Seth MacFarlane: writer, director, producer, Oscars host, and now, novelist. The Family Guy creator announced that he has written a novel based on the screenplay for his upcoming film, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and will release it in March, two months before the film hits theaters in May. The book will tell the story of Albert Stark, a sheep farmer who spends most of his time attempting to avoid the overwhelming dangers that fill the wild west in order to survive, until his girlfriend leaves him, and "Albert decides to fight back—even though he can’t shoot, ride, or throw a punch. Fortunately, he teams up with a beautiful gunslinger who’s tough enough for the both of them. Unfortunately, she’s married to the biggest, meanest, most jealous badass on the frontier. Turns out Albert has just discovered a million and one ways to die in the West."
Turning the film into a novel is an unusual choice, since MacFarlane's comedic style tends to rely on rapid-fire jokes and visual gags that may be difficult for him to translate from the screen into print. Since he wrote the novelization himself, it's very likely that those jokes will have made it into the book, but the story will need to have a little bit of depth or character development in order to work properly as a novel. However, turning the film into a novel could be a good sign, as it can be taken as an indication that the film has a lot more to it than just an endless stream of jokes. There's been no indication thus far that MacFarlane has added material for the novel, which means we all might need to get excited about A Million Ways to Die in the West.
But as weird as it might seem to read a novel from the same guy who wrote Family Guy or Ted, A Million Ways to Die in the West is not the strangest or most surprising film novelization out there. We've rounded up 12 of the weirdest ones, and ranked them in order of insanity. Looks like MacFarlane has a lot to live up to with this project.
12. Pretty In Pink If you've ever watched the classic 1986 film and wished that Andie had chosen her dorky, loyal best friend Duckie over rich kid Blaine at the end, we may have the perfect solution for you. The novelization of the film sticks with the original ending, and allows Duckie to live the dream of every awkward, poorly-dressed high school guy and win the girl of his dreams away from the obnoxious kid with good hair and a nice car. The downside, though, is that unlike the screenplay, it isn't written by John Hughes, which means it likely lacks some of the wit and heart that characterizes his film. But that's a small price to pay to watch the nerd emerge victorious.
11. Kazaam Remember when Shaquille O'Neal decided to try his hand at acting in the late 1990s, and the world was gifted with Kazaam? Well, it should come as no surprise to you, then, that movie executives realized that school children all across the country would buy anything with O'Neal's face on it, and churned out a novelization of the film in order to sell it at book fairs. Unlike most film novelizations, there are no significant changes or additions to the book, probably because there is very little that can be done to that script in order to make it worth reading, but that didn't stop it from flying off the shelves of every elementary school library around.
10. Great Expectations Long before he stranded Sandra Bullock in space, Alfonso Cuaron directed an adaptation of Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. Then, someone adapted that adaptation into a novel that is even more "loosely" based on the Dickens classic. Although both the film and the novel make a lot of interesting and strange changes in order to modernize the story, the most inexplicable decision comes from author Deborah Chiel, who changed the name of the protagonist to Johnny from Fin (itself a change from the original name, Pip.) Dickens likely turned over in his grave when this hit bookshelves.
9. Crossroads The 2002 film Crossroads was notable not for its script, acting or cinematography but simply for the fact that it was the acting debut of pop princess Britney Spears. Which makes it even more surprising that someone would turn the film into a novel, as it then loses the one thing that made it worth talking about. Sure, Spears' face is on the cover, but the only reason to see the film was to watch her attempt to transition into a film career, and then sing along every time one of her songs played on the soundtrack. The book even takes away the joy that comes with watching Dan Akyroyd act in a Britney Spears film. It's all plot and no fun.
8. The Cabin in the Woods Co-written by Joss Whedon, this 2012 film was designed as a way to "revitalize the slasher film," and featured a surprise twist that thrilled fans and critics alike. But in case you're uncomfortable with too much gore, or you just never got to catch the film in theaters, there's a novelization of the film available so that you can still talk about the film without having to watch people get decapitated. It's the best of both worlds!
