Dear diary, ever since I was a little kid, I remember my mom always telling me “read the book before you watch the movie, because the book will always be better.”
It’s basically been a rule in our house since and I’m glad for it.
In this diary entry, I explain why novels are better than their movie adaptations and why you should always read the book first, too.
Many popular novels have been adapted into films such as “All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven, The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer and more classic literature like “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
However, the novel I want to focus on this week is “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein.
This novel is one of my favorite books of all time and I will always recommend it to those who enjoy an emotional story. The novel is from the point of view of a dog named Enzo, who tells the story of Denny, his owner, and every twist and turn they take together, including Enzo’s hate for a stuffed zebra.
When I found out that this novel was being transformed into a movie, I was ecstatic; that is, until I found out Disney picked it up. While I am a Disney nerd, I just knew that they weren’t going to be able to make this novel into a PG-13 movie and keep some of the original storylines. That’s exactly what happened.
After many conflicts throughout the book, there is a point where a 15-year-old girl named Annika, a family member of Denny’s wife, pushes herself onto Denny, an adult and asks for sexual relations.
The entire incident started after Denny kissed Annika on the cheek as a formal greeting. She suddenly felt an attraction towards him. Exaggerating her feelings she cries, “But I love you!” to Denny over and over.
Stein writes in the voice of Enzo, “She howled, and then she was in an all-out crying fit, her eyes squeezed shut, her mouth contorted. ‘I love you!’ she kept saying over and over. ‘I love you!’”
Denny declines her, which is what we would have thought to be the end of that storyline.
However, the final climax of the novel occurs when Denny is fighting for custody of his daughter from his late wife’s parents. Annika then decides to accuse Denny of rape.
The outcome of the trial is good for Denny, but the details aren’t clear because the book is narrated by Enzo, a dog. And as Enzo said in the book, “I wasn’t there because I am a dog, and dogs are not allowed in court.”
Disney, known for shying away from making films beyond a PG-13 rating, ultimately changed the overall final climax.
In the movie, Denny’s mother-in-law accuses Denny of assaulting his father-in-law by pushing him to the ground. They use this as a reason to fight for custody over Denny’s daughter Zoe, their grand-daughter.
While it was nice to see my favorite book turned into a movie, I was disappointed with the missing plot.
When a bookworm like myself finds out that their favorite novel is being turned into a film or a television show, I suspect it’s inevitable that they’ll get it wrong. The reason most movie adaptations miss huge plot points from their books is because of a film’s runtime.
Most movies are between one and a half to three hours long. When you play a book out, scene by scene and word for word, it will likely be much longer.
Not only will films cut scenes from the novels that readers may think are fun or important, but novels are more likely to be an immersive and complex experiences.
In the novel, you see life through a dog’s eyes. But in the movie, even though the dog is present, it’s still as if it’s through human eyes, making the experience less immersive.
While movies may be more visually appealing, the detailed descriptions found in a book can make you empathize with the emotions the characters are feeling, pulling the reader further into the novel. Movies don’t always harvest the same emotional response.
Books can be good for expanding vocabulary, knowledge and imagination. With movies, you are given a visual for the story automatically. In text, you get to create those images yourself.
Whenever a novel is being turned into a movie, don’t forget to read the book first and decide for yourself whether the movie is better.
Sincerely, a bookworm.