Thursday, August 20, 1998

Holes: How to Convert a Book to a Movie - Without Creating Major Plot Holes

image from

It is a popular pastime to rip on movie versions of books. The general consensus is that the movie jettisons large chunks of the book to fit the story into a two-hour time frame. What is often forgotten in this common complaint is that there are plenty of examples of books which have been made into great movies. In fact, some of history's most acclaimed movies were adaptations of books - Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, and The Wizard of Oz immediately spring to mind.

Louis Sachar's Holes (1998), also a Newbery winner, certainly isn't at that level. However, it is a nice example of a solid book which was transformed into a solid movie. Surprisingly, in my quest to read the Newbery award-winning books, this is the first (at least that I know of) which has been made into a movie. As I read it, I couldn't quite imagine it as a movie. As soon as I finished the book, though, I pulled up the movie on YouTube (you can view it at the bottom of this page). I was pleasantly surprised.

A movie can't do everything the book does. This is where most people criticize movies. However, movies can do things books can't. Often people are disappointed that the characters on screen don't look the same as the pictures created by the words in the book. A movie, however, can convey a huge chunk of information with one scene that might take pages in a book.

A movie also must typically add more dialogue and, in the case of Holes, the ending was altered. The key, though, is that Louis Sachar wrote the book and the screenplay. It keeps the movie from taking on a completely different tone, despite some of the differences between the page and the screen.

A movie cannot duplicate the book experience - and it shouldn't be expected to. If done correctly, however, it can complement the original and add dimensions not explored in the book. Holes is therefore a success - as a book and a movie.