I know, I know. How can the movie ever be better than the book?! Tar and feather her! But I have two examples to give, plus my rationale.
I'm often amazed I watched this film, period. I didn't think much of the trailer when I first saw it, but I decided to buy the book since it was cheap, and I'd heard good things about Neil Gaiman. The book wasn't bad, but to me, the audience was very "split". It seemed like it was meant to be a pre-teen novel, but at times, it was graphically violent. Those bits felt very out of place and disrupted the flow of the novel for me. Nevertheless, it was an easy read, and the opportunity to see it in theatres presented itself. And I LOVED it. Granted, a lot was changed (Robert De Niro's character in the book is very different), including the ending, but it was all an improvement. The problems with the "split" audience was fixed, and what we were given was a light-hearted, fun, fantasy film.
I haven't read anything more by Neil Gaiman, though I would really like to. Not that I have much time to read anymore, but over the summer if I have time, I'd like to try another of his novels. Any suggestions?
My Dad gave me his copy of Winston Groom's Forrest Gump a number of years ago. He'd warned me that the movie was an improvement, but I didn't listen (since the movie is NEVER better, or so I thought at the time), and read the book. I didn't like it. I thought it was a little too ridiculous, and struggled to get through it. To be completely fair, I don't remember much of it, probably because I had so much trouble getting through it. But the experience was enough to keep me from rushing out to see the movie. I caught it a year or two later on television, and was hooked. Sure, Forrest's life is still a stretch, but it didn't seem ridiculous to me. Instead I found it to be very touching. Groom's novel, at least to me, made the events of Forrest's life into a joke, so I didn't feel anything at the end of it. Of course, the film is helped by the amazing performances Tom Hanks, Robin Wright Penn, and Gary Sinise give.
And here is an example of the opposite...a film adaptation that fails in every single way.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
I really enjoyed Louis de Bernieres novel. The first hundred pages or so were slow going, but as I read further, I found myself fully absorbed in the story. I couldn't put it down. The characters were complex, the story was rich, and the love story was beautiful. Plus the ending was tragic, but...perfect in every way, even if it was also very "dissatisfying". I've been wanting to reread it for a long time, but, again, no time and if I did have time, I think I'd like to read books I haven't read yet, or at least reread a book that doesn't take a huge time commitment the way this one does. I caught the movie on TV about a year ago. I'd read it was a terrible adaptation, but I had nothing better to do, so I put it on.
It was a disaster. Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz were both terribly miscast (especially Cage, just listen to that horrible attempt at an Italian accent), and seemed to stumble across the screen. Charming Corelli seemed awkward and artificial when portrayed by Cage. John Hurt, as Dr. Iannis, was one of the few bright spots in the film.
But here's the kicker: they changed the ending! It wasn't surprising since much of the story prior to the ending had been changed or simplified in some way, but it still got a good eye roll out of me. Do yourselves a favour: read the book, and keep the characters in your mind. Don't see this pathetic adaptation of a beautiful novel.