth, they fail at least as often as they succeed. For some reason, perhaps because we made our parents read them to us over and over or because we adored them in our most impressionable years, we take it personally when some director neglects to do them justice. So, in hopes that the filmmakers of the future will learn something from the mistakes of the past, we’ve listed five movie adaptations that were an insult to our childhood and analyzed what we think went wrong.
Where the Wild Things Are In some circles, it’s sacrilege to trash this movie. But you know what? Despite child actor Max Records’ pitch-perfect performance and some seriously gorgeous art direction, it bored us to tears. (And we’ve sat through enough three-hour foreign epics to know that our short attention span wasn’t to blame.) The problem with Where the Wild Things Are was that it overthought a beloved book whose allure had much to do with its verbal sparseness and mystery. Not to mention that by turning the exuberant wild things into a gang of gloomy emo kids, Spike Jonze did a disservice to the story’s contagious exuberance.
The Baby-sitters Club We didn’t realize what a big part of our lives Ann M. Martin’s endless tween series had become until we took a gander at the film version and found it all wrong. Sure, it featured big mid-’90s teeny bopper sensations like Rachael Leigh Cook and Christian Oliver (remember that heartthrob, from the absolutely awful Saved by the Bell: The New Class?). Hell, even Ellen Burstyn had a small role. Yet by the time we saw the film, we had projected so much of our young selves onto the characters we imagined that any small, differing detail could feel like a major disappointment.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Critics loved this 2009 adaptation of the classroom staple. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps the sweet, strange story in the book remained intact, but it was the comic-style illustrations that made the tale a classic in the first place. Who cares if everyone is doing computer-animated 3D IMAX blah blah blah these days? If the original book ain’t broke, Hollywood, we kindly request that you try and refrain from fixing it.
The Cat in the Hat Dr. Seuss remains among the most beloved children’s authors of the 20th century, and The Cat in the Hat may be his best-known book. And that’s why it was so depressing to watch Mike Myers step into the title role, grotesque and disturbing cat costume and all. Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin is totally wasted in a film whose remaining cast includes the remarkably annoying triumvirate of Kelly Preston, Dakota Fanning and Sean Hayes.
Ramona and Beezus This film hasn’t even come out yet, but… come on. Do we really want to see Disney princess Selena Gomez pollute our beloved Beverly Cleary series with her squeaky-clean perfection? The Ramona books were quirky and fun and, like The Baby-sitters Club, we had a clear image in our mind of this film’s titular sisters. And that’s why we agree with Lindsey Robertson, whose only comment is: “I can’t believe I have the emotional energy left to still want to punch Hollywood in the face sometimes.”