Children's books that shouldn't be made into movies...

This weekend I learned that there are some children's stories that don't fare well when converted in films, and that if I see a movie comming on TV that was a book I had read growing up, I'd better not call my daughter over to the TV and say, "Hey, watch this, this is gonna be a good movie."

This weekend's thrill ride was, "Matilda," originally written by Rauld Dahl.  I guess the people in cinema figured that if Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory made a good movie, another popular children's book by the same author would do just as well.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Goes the buzzer.

Rauld Daul is a good children's author, and Matilda was a good children's book that was appreciated by adults as well.  It should be noted that some of Rauld Dahl's books contain dark undertones that work better when read and imagined, more so than when they're converted to actual cinematic reality, which makes them truely sick.  Not getting what I'm saying?  I'll list some of these items:

-The school's headmaster once threw a kid out a window.  Simply reading that statement, isn't a big deal, but watching a kid get thrown out a window on TV pretty much makes my mouth hang agape in horror as I fall short for the words to explain to my daughter (who is nearing the age of 4) what is going on.

-The school's headmaster throw's Matilda into what appears to be an iron maiden.  Spikes and all, again, I'm at a loss for word to try and explain, and upon the next commercial interuption I change the channel.  Albeit, this film may be alright for kids of the age of 12, but not 4.

-I get the feeling, although it's not actually stated, that the school's headmaster killed her father and took his inheritance.

-Matilda lives with her abusive parents who punish her, and are pretty much against knowledge in general.  Her father is a dirty used car salesman, her moth his unloving supporter.  In one scene her father ripps a book from her hand, begins tearing it up, and then forces Matilda to watch TV with the rest of the family by holding her head still with his hands.  Again, reading this in a book isn't all that bad, but watching it happen is quite abusive.  Along with some other stuff, watching the family be dysfunctional is somewhat traumatic.

And so, I wonder if there are any other movies out there that have been made from children's stories that didn't carry over well.  Any examples?


Did you like this post? Vote Up or Down.


TMundo's picture

does that work here?

Well, I haven't heard good things about the Cat in the Hat movie

MH's picture

though I'm not sure if that's due to shitty filmmaking or due to the fact that the book doesn't really lend itself to the feature-length form...

The Grinch comes to mind

Rajah's picture

The Chuck Jones animated version was great but the live movie length version didn't work. If Dr. Seuss( I forgot his real name) had been alive it would have never been made.

I believe his 1st name was Theodore...

TMundo's picture

...aside from that, I'd not heard great things about Jim Carrey as the Grinch either, but I've heard even less about The Cat in the Hat with Mike Myers.  Which makes me wonder if it's worth a look.

I kinda liked MATILDA

FearlessFreep's picture

"I'm smart, you're dumb.  I'm right, you're wrong.  I'm big, you're little.  And there's nothing you can do about it!"


The artist formerly known as Zorro.

It probably would have gone over better had I watched it alone

TMundo's picture

...but I can't say it was kid friendly.

I wonder what Dahl would have thought of that Matilda movie

Rajah's picture

I heard he didn't like the Willy Wonka movie Gene Wilder was in

I've read some of his adult works, he is dark indeed!

Dr. Spock's Baby and Childcare?

michael3b's picture

Dude, that scene where the guy takes his kid's temperature?


(insert vulcan-logic-Bones joke here)


ps I love Roald Dahl.  My Uncle Oswald is a great, ribald read.  Mainly because I can use the word ribald to describe it, and that word reminds me of watching The Playboy Channel on scrambled cable.  They had a show called ribald shorts or something.  Anyhow, there were boobs..I think. Tough to say, really. But, Christ was I titillated...

pps Dahl put his name to a pile of ghost stories he collected.  It is friggin AWESOME.

One of his stories was on Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Rajah's picture

A wife kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb then cooks it. When the detectives show up to investigate the murder she serves them the leg of lamb thus destroying the evidence

That's a good one.

michael3b's picture

From one of my fav "before" pictures...




Another thing they shouldn't do

FearlessFreep's picture

Take a book young readers like and turn it into an R-rated exercise in cheap ultraviolence. (See STARSHIP TROOPERS.)


The artist formerly known as Zorro.

Rauld Daul had a show titled Way Out that only aired fora season

TMundo's picture

...since there were no re-runs, the show was never released on VHS or DVD.  Nor was it aired again for others to tape it.  It's only available to see at the Museum of TV and Radio.  That's funny considering it's on Youtube, it makes you wonder how it was recorded.


The show was basically like the twilight zone.


Rajah's picture

I think I've seen some early Twilight Zones recorded that way. It's easy to tell cause it makes them look crappy like the lighting is screwed up.

It says how they were recorded, and the lighting is screwed up..

TMundo's picture

...I think it was one of those projectors you can fit over a TV.  And then fillmed off the wall it was projected on.  But that still doesn't explain how they got out, unless one of the curators at the museum decided to get crafty and do it himeself.

Another Roald Dahl show

FearlessFreep's picture

In the late '70s there was a TV series called ROALD DAHL'S TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED. (Joan Collins was in one episode.)


The artist formerly known as Zorro.


HS's picture

Starship Troopers is a tremendously-entertaining A-list feeeelllmmmm masquerading as a cheesy, exploitative, tasteless B-movie.  The bad acting!  The co-ed shower scene!  The Nazi references!  The mother bug resembling a cooter! 

Fantastic stuff.


I'd like to see them make Captain Kangaroo The Movie!

Rajah's picture

They could really explore the relationship between the Captain and Mister Greenjeans

Children's books that shouldn't be made into movies...

MadNessMonster's picture

I am going to say, most of them.

I like your comment on the scenes that play out one way when you read them and an entirely different way when you actually get to watch it happening.  "A Series of Unfortunate Events" anyone?

After a year of "The Tale of Despereux", "The Secret Life of Bees", "City of Ember", "Inkheart", and so many others, I'd like to know when it was decided that every single kids book had to be a movie.  (Probably every studio wants to follow the leader in the wake of "Harry Potter", but really.)


MadNessMonster's picture

It's Roald Dahl.

Dr. Seuss's full name?

GrumpyDave's picture

Theodore Seuss Geisel.

 I didn't think that seuss

Decaf's picture

 I didn't think that seuss was actually part of his name. I thought he was just Theodore Geisel and the Seuss part was all made up.


also, on the corrections note, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.