The-Wimpy-Kid-Movie-Diary-Revised-and-Expanded-Edition-Kinney-Jeff-9781419700507

Book Review- The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary

You never know what you’re going to get when you purchase a book that ties into the release of a film that purports to be a diary or some other kind of making of chronicle. Some I flip through are quite flimsy (like alleged shooting scripts with too many photos and goofy formatting), some are quite great (like the Hugo companion). Usually, the book being written by the author of the adapted book is a good indicator.

Thus, what surprised me most about Jeff Kinney’s book about The Diary of a Wimpy Kid wasn’t that I liked it (though I have not read the books, only saw the films) but how detailed it is, yet also accessible. Kinney describes much of the filmmaking process through all three phases of production simply yet precisely. However, aside from tricks of the trade, he also makes the journey personal discussing both his journey with the character and the books and then the films. He goes on to include a bit about the affinity and coincidences in chronology that exist between Gregg Heffley and Zachary Gordon, the actor who plays the role.

Here again you also have another author discuss why changes were made to the narrative when transcribing it to the screen and being fully in support of them. However, Kinney has perhaps the simplest, most bulletproof fanboy block of them all “If everything that happened in the book happened in the movie why would you want to see it?” He also talks about the difficulty in casting Gregg because he recognized that the character had to start as severely flawed but still likable and I believe that balance was struck.

Aside from the specifics of the productions, which prove that movie-making is always hard work (as if that needed proving) I really liked getting a glimpse into the creative process, which is shown not just on Kinney’s part but the first film’s director and the young cast (Gordon and Robert Capron wrote essays as their characters, which are dead on). Aside from the insight that illustrate how the film came into being I think this really is a great book for kids. If they already like the series and are interested in seeing how movies are made you won’t find the elements of production explained more directly, plus discussing concepts in conjunction with a film they’ve seen make it easier to learn.

This is a quick, enjoyable read that is worth seeking out for fans of the series or if you’re just looking to get your feet wet learning the basics of filmmaking. The edition I read had some Rodrick Rules content added but it wasn’t a significant amount so I wouldn’t hold out for a second update and just get it now if you’re interested.

Advertisements

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 10. Be Open

One of the many adaptation of this classic tale. (Paramount)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

Typically if I like a character I want as much of that character as I can get in as many possible incarnations as I can get and clearly there are some who feel this way just look at film franchise and the entire comic book world, which is based on characters crossing-over and being attached to multiple titles. If you want to see a character as much as possible wouldn’t it stand to reason you want to see them more than one way?

Not necessarily misrepresented but rather reinterpreted? Ultimately, the question boils down to: do you savor variety?

Of course, you want the movie to be as good or better than the source but why on earth should it be identical? If you want the same story, read it over again. Be open a change or to a different vision. If all you want is regurgitation you’re just feeding the sequel and remake machine. If a film takes a risk and re-envisions a character or story go with it. Give it a chance it may surprise you and you may surprise yourself.

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 9. Remember What it is You Liked

Gracie Films

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

I mentioned this in a previous entry but it deserves its own entry because it deserves to be addressed almost like an aside. Here’s the deal: sometimes it seems like people like to complain just to hear themselves complain and then they go back to the box office over and over again just to be disappointed all over again. The first tip is if you’re really that irate stop going.

All this nit-picky complaining certainly didn’t get the source material beloved so again there seems to be some of a higher bar set for the film, as if should it not match the source material it’s a sin. At the end of the day it’s just a movie. There are plenty of bad ones out there, terrible ones too but rarely am I angered. If I am angered it’s usually the film has reached incomprehensible levels of godawfulness.

Now granted sometimes complaints or issues are what stick with us even after a good film but if you keep going back for more like a glutton for cinematic punishment you should stop or refocus your energy. If you don’t see what it is that made you like a given story in the first place then fine, however, if you admit the spirit of the tale is still there but you’re obsessing over the omitted minutiae then you’re missing the forest for the trees.

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 8. It Won’t Change a Thing

Jeremy Sumpter and Rachel Hurd-Wood in Peter Pan (Universal)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

The problem I think a lot of people have, and it’s a nasty trap that I’ve seen ensnare many, is that people seem to think that films are somehow definitive; as if that’s the final word on the work and that’s how it will be remembered for all eternity. While it’s true in a theoretical sense that film may be the most concrete and immutable art it by no means claims to be the coda, furthermore the verdict on the worth of a given piece of narrative.