7. Mortal Kombat If there's one thing that old-school video games lacked, it's a strong sense of plot and character development. Jeff Rovin has remedied that by turning the video game Mortal Kombat into a novel, although he cut out most of the fighting in favor of backstory and long explanations of how the character came to be the super-powered fighting machines that they are. Which is cool if you're a hard-core fan, but let's be real, here: the only reason anyone was interested in Mortal Kombat was the fighting. Without that, what's the point?
6. John Carter John Carter is the story of a Civil War captain who gets transported to Mars after he dies, and leads a Martian army to save the princess. With it's mix of sci-fi and action, it makes sense that movie executives would want to turn the film into a novel; what doesn't make sense, though, is why they would choose to publish it alongside A Princess of Mars, the original Edgar Rice Burroughs story that it is based on, especially when the film famously failed to live up to its source material. You would think that the last thing they would want to do is draw attention to the ways the stories differed.
5. Paradise AlleyThis is a novelization of a film that was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, adapted by Stallone himself, which makes it worthy of this list. You can actually own a book authored by the guy who played Rocky Balboa. What a time to be alive.
4. Spaceballs For some reason, Mel Brooks seem to think that his film Spaceballs would make an excellent children's book - which is not a thought that anyone who has ever seen Spaceballs shares. However, Brooks ignored everyone else, and the novelization was published, and sold to students in elementary schools across the country through Scholastic Book catalogs and school book fairs. Of course, they made sure to edit the content down to a more child-friendly nature, but anyone who's buying a Sapceballs book is probably not a child.
3. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls Everything that makes Ace Ventura work as a film is everything that makes it fail as a novel. The humor relies so heavily on Jim Carrey's physicality and line delivery, that without the visual element, all that's left are descriptions of the weird gags that take place in the film, which isn't fun or funny for anybody who reads these.
2. The Cat in the Hat No, we didn't make a mistake. Someone actually thought it was a good idea to turn the Mike Myers film into a novel, despite the fact that there is a book that already exists that is better written and more fun to read than the movie itself. When it comes to a showdown between the original Cat in the Hat and any kind of pale imitation, Dr. Suess will always walk away the winner. There's a reason it's become a classic, and it has nothing to do with Myers.
1. Howard the Duck Nobody who has ever watched Howard the Duck has wished that the story lasted longer. Nobody. But the strangest thing about this novelization isn't the fact that it exists in the first place, but the fact that it is widely regarded to be better than its source material, and even adds extra layers of depth and humor to the characters and story that appears onscreen. That's right: Howard the Duck has hidden layers. Who'd have known?
Each year thousands of lovelorn women flock to Verona Italy the hometown of Shakespeare’s Juliet to solicit romantic advice from the tragic heroine. They deposit their pleading letters on a wall near the balcony where Romeo supposedly made his famous late-night visit and if they’re lucky receive a reply from one of Juliet’s crew of officially appointed ghostwriters known as the Secretaries of Juliet.
In Gary Winnick's Letters to Juliet young Sophie (the irresistible Amanda Seyfried) while working on a sort of temp assignment with the Secretaries winds up leading an elderly British widow (Vanessa Redgrave) on a quest to reunite her with the Italian boyfriend she abruptly — and regretfully — jilted nearly 50 years prior. It’s a contrived and far-fetched scenario to be sure but no more so than your average Hollywood rom-com and this one at least carries the pleasant side benefit of allowing the filmmakers to set most of the action in picturesque Verona where Seyfried and Redgrave traverse the countryside on their quixotic endeavor.
The charming mother-daughter dynamic that forms between Seyfried’s doe-eyed do-gooder and Redgrave’s wistful grandma carries Letters to Juliet and make its preposterous and unapologetically schmaltzy plot palpable. But their efforts are largely sabotaged by the mediocre men of Juliet Gael Garcia Bernal (Babel The Motorcycle Diaries) and Christopher Egan (Eragon TV's Kings).
The usually terrific Garcia Bernal is really more of a prop than a character in this film. As Seyfried’s future ex-fiance an ADD-addled restaurateur too preoccupied with procuring ingredients for his new menu to tend to his relationship he replays the same scene over and over as if in some sort of Twilight Zone sketch. His intended replacement played by Egan is an insufferable twit we’re meant to believe is some sort of hot-shot human rights lawyer back in his native England — a detail I wouldn’t believe if he held up his law school degree to the camera for us to see.
