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Monday
Mar032008

And To Think I Blegged It On... oh, forget it.

My next MSNBC article is about the various movies made from Seuss books. Problem is, my proportion is all out of whack here; I'm a literary purist, and the mere idea of a person picking up a ten-page book and saying "Wouldn't this make a great two-hour movie?" immediately disqualifies the project from awesomeness in my "the book was better" world.

I simply do not have a good track record with extra-Seussical outlets. There's a Seuss-themed land at Islands of Adventure, which I only visited during Halloween Horror Nights, when the puffy turrets and twisty sculptures are lit all creepy. And then the park adds huge smokestacks of black-lit bubbles, in which cavort... CLOWNS. In--again-- creepy lighting. You guys, I need to quadruple my meds to get through this piece.

The other problem is (there are always multiple problems-- you know this about me by now) that the article needs to be 1000 words, and I have a feeling the editors aren't going to appreciate a 998-word bio blurb. So what do you think? Seuss movies: Do they merely suck, or do they really suck?

honestly wanting to know at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com

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Reader Comments (22)

Hummm....Well, I'd say that the movies themselves did not suck, per se, but when compared to the books they may have taken Suess's simple ideas too far and made them too showy.

Also, the original cartoon Grinch specifically does NOT suck.

March 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

I'll admit, I've never seen a Seuss movie . . . because I have seen Seuss movie previews, and I know better.

Plus, it really ticked me off that they made the Grinch into a movie, when in its cartoon form, it is Christmasy and Seussy perfection. Why mess with that?

So, again, little first-hand evidence, but I'm going to say: REALLY suck.

March 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Oh MB,
They truly do.....
Today is Dr. Seuss' birthday, so we had a day-long read-a-thon. One of my third graders wanted to bring in her DVD of The Cat in the Hat. I told her, in no uncertain terms, "NO". I'm sorry, but the book is the pure-Seuss. The only "movie" that has even come close is the animated Christmas special "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". In my view, the Jim Carrey version is sacrilege.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWiserlemmingAZ

Dr. Suess movies (most specifically Cat in the Hat with Mike Myers) completely suck. I think that the main problem is that Dr. Suess material is inherently dark and creepy, but are cloaked in fun, innocent-sounding children's rhymes. The only great retelling of a Dr. Suess story I can think of is The Grinch (cartoon version). The movie version (starring Jim Carrey) was ok but only in a very creepy, disturbing way. Mostly I just enjoyed watching Jim Carrey totally morph into the Grinch, and I appreciated all the special effects. However, The Cat in the Hat was truly horrific in its disgustingness. There were no lengths to which that movie did not stoop for a joke, even if it was nasty toilet humor. My main issue with that was that it was marketed as a kids' flick, but it turned out to be totally inappropriate fare. So - you asked, I responded - Yes they really suck.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMissy

Hey MB,

I liked what "Missy" alluded to - the books often do have a "dark and creepy" feel to them, which sets up a children's movie very awkwardly. (The same, to me, as "James and the Giant Peach" and "Holes" did - this effect is not limited to Suess!) Myself, I like the Jim Carrey Grinch, but not for my kids, really. And the cartoon Grinch is also good but again, my kids don't watch it (except the oldest who is a teen.) When I think of children's books that translated well into film, like "Bridge to Terebithia" and "Babe" there is an entirely different sort of feel to them - light and cuddly? - even when sad, I think. For the record, I personally haven't come across many children who like Suess books as much as grown-ups do. They have usually gravitated to "Go Dog Go" and the Berenstain Bear books instead. Happy writing MB - whatever your verdict I know I will enjoy reading your thoughts.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteraazmom

I think *The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T* is generally considered excellent viewing and I always enjoyed the half-hour cartoons of Horton, the Grinch, the Lorax, etc, So I think rather than talking about Suess adaptations in general, you're talking specifically about Wildly Over-Budgeted Hollywood Movies Starring Larger-Than-Life Comedians Who Might, Just Might, Be Off Their Meds.

In other words, *The Grinch* and *The Cat in the Hat* (and, probably, *Horton*). Limit your argument there, and you do have suck.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

Actually, most "classics" of children's literature are VERY dark- if you were to make movies of nursery rhymes- oy! So, you take dark material, a comedian who is rather off, a movie-going population who likes things large and bright and obvious, and you have a mix that is just not a good thing. I didn't really like Suess as a child- I knew that there was a subplot of something else going on, and I didn't like it. I was never one as a kid to appreciate being left out.

I do have to say that in defense of Jim Carrey's Grinch, I totally loved the faces, the story line and the movie! It wasn't the book, but as a movie on its own, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had been so long since I read the book (see childhood aversion above) that I had few expectations and really liked it. That being said, my children do NOT like the movie- "That scares me, mommy!".

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter2xgtld

MB,

I have to admit that I loved the Jim Carrey "Grinch" almost as much as the original cartoon version and book, though in a very different way. We got to see so much more of how we all look for Christmas in our hearts through little Cindy Lou Who, and she is, in many ways, much more relatable than the Grinch as we have all had times when we're not sure what Christmas is really all about.

I also have to echo that the short animated versions follow the books quite acurately as they are usually just a narrated version of the book with a cartoon to follow. My personal favorite is the Lorax, but that is my favorite book and it's hard to screw up that message.

We appreciate Dr. Seuss' messages in new ways once we leave our childhoods--for some that might be a movie, while for others, that is contentedly sitting wrapped in a blanket with an anthology of their favorite Seuss rhymes.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterekathleeng

I always loved the half-hour cartoons of 'Horton' and 'Grinch,' so when the live-action 'Grinch' appeared, I went 'UGH!' I didn't see it in theaters, but this past Christmas, it was on TV and I finally decided to chance it...only to go 'UUUUUGH!!!' and switch off the set ten minutes later.

