Hollywood At Its Dumbest

I have to admit I've been a sub-par blogger this month as opposed to last month (17 posts in August...an all-time high for me!). All sorts of things have conspired to keep me busy this month. Work has gotten more hectic, and the last few weekends have been filled with, er, festivities. I celebrated Mexican Independence Day with a few new Mexican friends, had some drinks and went clubbing with some people from my previous co-op term, and just this last weekend, went out for a night of dinner and dancing with some friends to celebrate me turning 23. On top of that, I've decided to resume salsa lessons but with a different instructor, so I'm not at home two evenings a week.

This hectic pace is probably responsible for my less than stellar health. Right now I'm cooped up in my house with a cold and a cough severe and loud enough to wake the dead. Only circumstances as desperate as these would make me watch Ella Enchanted, which is playing on TV right now.

Don't get me wrong: I love the Newbery Honor award-winning book that the film is based on. Gail Carson Levine's novel retells the classic story of Cinderella, but with a comic verve and inventiveness that makes the story fresh and new. Levine's Cinderella, or Ella, is a plucky, brave, intelligent heroine cursed with the "gift" of obedience thanks to the generosity of a dingbat fairy at her christening. Ella grows up and goes through the story struggling to break her curse, trying not to let unscrupulous characters (including her odious stepsisters) take advantage of her, and falling in love with the handsome and personable Prince Charmont. I love the book for its fun details and solid narrative and characterizations. The courtship between Ella and Charmont is also one of the sweetest things I've come across in children's fiction.

You would think that a children's novel that has received critical acclaim and is imaginative and fun would make a great film, right? Well, apparently Hollywood didn't. Mirimax made a film version of the novel starring Anne Hathaway that is so far removed from the original it's almost unrecognizable. A Newbery Honor award wasn't enough to convince the screenwriters that the novel was good stuff. Instead, they threw in musical numbers, an assassination plot, an elf sidekick for Ella, an evil sorcerer uncle and a talking pet snake...the sincerity and sweetness of the book became lost in the process. Mirimax should have trusted the integrity of the material, and trusted its audiences to pay attention to an actual storyline, instead of making a film that seems to be for sufferers of attention deficit disorder.

In recent years, as Hollywood increasingly runs out of original ideas, some of the best films to come out have been novel adaptations. The ones that succeed usually follow the source material closely, such as The English Patient or The Shawshank Redemption. Let's hope Mirimax does the same the next time it decides to base a film on a children's novel.

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