For the last few Labor Day weekends, I've put together a preview of upcoming films based on literary works. But not every adaptation cooperates by being released in the fall. ---
The second half of the summer movie season will see adaptations including the Oprah-approved best-seller Eat Pray Love, and the Sundance 2010 comedy-drama The Extra Man. Here's what to expect from a few more.
Source Material: The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud,
by Ben Sherwood (for the film Charlie St.
Book Overview: As a teenager, Charlie St. Cloud is the driver in an accident that kills his younger brother; 13 years later, he’s still connected to his dead sibling through his ability to see spirits. The prologue is solid work, building the framework for Charlie’s guilt-defined life. A budding romance between Charlie and a tough-minded young woman is meant to raise the stakes, but Sherwood approaches the relationship with the same gauziness that he applies to the rest of the narrative. Though it’s meant to be a narrative about moving on, this relatively slim volume begins to feel as though it’s just meandering on.
Book Grade: C
Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Moved from early fall to summer, so there’s at least some degree of confidence in its prospects.
Reason for Adaptation Concern: When I think of young actors capable of low-key melancholy, “Zac Efron” isn’t the name that leaps most immediately to mind.
Film Scheduled Release Date: July 30
<The Movie Pitch: “Just Like Heaven meets The Sixth Sense”
Book Overview: Unemployed, 23-year-old Toronto musician Scott Pilgrim has met the girl of his dreams—but in order to be worthy of her, he must battle her evil ex-boyfriends. O’Malley’s graphic-novel series (the sixth and final volume is released next week) is, admittedly, targeted at a certain geek-boy demographic even more than most graphic novels, a perversely entertaining mash-up in which the protagonist’s life effectively turns into a video game at key moments. But the characters are all wonderfully rich, and O’Malley’s ear for a certain type of post-collegiate patois is pitch-perfect.
Book Grade: A-
Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Great casting, leading off with Michael Cera as Scott; director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) has shown a facility for perversely entertaining mash-ups.
Reason for Adaptation Concern: Shift between mumblecore comedy and ninja action may be too weird to work cinematically.
Film Scheduled Release Date: Aug. 13
The Movie Pitch: “High Fidelity meets Kill Bill”
Book Overview: Eighth-grader Juli has had an unrequited crush on her neighbor Bryce since they were both seven, but the dynamic in their relationship changes during one tumultuous year. The narrative alternates chapters between the two protagonists’ points-of-view, but that gimmick is really a framing device for a story that’s more about adolescents maturing in their understanding of adult family members as complex, flawed people. It winds up being less a cutesy junior-high romance than a character study about two distinct coming-of-age experiences.
Book Grade: B
Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Director Rob Reiner could be returning to his friends-to-sweethearts roots from When Harry Met Sally …
Reason for Adaptation Concern: Reiner hasn’t actually made a watchable movie since before these kids were born.
Film Scheduled Release Date: Aug. 27
The Movie Pitch: “When Harry Met Sally … meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid”