My Five Favourite (Childrens) Book-To-Film Adaptations

More details were announced yesterday about the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them film. Well, films now, five of them in particular. I’ll admit I’m nervous that this will be just like The Hobbifilms, where people will be excited for the first one, interested in the next one, and then just completely ignore the film series from then on (I remember being online when the third one was released, and if it wasn’t for me looking at the cineworld website I wouldn’t have even know it came out). Fingers crossed it turns out great, but to commemorate the release details here’s my favourite book-to-film adaptations. I will freely admit these aren’t the “best”, these are definitely my personal choice, choices which are likely to change depending on what day I’m asked.

5. The BFG (2016)

The most recent film on this list, and the one most likely to not be on it if I was writing this on a different day. This definitely isn’t likely to be on someone’s top five list for this topic, truth be told it’s not even mine, it’s only here because of the negative reception it received. It’s currently got a 66 on Metacritic, which is the numerical equivalent of “meh”. I went into this with relatively low expectations, I saw Pete’s Dragon the same week and it did absolutely nothing for me, I appreciated what it did well, but I don’t need to see it again and I won’t recommend it to anyone. Also their was a family in front of me that I could tell were going to be problematic, with a whole bag of popcorn thrown on the floor behind them (i.e. in front of me) before the film even started. Yet within five minutes of this film I had completely forgotten Pete’s Dragon, I had forgotten the popcorn, I had forgotten the general feeling of ennui that accompanies my general existence, I was completely lost in the world that this film created. I completely brought into the universe that was created, if I saw this film whilst I was a child my parents would hate it due to the fact they’d have had to watch it every single day. This film also means that my list of for the “best performace” for the end of year blog now has two child actors in it. Ruby Barnhill is superb in it, she spends a lot of time being the only real thing on screen, so it’s down to her to convince you that the rest is real, and she manages it. So to summarise; some films are funny, some films are heart-breaking, very few films can be described as magical, this is one of them.

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4. Coraline

Because it’s been too long since I’ve seen The Witches and I wanted a film that scares the hell out of everyone, children and adults alike. This adaptation of the Neil Gaiman book also has one of the best uses of 3D in cinema. There’s a scene where somebody stares down a long and narrow corridor, the 3D in this helps enhance the vertigo-like feeling. Most films just go with the “oooo something is poking out at you, woooooo” with 3D, very few use it to enhance the universe as much as they should. The film also has a unique look, a look that is NOT TIM BURTON! People seem to forget that it wasn’t Burton that directed Nightmare Before Christmas, it was Henry Selick, and he is perfect for this film. Heavily influenced by the work of Japanese illustrator Tadahiro Uesigi.

He gives the film a unique look that is perfect for Neil Gaiman’s work, and it’s a real shame that he got pulled off the film version of The Graveyard Book (been replaced by Ron Howard, which could work, but will be very different)

3. Harry Potter

I’ll admit this isn’t the greatest film series, for one thing it’s missing Rik Mayall as Peeves. But it also did one thing very well; it accentuated the Harry Potter brand remarkably. Before this you could be forgiven for thinking the world had reached peak Potter, that the brand had reached a plateau, but the films pushed it through so it was no longer a well known book franchise, it was a global phenomenon. Without the films the chances of there being a Harry Potter world are a lot lower, as would be a lot of merchandising opportunities. Plus, it also gave us Alan Rickman as Snape.

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And now I have a sad

2. Matilda

I know, another Roald Dahl book, but there is no way I could not put this film in this list. One of my favourite books as a child, and one of my favourite films as an adult. Mara Wilson is of course, superb, whilst Pam Ferris is terrifying as Trunchbull. Back when this was released there wasn’t as many book-to-film adaptations as there is now, so seeing the shots of Trunchbull in newspapers in the lead to the film was genuinely exciting. A book which everybody read as a child was finally coming to life, if it went badly I would have been so disappointed that I probably would have developed a crack cocaine habit, trust issues, and a slightly itchy foot. Luckily it’s very good, the music is superb, Send Me On My Way in particular never fails to raise a smile. Actually that’s true of the whole film, it’s the film equivalent of a sweet heartwarming smile. The most disappointing part about it is that it didn’t lead to Danny DeVito having a glorious directing career, which is a shame as he completely nails it here, getting the tone exactly right, and he casts himself as a terrible person. Very few people would do that, most people when they choose to be villains do it in a “cool” way, make the character dark and brooding and misunderstood, DeVito plays his character as one of the most repulsive characters in cinema, and does it in a way that makes your skin crawl, it’s truly brilliant.

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This film really speaks to me for some reason

1. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

Yeah, a third Dahl book. Truth be told I could have made this entire list Dahl adaptations, he’s lucky enough to have had a lot of very good books made of his work, but to me this reigns supreme. Not just one of my favourite children’s books adaptations, not just one of my favourite children’s films, this is one of my favourite films. It’s a shame Mel Stuart didn’t have a larger career after this, as visually this film is superb. Most of the acting is also pretty great (with the exception of one of the parents who is awful, just awful), but let’s be honest one of them stands head and shoulders above all the others.

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Just kidding, it was this guy.

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This film belongs to Wilder, his performance is like a sociopathic clown (something which 2016 is very familiar with), that scene in the tunnel in particular is one of the greatest scenes in cinema history, more so when you realise that Wilder never told the other actors what he was going to do, they all thought he was genuinely losing his mind, it’s brilliant. Now despite me loving this film, I’ve never read the book, I have read the sequel though, and this film sets the characters up so well in your head that it makes the book sequel better as you can clearly envision it in her head. The music is pretty darn good as well, Pure Imagination in particular surely has to go down as one of the greatest original songs created for film, it stands up as being so good it transcends the original source material, one of the only songs I can think that does that would be Rainbow Connection.

 

So that’s our list, where did we go wrong? Which Roald Dahl book should we have taken out? Why didn’t we put The Iron Giant in? If you have any questions comment and let us know, or do that if you have any other things you want to see us do.

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