Your favorite book or comic is being adapted into a film and you are pissed? Why bother? What for? I’ll explain why and this even works for remakes to an extent. It still doesn’t change an iota of the written piece that you love so dearly. If you disliked the mini-series based on Stephen King’s It the words in your copy won’t smear.

That’s an extremely hyperbolic example but surely you catch my drift. It’s all about perception and those can change as much as anything. So while it will be next to impossible for the film adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye to match the book in terms of acclaim I won’t deny it’d be interesting to see.

Not only is it waste of your ire to rail against an adaptation of something you love, it also is to an extent pointless, that piece you hold so dear is still there.

I’ve seen The Little Prince butchered on film. It’s still one of my favorite books and I can always turn to it and know that the story will turn out in my head just the way I see it. Just the way I interpret Exupéry’s words.

And that’s another thing: every adaptation is just an interpretation of a director’s vision regardless of how involved a studio is. It is by no means definitive, lest you agree, it’s just a variation on a theme. I personally think P.J. Hogan perfected Peter Pan and Spike Jonze got Where The Wild Things Are, others may disagree.

We all have baggage; it’s best to check yours before entering the auditorium lest it weigh you down.
 

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 7. Suspend Disbelief (aka Get Into It)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

Many of these topics do overlap one another but attack problems from different angles. This tip really comes into play if you’ve already managed to ignore number four. So here’s how:
You’re sitting in the dark of the matinee and you’ve got your 80 oz. soda and obese-family-size Twizzlers and you’re watching the same lame slides come across the screen repeatedly. The trailers for blockbusters-yet-to-be keep you only mildly amused. All this idle time has got you anticipating the film more than you had been before and you start thinking about how this director will handle the material? Or how such-and-such will do in this part and how the casting of character X will pan out. Boom. All the things you were supposed to ignore are back and suddenly the film starts and it’s distracting you.

This is where you have to grab the bull by the horns and just lose yourself in the story. Remember what it is that drew you to this material in the first place and look for it. If you find great, if not the film failed to an extent. Again this is not an attempt to excuse the film but just setting yourself up to try and judge the film before you and not measuring against another kind of work entirely.

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 6. The Perils and Merits of Series

Vista Library

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

The aforementioned tips are all well and good when you are the fan of a standalone piece in another medium and it is being adapted into a standalone, for the time being, film. Things get more complicated when your book or comic or what have you is part of a series. Any series will have its own arc and structure in its greater tale aside from just the structure of the single volume.

This is where you might have to breathe deep and learn some relaxation techniques. If an element, say Hermione’s quest to end the enslavement of House elves, is left out of one film it will be left out of each subsequent film until it becomes absolutely, positively crucial to the structuring of the story. So some of the subplots that enrich a book will invariably fall by the wayside, which is why comparing mediums is dangerous.

I don’t want a novel that reads like a screenplay. I want detail, inner monologue, I want it to be possible to take two pages to describe five seconds of a character’s life. Each medium has its strengths and to expect a film to be a pictographic facsimile of a book is unrealistic. Sticking to the Harry Potter theme The Deathly Hallows is 759 pages long. If those pages were screenplay pages you’d be looking at a 12 and 1/2 hour movie. So even with two films telling the tale of one book you’re looking at roughly 40% of the material in the book covered.

So it’s a fact of life that the movie by necessity can and will leave things out and change things.

Conversely, you need to look at the film within the context of the series. You can compare it to past films but also bear in mind: how did it advance the story, did it up the stakes, is it leaving the table set nicely for a subsequent edition should there be one?

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 5. Forewarned is Forearmed?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Warner Bros.)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

This may be the most difficult of my guidelines in which to practice what you preach but it is completely possible. Basically, what this means is that if you find yourself to forming prejudicial opinions when hearing news tidbits about an upcoming films try and avoid them. Granted this is becoming increasingly difficult in a wired world but it is possible.

