Cat in the hat and count olaf

The Children’s Adaptations I Hate the Most

Often, beloved books are made into wonderful movies extending the joy from page to screen, engaging new generations of readers. Sadly, equally as often, CGI-sodden, terrible, heinous crimes against literature are committed in the form of bad movie adaptations. More often than not, these crimes are committed against children’s books. Their delightful illustrations and beautifully imagined scenes prove too tempting for movie studios to resist.


1. The Cat in the Hat


cat in the hat

Speak for yourself, Jim. / Via WiffleGif


Sex jokes, poor acting… Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times said the film was ‘all effects and stunts and CGI and prosthetics, with no room for lightness and joy.’ This is damning commentary for any film, but especially bad for a film adapted from one of the most joyous books there is. After this disastrous affair, Dr. Seuss’s widow vowed that there would never again be a live-action Seuss movie.


2. The Golden Compass


Polar Bear

Me, bursting out of the cinema after seeing The Golden Compass. / Via Nerdist


Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is arguably one of the most intricate, marvelous, and thought-provoking series in the history of fiction. It deals with vast concepts using incredible characters, and is set against the backdrop of a meticulously constructed world. The film, however, is more along the lines of ‘haha look at this talking polar bear!’  A hideously miscast monstrosity, The Golden Compass dumbed down and abbreviated this text almost beyond recognition, no doubt deterring a great number of potential readers from the books. I will never forgive anyone who was involved in its making and will be angry about it forever.


3. Garfield



I hate you. / Via Laughing Gif


Bill Murray, who voices the titular character in this unnecessary adaptation, appears in the movie Zombieland as himself. In Zombieland, before he is shot, he is asked if he has any regrets, to which he replies ‘Garfield, maybe.’  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


4. The Hobbit Trilogy (a single book completely unnecessarily made into three movies)



Even Bilbo knows it sucks. / Via Imgur


Okay, so it’s not necessarily a kid’s book. It’s also not necessarily awful. At least not the first film. Martin Freeman is a reasonably pleasant Bilbo, the dwarves are pretty funny, and the landscapes and sets are as beautiful as the The Lord of the Rings. However, as the movies go on…and on…and on…and the deviations from the plot of the book become more and more absurd in order to stretch the 300 page novel into three feature length films, things get bad.


5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 


Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Ragging on your terrible movie, Johnny, wbu? / Via Tumblr


So Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the original adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved classic starring Gene Wilder, ticked all the boxes: it’s a magical, well acted, sometimes creepy, often funny, good and wholesome movie. Tim Burton’s remake is, as you might expect, a Tim Burton movie. Ever so weird and kooky. The film is so stylized that any sense of real magic and fear or joy is simply negated by the harsh, angry color palette and Johnny Depp being…Johnny Depp.


6. A Series of Unfortunate Events (The 2004 movie and the 2017 Netflix series. I’ve got beef with both.)


Violet Baudelaire

Basically. / Via Giphy


I would argue that the first book in this thirteen volume series, The Bad Beginning, would make an excellent film. If so desired, the entire series could make a really excellent TV show. The tone and atmosphere of the books are so deliberate, so precise, so well thought out and consistent that an adaptation seemed impossible to mess up. And yet twice now the delightfully miserable chronicles of the Baudelaire orphans have been woefully misinterpreted and misrepresented.


The first such incident occurred in 2004 when the initial three books (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window) were rolled into one very bad movie. Starring Jim Carey (A COMEDIAN) as the supposedly terrifying and evil Count Olaf, the film instantly became what every movie with Jim Carey inevitably becomes. It was a ‘Jim Carey’ movie much the same as Willy Wonka, which became a ‘Johnny Depp’ movie. It lacked any of the spooky discomfort, weirdness, and dry humor of the books. At no point does the audience really feel that the children have exited the realm of mild peril and graduated to ‘totally doomed’ as they do in the books. The constant genuine fear you feel for the orphans in the books keeps you on the edge of your seat, reading ever on and on to the thirteenth book. The movie, however? I barely made it to the end.


jim carey

Please, God, let it be anyone else…except Neil Patrick Harris. / Via Giphy


The second such incident occurred just this year when Neil Patrick Harris’s Netflix series aired. I was looking forward to this, never having gotten over the betrayal of 2004. I thought they couldn’t possibly make the same mistakes a second time.


Reader, I was wrong.


At least in the film the children are somewhat dour and intelligent. The children in the TV series are rosy-cheeked and deliver their wordy lines as if they have no idea what they are actually saying. It is also weirdly stylized, using poor quality special effects which take away from any mood of doom or gloom or even humor. The strange situations into which the orphans are flung manage to lack any real point of interest. The music is strangely upbeat and reminiscent of something out of The Grinch. Neil Patrick Harris’s Count Olaf is neither scary enough, funny enough, nor anything else enough to engage. His crowd of misfits (which are genuinely very unsettling in the books) are an unthreatening, bumbling crowd of dimwits. On top of all of this, the show’s narrator, who in the books is the deeply sad, strange, amusing, and sometimes slightly sinister character of Lemony Snicket, comes across as a somewhat swaggering Alec Baldwin-type who lacks any real intrigue whatsoever. I am so angry. How did they get it so wrong? The show’s one redeeming feature is Joan Cusack as Justice Strauss. She’s just an angel. Everything else sucks.



No. / Via Giphy


BONUS: Peter Rabbit


Peter Rabbit

Oh, shut up you loathsome creature. / Via IMDB


Okay, so I know this movie isn’t even out yet, but the trailer is enough. It’s more than enough. For my thoughts on this, please see my article “Everything I Hate About the ‘Peter Rabbit’ Trailer”. It contains everything I hate about the Peter Rabbit trailer.


Featured Image Via MTV and Alchetron