Friday, June 12, 2009

Something I Never Thought I'd Hear Myself Say: Skip the Book and Watch the Movie

(Image from Amazon)

It's rare, but occasionally, I'll come across a movie I like better than the book on which it is based. This is the case with Carl Hiassen's YA novel, Hoot. I know the book earned a Newbery Honor Medal and all that, but I found it choppy, a little crass and zany to the point of silliness. The movie version softened a lot of the book's rough edges, giving the story an appealing innocence.

The book concerns one Roy Eberhardt, a Montana transplant who's having trouble getting used to life in Coconut Cove, Florida. Roy spends his days at Trace Middle School trying not to get beat up by tough guy Dana Matherson, who pounces on him every chance he gets. One day, as Dana's smashing his face up against the bus window, Roy spies something odd - a kid about his age running pell mell down the street, barefoot. Curious, he asks around, but no one seems to know anything about the boy. Except Beatrice Leep. Strong, angry Beatrice Leep, who warns him - in no uncertain terms - to mind his own business.

In the meantime, Coconut Crove's got a small crisis on its hands - the site on which a new Mother Paula's pancake house seems to be the target of some kind of prankster. Alligators in the toilet, poisonous snakes slithering across the property, spray-painted patrol cars - the bumbling cops can't figure out who's responsible or what they've got against pancakes. Roy, on the other hand, is putting two-and-two together - he suspects the running boy's responsible for the assaults on the construction site. But why? And who is the barefoot kid, anyway? What Roy discovers will both surprise and enrage him. In fact, it might just lead to the biggest adventure of his life.

Hoot is the kind of book that will appeal to tween boys (my 10-year-old keeps asking if I'm ever going to be done with it) - it boasts a likeable, underdog hero; police who can't get anything right; a daring prankster; and kids standing up for what they believe in. Plus, it's got a rude/crude edge that boys will eat right up. For an adult woman (me), it's a little too over-the-top. Although I haven't read any of Hiassen's other books, I know he's known for his zany sense of humor; for me, it was a little too zany. Of course, I'm not a tween boy living in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid era, to whom zany equals most hilarious thing ever.

The reason I like the movie so much better is that it tones down a lot of the book's silliness. It's still funny, but not ridiculous. Now, I'm a little partial to the Wilson boys (something about those nasally drawls ...), which is another reason I liked the movie: Luke Wilson played Officer Delinko to perfection. Despite some serious preachy parts, it's a fun, family-friendly flick. I'd almost go so far as to say skip the book and just rent the movie, but I think that's against some reader code of ethics. Let's just say that for me the book wasn't really worth the read. The movie smoothed things out and made the story much more palatable for me. And did I mention Luke Wilson? That might not persuade a tween boy to watch the movie, but I have a hunch it will convince a few moms ...

Grade: C

4 comments:

  1. I thought the book was OK, but I haven't seen the movie, so I can't compare.

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  2. That's funny. I haven't seen the movie, but I absolutely loved the book. Better seek out the movie, then, yes?

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  3. I didn't even know they had made this into a film. Doh. I haven't even read the book, but I do enjoy his other books, the ones for adults that is.

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  4. This book is AWESOME.I love it!!!! I REALLY want to see the movie!!!!

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