DVD: For Colored Girls and 5 Other Disastrous Adaptations of Great Source Material
There's many a slip twixt the page and the screen -- just ask fans of Ntozake Shange's powerful 1975 theater piece For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf who recently had to suffer through Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls (on DVD and Blu-Ray this week from Lionsgate), a ham-handed and tone-deaf adaptation that managed to drain almost all of the poetry, wit, and majesty from a great play. But Perry is just the latest filmmaker to obliterate a great work of art by turning it into a dreadful movie; Other examples abound. Such as...
Beyond Therapy: Christopher Durang's whiz-bang farce about modern relationships was a hilariously funny stage comedy that helped cement the playwright's reputation as one of the sharpest wits of his generation. But then director Robert Altman teamed with Durang to turn it into a movie -- a collaboration Durang later called a "very unhappy experience" -- that ranks among the great director's very worst: ugly to look at and lacking in laughs, not to mention that it was shot in Paris but set in New York, unconvincingly.
Slapstick: A friend of mine once had Kurt Vonnegut sign his novel Slapstick for me, and when she mentioned the film version, Slapstick of Another Kind, the author reportedly made a face and referred to the movie as "an abortion of my work." He wasn't the only one unamused by the sight of Jerry Lewis and Madeline Kahn playing twins who become super-intelligent when they put their misshapen heads together; this barely-released "comedy" was considered an epic fiasco by the few people unfortunate enough to see it.
Wuthering Heights: Figuing that '90s teens would rather hear Jim Steinman power ballads than the acting of that old Olivier guy, MTV adapted the immortal Emily Brontë novel to modern-day California, where Heath (Mike Vogel) is a surfer-turned-rocker endlessly obsessed with his lifelong love Cate (Erika Christensen). This is one of those labored "modernizations" where things like telephones and the internet mysteriously vanish until the plot needs them, and the end result made The Hills look like Jane Eyre.
A Little Night Music: And you thought Nine was a terrible movie of the musical based on another movie -- OK, yes, it was, but even more stillborn was this big-screen version of Stephen Sondheim's acclaimed Broadway show, itself an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night. Hal Prince is one of the great stage directors, but here he proves himself completely unable to place or move the camera in an interesting way. And you haven't lived until you've heard Dame Elizabeth Taylor take a crack at "Send in the Clowns":
Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss: One thing that Gnomeo & Juliet has going for it is that there was no way on earth that it could be any worse than this horribly animated and ineptly written tale that transposes the classic Shakespearean romantic tragedy to the world of pinnipeds. That has a happy ending. And will make you wish you were watching Delgo instead.
You've no doubt got your own favorite awful adaptation -- tell us about it in the comments.
Follow Alonso on Twitter.