Equally incredulous is the romantic subplot that develops between him and Seyfried and when the story shifts to them the film rapidly loses steam. Male characters will always play second fiddle in a chick flick — even one written and directed by men — but in Letters to Juliet they’re almost an afterthought seemingly tossed in late in the game to bolster the film’s appeal to young female moviegoers. In the end even someone as talented as Seyfried can’t effectively sell us on her character's eventual pair-up with Egan’s whiny doofus no matter how loudly the Taylor Swift soundtrack presses her case.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Jennifer Check and Anita "Needy" Lesnicky are lifelong best friends and high school students in tiny Devil's Kettle Minnesota. Needy is the practical bookish counterpart to small-town sexpot cheerleader Jennifer who controls most everyone around her — Needy included — with knowing relish using her hypnotic good looks. After Jennifer and Needy escape a grisly fire at the local dive bar Jennifer is whisked away in a creeper van by the band that was playing there despite Needy's pleas not to. In a "sell your soul for rock and roll"-style move the fame-hungry indie rockers Low Shoulder kill Jennifer in an occult virgin sacrifice ceremony which goes awry because Jennifer isn't one. After being left for dead Jennifer shows up at Needy's house covered in blood spewing black bile and grinning wickedly.
The next day amidst the fire tragedy aftermath Devil's Kettle's star football player is found disemboweled and half-eaten in the woods adjacent to the school. Jennifer of course did it and after the vixen kills a sweet emo boy she confesses to Needy (after a too-brief girl-on-girl makeout session complete with heavy tongue close-ups) that the botched sacrifice turned her into a demon and that she becomes happier and more beautiful — and thus deadlier — after she feasts on the blood of horny high school boys. Needy does some research in the occult section of the high school library and discovers her best friend is indeed a pawn of the devil. Needy warns her boyfriend Chip to watch out for Jennifer and consequently finds herself covered in bile with Chip dead in her arms at the prom because he doesn't. Then she seeks revenge.
WHO'S IN IT?
The ever enjoyable Amanda Seyfried takes the lead as plain jane Needy and Johnny Simmons is her sweet doting boyfriend Chip. Adam Brody doing a spot-on Brandon Flowers impression is the killer front man of Low Shoulder. Amy Sedaris makes a too-brief cameo as Needy's mom and Juno's dad J.K. Simmons is a high school teacher with an unexplained hook for a hand. Megan Fox is in it too.
Diablo Cody's script is smart funny and infinitely more interesting than the typical teen slasher swill. The movie revels in its gory moments without being gratuitous and employs a healthy amount of sex without coming off like it's pandering to horny teens. Rather Jennifer's Body is the perfect template for the incomparably hot Megan Fox to use her looks as a plot-forwarding mechanism. This is a professionally signficant departure from her eye candy turns in the Transformers movies and lets Fox prove that she can actually act. There's no one else in Hollywood right now better suited to this role. Fox's performance is unhinged and charming and she makes good use of all the Diablo Cody-isms ("You need a mani bad. You should find a Chinese chick to buff your situation.") that devil-may-care Jennifer gets to utter. The love/hate best friend relationship is interesting and there's a load of good-girl-gone-wrong catharsis in Seyfried's revenge-fueled rampage. Cody and director Karyn Kusama are adept in skillfully if a bit condescendingly creating a convincing depiction of a small Midwestern town which serves as the perfect ultra-real backdrop for the story.
Cody's unique style adds the perfect quirk factor to what could otherwise be run-of-the-mill cinematic garbage.The Cody-isms however sometimes come off as cloying when they aren't being uttered by Fox. Also hopeful Fox worshippers might be disappointed that the sexually radiant actress despite her character's penchant for using sex to lure her victims doesn't actually bare anything that necessitates the film's R-rating.
With its surprising plot twists a snarky bff vs. bff subplot and Cody's flair for linguistics Jennifer's Body is a smart horror flick for anyone who enjoys jolly gore or Megan Fox in a mini-skirt.