So, which came first—the book or the movie?


“Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all. Then all around from far away across the world he smelled good things to eat so he gave up being king of where the wild things are.” —from “Where The Wild Things Are” –by Maurice Sendak

 

As long as I’ve already read the book, I love it when Hollywood takes a stab at turning a book into a movie. I’ll buy a ticket to see the damage they’ve done to the film version.

They don’t goof it up 100 percent of the time, but after flipping through 300 or 400 pages with a Johnny Depp-ish hero ingrained in your head, you may not appreciate say, William Shatner wearing his pants in the movie. Seriously, that’s just wrong.

The book is always better.

Some of the movies are good, but they’re good separately. It’s almost like they are two different stories because the words have drawn their own picture of how the characters look and act.

Jodi Picoult wrote “My Sister’s Keeper,” a great book with a twist at the end—maybe the only book that has completely caught me off guard with just a few final pages to go.

Then they turned it into a movie. Not a made for (Lifetime) television movie, like a few of her other books, but a full Hollywood production with a big name like Cameron Diaz.

I liked the movie. Even though they chopped off Picoult’s original ending and went with a tidy predictable one, it was good. Or should I say, it was enough. I don’t think a typical audience of a movie like this could take the ending she had intended. Some may be more hormonal than others and it just wouldn’t be safe.

As always, the book was better.

One exception is “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini. If you haven’t seen it, do. If you haven’t read it, do that first, then see it. And then wait impatiently with me for his second book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” to be made into a movie sometime this year.

I had no predetermined vision of the characters in “The Kite Runner” because it’s set in Afghanistan and I knew nothing about Afghanistan. The movie gave me a clearer mental image of the setting and characters and since the story didn’t change, it worked. I hope they do the same for his second book.

Children’s books haven’t been left out of the movie runs either. “Bridge to Tarabithia,” “Holes,” “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” even Dr. Seuss, have made it to the cinema. And next up is “Where The Wild Things Are.”

I’m so excited for this one. And a little apprehensive. This book is a dissection of imagination. It doesn’t matter if the reader is 7 or 37. The 7-year-old imagines the boat setting sail. The 37-year-old imagines the same thing, only it’s a much bigger boat and they serve pretty drinks where the wild things are.

Whatever—it’s a universal theme. Everybody know what it’s like to escape for awhile, then find ourselves drawn back home, to our room, and to “someone who loves us best of all.”

The movie trailer shows a Max that looks a lot like the book’s version and the monsters are right on, but I’m still wondering how different the wild rumpus will sound in high-def.

“Alice in Wonderland” is going to be out in 2010 with the aforementioned Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. I’ll be there. For some reason, when he’s on the poster, I end up at the movie.

But, even as I throw my money at the movies because the movies throw Johnny Depp at me, I still know…the book will always be better.


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