This weekend saw the release, and box-office success, of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, an animated adaptation of the much-beloved children’s book about precipitation alla Bolognese. You may wonder how they managed an entire feature-length film out of this straightforward and pretty slender storybook. Well, in a way, they didn’t. The filmmakers have padded out the story to include an absent-minded inventor whose experiments lead to the titular weather patterns, his love interest, a perky weather girl, a maniacal machine bent on destruction, and Mr. T as a cop.
Next month we’ll get the arrival of Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, based on Maurice Sendak’s 1963 classic, in which Jonze and his co-screenwriter, McSweeney’s man Dave Eggers, have similarly fleshed out the original’s sparse plot in order to turn its less than 350 (by my count) words into a staggering work of adapted genius. (Eggers’ own novelized version, The Wild Things, will be released to accompany the film.) It also seems inevitable that there’ll be at least a few changes in Wes Anderson’s slightly-taxidermied take on Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, set for a November release.
Inspired by these substantial acts of adaptation, we’ve compiled some as-of-yet untouched classics of children’s lit that we think might be fun to see on the big screen, with a few necessary adjustments of course.
The Giving Tree: Shel Silverstein’s timeless tale of arboreal largesse relocated to Central Park and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as the eponymous tree and Abigail Breslin as a neglected Upper East Side child who takes its gifts for granted. It‘s a gut-wrenching, and Oscar-worthy, tale of unrequited love and betrayal, with the greatest performance as an immobile log since Keanu Reeves’ last film.
Sample Dialogue: “All you ever do it take, take, take! What about my feelings? What about my needs?”
Goodnight, Moon: The source material consists nearly exclusively of scenes of a young boy saying goodnight to various things in and around his bedroom. Director Michael Bay hopes to maintain the original’s basic structure while replacing “saying goodnight to” with “exploding into an infernal fireball” and “a young boy” with “Will Smith.” Also, the Moon killed Smith’s family and he’s out for revenge.
Sample Dialogue: “Say goodnight, Moon.” *EXPLOSION*
Green Eggs and Ham: The car of a notoriously irascible food critic (Bradley Cooper) breaks down in a small rural burg while he’s on his way to an awards ceremony in his honor. He soon finds that the only place in town to eat is the local diner, where a quirky fun-loving waitress Samantha Iams (Anna Faris) serves up her famous green eggs and ham along with a side of loveable antics. While he initially declines to try anything but coffee and toast, she refuses to take no for an answer and they both soon realize that the quickest way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach.
Sample Dialogue: “I realized something, Sam. Eggs are a lot like people. They’re fragile and if you’re not careful with them, they can break so easily. I think that’s why I acted like I did. I was afraid of breaking. But not anymore”
Heather Has Two Mommies: Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet play a couple who hope to adopt a young girl named Heather, and who are unwittingly thrust into the limelight when the agency’s denial of their application hits the media. They battle against bigotry and bureaucracy in their fight for the right to start a family of their own.
Sample Dialogue: “No, your Honor, I don’t think it matters one bit whether Heather has a mommy and a daddy or whether Heather has two mommies. Not when there’s love involved.”
What do you guys think? Have any other classics you’d like to see?