Thursday, December 30, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Translation

My tweens have recently taken an interest in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, eating them up as fast as we can get a hold of them. So, with the Christmas break upon us (and the movie we really wanted to see being too expensive) we checked out the first adaptation yesterday. The trailer had looked really amusing and of course the kids have been quoting the books for a few weeks now, so we were surprised with how disappointing it was.

When we got home, I did what I should have done weeks ago. It is something that I as a former youth minister had told myself I would always do with the books movies and music my kids get into. I read the book.

What we have here is a great example of a story being poorly translated. The book is simply a series of amusing anecdotes that happen to a dumb little middle-school student. The movie takes the same basic plotline, most of the incidents that occur in the book, and totally ruin it. They do so by inserting motivation.

In the book Greg is pretty passive. He simply goes through the year and things happen to him. In the movie, they decided to make him an active character. He orchestrates every episode in an attempt to become the most popular kid in school. Along the way, we are shown the valuable truth that trying to be cool is the worst way to be so. Greg’s dopey friend who cares nothing about popularity and is happy with the way he is actually succeeds in being accepted in school. This would normally be a great thing for a movie aimed at tweens to do. The problem here is that you hate the main character.

In the book, he isn’t particularly good, but a book of this sort can sustain an unlikable main character. A movie cannot. What’s worse is that the filmmakers forgot to have their main character learn the lesson they were preaching.

If you have kids or are a kid in this target age range, skip the film and read the books.

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