Friday, April 1, 2011

I Liked You Better As a Stick Figure

The critics generally agree that the film, Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules, is a disappointment. Mind you, it’s currently number one at the box office. The popular book series and first film that grossed over $62 million in 2010 vitually assured an audience for a sequel. To short-hand the franchise: funny books; lame movies. And the most-repeated criticisms of the movies—they lack dramatic arcs, they’re too episodic—are not problems at all … if you’re a book. At best, Rodrick Rules is so-so. You want it? Grab it.

My beef is that something precious is lost in the translation from these books to movies. And that something is a stick figure; to be specific, the supposed-to-be-kid-drawn illustrations from the book series.
To my mind, Greg is the figure on the left; not the right.

Nothing against child actor Zachary Gordon; I wish him success. I just wish it wasn’t at the expense of the expansive, clever, drawn figure millions have come to know and care about.

What’s wrong with a story living exclusively on the pages of a book? The illustrated Greg is every kid but Zachary Gordon’s Greg is specific and fixed forever as a particular living kid. And that weakens the impact and accessibility of the Wimpy Kid stories.

I know—there have been countless (and I mean countless) instances of drawn characters successfully translating to live-action cinema. But Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Ironman—I’m at risk of carpal tunnel here—and the X-Men are realistically drawn with human proportions; and a lot of the panels from their comics bear a striking resemblance to cinema story boards.

Movies aren’t better. They’re just different. Many adaptations from book to film only exist to milk a cash cow. Since nobody else is defending the identity of these drawn figures, I’ve taken the cause upon myself.

While we’re on the subject, this is The Grinch.

And that’s The Grinch on the left; but not on the right.

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