I saw the preview for the new 'Horton' and went, decidedly, 'UGH.' So, I'm thinking I never, ever want to see it, and Hollywood has not yet come to understand that, as you said, ten-page books do not translate well into two-hour (or even hour and a half) movies. They REALLY suck.

I just hope Hollywood never attempts to make a movie of 'Green Eggs and Ham.' *shudders*

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwaseom

I'm seconding exactly what Leslie said. I was turned off just by the previews of Carrey's Grinch and Horton, and Meyer's Cat, so neither I nor my son will be seeing any of them as long as I control the DVD player.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatrina

Many people that have commented on Seuss' movies on an animation blog —called cartoonbrew.com, you mihgt want to check it out to know the viewpoints of Animation pros— agree that it would have been far better to make a 2-hour movie with 4 of the stories (Cat in the Hat, Grinch, Horton, Green Eggs), instead of stretching the Seussian stuff to such lengths that it becomes too watered down. But obviously, for comercial and copyrigh reasons, this is next to impossible.

Still, although I realize the closest to a fair rendition is Chuck Jones' master piece of the Grinch, I preferr to watch Carrey's version during the holiday season any day over other sugary Xmas specials! Carrey proved that it takes more than enduring 6 hours of make-up to make a Seussian character come to live, unlike Myer's pitiful attempt with the cat-in-the-hat.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

The Grinch was ok, Cat in the Hat was terrible.

They do NOT work as modern day, real-live-action, "Shrek"-humor type movies. Suess himself would probably be mortified, were he alive, at what was done to his wonderful stories.

If they release another live action version of any of his books, I will not go see it. If, instead, they create new animation, and they keep the same childlike innocence and quality of the original story, as was done *wonderfully* for Curious George, then I will go see that.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJules

"The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" is the only good live-action Suess film. He wrote the screenplay and helped in the production (which probably the reason why the film looks so straight up surreal). As others have said, Suess' writings have an underlying creepiness and bizarreness to them and "5,000 Fingers" fits the bill. As a kid, that movie gave me nightmares. The mix of a never ending piano lesson and the elevator operator/dungeon guard in an executioner's mask was just too much for me.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Grinch - really sucks.
Cat in the Hat - really sucks.
Horton - elicites grown from audience.
500 Fingers of Dr. T. - fun. Perhaps the fifty five year gap in the films has something to do with it :)

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterstarnarcosis

They Suck. Feature length films cannot capture the beauty of Seuss's poetry and turn kids away from the subtle (to them) but real purpose of these books which is to teach and inspire reading. As I have come to discover through the magic of Dora the Explorer, when kids see something on T.V., it changes the way they interact with the character in a book. They are too busy thinking about how the character was on T.V. to really get into the book they way they do when the character is not connected with a T.V. show. They don't ask as many questions and they want to flip pages faster than in a book that is not connected to T.V.

On another note, the live action Seuss movies just creep me out. They take so much away from the beautiful and exciting artwork Seuss made for his stories. If you don't believe that, my 3 year old recognized the Grinch in drawings on a poster this Christmas, but, when confronted with a Jim Carey Grinch DVD on an end cap at Target, asked "Who's that?"

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJean

I, for one, would like to see where Hollywood would take "There's a Wocket in My Pocket" or particular parts of "Hop on Pop" or "One Fish, Two Fish...". Now where could we go with Ed, Red, Ted and Ned in Bed???

I loved all my Seuss books and I beg Hollywood to leave them the heck ALONE!

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKris

I will be honest. The Cat in the Hat freaked me out and scared me as a child, in the book form. I like most Dr. Suess books but that cat still freaks me out and he is just a drawing. I never saw the movie. I won't watch the live Grinch and I am not going to see Horton. I am not a huge fan of making books into movies. (I did see the Bourne trilogy but the books were so out dated with the new technology now that is wasn't really the same story.)

I took my 'babies' to see a performace of Dr Suess for Read Across America this weekend. We had a blast. It was interactive and all the kids got different parts. I watched the kids wear hats with characters on them and listened to the wonderful story teller and saw the book come to life in a safe envirnment. It helps that Mr. Malcolm is a wonderful entertainer and the kids are just super cute. That is about as real as I want my Dr Suess. I am not even crazy about the stuffed animals they have of the characters.

I totally agree with the other readers, Dr. Suess books made into movies really suck and are really creepy. I wish you all the luck in the world getting the article done.

I am sure there will be someone who says, "well, if they make the movie and kids find out it came from a book, the kids will want to read the book." I am all for getting kids to read but there has to be a better way.

March 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKell Belle

They REALLY suck. Cat in the Hat was just Austin Powers in a cat costume.

March 6, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlazylaurel

Hey. Maybe Tim Burton should direct Dr. Suess movies. Then, you'd be sure to have the underlying creepiness so evident in the books (I would read them when i was young, but never listened to the books on tape. Hearing them out loud scared me). Think of what a great job he did with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...

March 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSophie

Hey MB - just a word of caution - don't be surprised if you get some backlash for Suess-movie bashing. I'm sure that there will be some readers who react the same way they did to your article on Christmas specials. Maybe you should put a large, bold disclaimer at the top saying "the following free aticle on which you chose to click is a satire and should not be taken as a personal attack in any way." :-)

March 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMissy

Ooohhh. Sophie -- LOVE the Tim Burton idea.

March 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

[...] on Monday, March 10, 2008 by MB …and many thanks to those of you who were already here and shared your reactions on all things Seuss.  Result [...]

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