For example, I wrote about the split in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films. Curiosity got the better of me and I looked into what they picked and thus opined on it. However, none of the headlines I saw gave it away had I not clicked the link I’d be none the wiser.

Now, of course, casting news is usually a giveaway. It’ll be in the headline that so-and-so was cast in a given role but what I’ve learned in those scenarios is that I have been surprised many times by such decisions so I no longer read too much into those.

This feeds into the blank slate argument but basically the less about the production you can manage to absorb and form an opinion on before you see the film the better off you will be.

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 4. Leave Your Expectations at the Door

newmoms.com

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

I have frequently started articles by saying that I went into a screening as a blank slate an that greatly enhanced the experience. Clearly this is much easier said than done and it works best when you literally don’t even know the plot details about what you are going to see. That being said you can try to apply it to an adaptation of one of your favorite works.

This selection is kind of a fail safe should number two not cut it for you. If you absolutely cannot drain yourselves of recollections of the book or other adapted materials open yourself to the experience you are about to have. Lower your expectations if you have to. Be prepared for anything and everything and don’t sit in wait of certain events. Get into full on hit me mode and let it wash over you as much as possible.

If you are typically hyper-critical take it down a notch, if you’re just critical be escapist. You can still reflect back on the film later on and make up your mind about what you thought. The key is to have those opinions be based on the movie and nothing more.

10 Keys To A Better Life As A Fanboy- 3. You’re Not The Director, Screenwriter, Etc.

Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Warner Bros.)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

While this does connect somewhat to number one, as many ultimately will, trust me this is somewhat different and is very important to remember. It is also key to keep in mind ultimately the decisions that are shaping a series based on a work you love are not yours to make. Now you may be a creative type who makes it and someday you could be in charge of a remake, as film is becoming more like theatre and remakes (read “revivals”) are becoming an accepted practice, of your pet project and if that’s the case more power to you but then you’ll be the one facing the angry postings not writing them. However, as you sit in wait for one of the year’s biggest releases you’re not going to shift opinion and if your opinion stands for several consecutive installments of a series do one of two things: one, get over it or two, stop watching them.

An example of this would be a friend of mine who told me four movies or so into the Harry Potter series that she hates how Rupert Grint plays Ron Weasley. There is obviously a difference of opinion between the makers and actor and this audience member as to who Ron is, however, the producers wanted nothing more from the early-going than to secure the young triad for the duration. If the interpretation bothers you that much stop subjecting yourself to it or knock it off and just take it with a grain of salt.

I do fully realize there are remakes or sequels that make money simply because you want to “see how stupid it is” but eventually if a series dissatisfies you for several consecutive installments you should pull the plug. Aside from that you really have no sway. Online petitions may have gotten people on SNL but they have yet to change film casting or rewrite plot points so it is an exercise in futility.

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 2. Have a Bad Memory

Ian McKellan in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

I don’t know if it’s possible to train yourself to have a bad memory but you can sure as hell give it the old college try. You may have to be born with it and in that case I have been blessed. At least in this regard, it’s not really as handy as you may think.

How this will help you, though, is that the further you remove yourself from the source material the more you will be able to enjoy the film as a separate entity. An example of my experience with this is the Harry Potter films. Now granted they have gotten better, in my opinion (exponentially so with each installment), however, when I saw The Sorcerer’s Stone my first viewing was marred because I had so recently finished reading the book.

Since then there has been a bit of a gap between my having read the book and seeing each movie. Some were larger than others but that has helped. With each successive film I have spent less and less time and mental energy thinking to myself “Oh, Such-and-Such is coming up.”

Anticipating events and then wanting to see how they are executed cinematically can diminish your enjoyment unnaturally. If you came in as a blank slate you may either be awed or disappointed but it would be all your opinion of what you saw and in no way influenced by your expectation.

An illustration I could give you would be The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I never read them. I don’t care if I ever do read them. It certainly wouldn’t make my bucket list were I to write one (Finishing War and Peace would), but I did see all three movies. Thus, I had no preset expectations and the reception it got was the reverse of what usually happens. It was hyped, fans wanted it and were typically pleased with what they saw. For the record: I thought part one was pretty good, part two was interminable and part three was brilliant until it decided it would refuse to end. In some parallel dimension of the multiverse I’m sure it never did.