Touchstone Pictures via Everett Collection
Summer: it's a time to relax, soak up the sun, eat mountains of ice cream and tackle the massive pile of books you've been meaning to read. Whether you need to make your way through hundreds of pages of classic literature before school starts up again or you've just been putting off the heavier tomes on your shelf until you have some more free time, reading the classics can sometimes be a slog in the summer. But it's a task well worth undertaking, and not just because it's good to broaden your literary horizons. Many of your favorite films are actually twists on well-worn tales. Sure, they're enjoyable on their own, but the only way to really pick up on the humor of Jane Austen or the references to Shakespeare in a suburban high school rom com is to read the books first. We've rounded up the best movies that become even better, funnier and more charming after you've read the works their based on. Consider it a well-earned reward for a book well read.
10 Things I Hate About YouBased On: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare.Most Drastic Change: Aside from the high school setting, he plot was simplified to reduce the amount of characters and false identities. For example, Joey Donner was originally two characters, Gremio and Hortensio. Best Reference to the Source: After Kat almost hits Michael with a car, he calls her a “shrew”; Michael also quotes Shakespearean sonnets several times throughout the film, and Cameron quotes the play itself (“I burn; I pine; I perish”). And there's that one girl who is oddly in love with "William."You’d Only Notice This if You Read the Book: Almost every name in the film is a reference to something else. Padua High School refers to Padua being the location of the play, and Patrick’s last name, Verona, is where Petruchio is originally from. Kat and Bianca’s last name – Stratford – is a reference to Shakespeare’s hometown.
Clueless Based On: Emma by Jane Austen Most Drastic Change: Updating the film to be about ‘90s Valley girls; none of the character’s names are similar to Austen’s characters.Best Reference to the Source: The wedding fake-out at the end of the film. Since Austen wrote a great deal about the marriage plot, all of her novels end with the heroine getting married. You’d Only Notice This if You Read the Book: While most of the characters have Austenian equivalents, Dionne is an original character, although it could be argued that she represents Ms. Weston. Also, Amy Heckerling cut out the character of Jane Fairfax completely. She is the main obstacle to Emma and Frank Churchill’s relationship; his Clueless doppelganger, Christian, is gay instead.
Bridget Jones’ Diary Based On: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Most Drastic Change: Instead of the large family that Elizabeth Bennet has in the book, Bridget is an only child, and has a large group of friends to give her advice, all of whom vaguely resemble her sisters. Best Reference to the Source: Casting Colin Firth as Mark Darcy. Author Helen Fielding has said that she based the character (both in name and looks) on his portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries. You’d Only Notice This if You Read the Book: Instead of Darcy making two proposals, he only makes one; Bridget’s speech when she finds out that he is moving is a reflection of his second confession of love.
She’s the Man Based On: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare Most Drastic Change: In the play, Viola just pretends to be a man, and calls herself Cesario, rather than specifically impersonating her brother Sebastian. Best Reference to the Source: The character of Malcolm, who is based on the character of Malvolio, has a pet tarantula named Malvolio. You’d Only Notice This if You Read the Books: Like 10 Things I Hate About You, all of the names are either adapted from those of the characters - Duke Orsino is the modern-day equivalent of Orsino, who is a duke, and the restaurant they frequent is called Cesario – or the locations – the school’s name Illyria, is where the play takes place.
Screen Gems via Everett Collection
Easy A Based On: The Scarlett Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne Most Drastic Change: In the book, Hester is ostracized for cheating on her husband with a priest; she got pregnant during the affair. In the film, Olive only pretends to sleep with people. Best Reference to the Source: The foreign film that Olive goes to see, courtesy of one of her fake hookups, is called Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe, which translates to The Scarlett Letter.You’d Only Notice This if You Read the Book: The film is up-front about many of its similarities to Hawthorne’s book, as Olive is studying it in class. Though Olive doesn’t have an affair with anyone, Hester and Arthur Dimmsdale’s relationship is paralleled in the affair that Mrs. Griffith has with Micah.
ScroogedBased On: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Most Drastic Change: At the end of the film, Frank reunites with his love, Claire. However, in the book, too much time has passed for him to reconcile with Belle, and so he is instead content with becoming part of the Cratchitt family. Best Reference to the Original: In addition to Frank Cross joking about “scaring the Dickens out of people,” one of the TV shows he produces is called “Scrooge,” which was an alternate title that Dickens published the story under. You’d Only Notice This if You Read the Book: The Bob Cratchitt part is played by two different characters: Frank’s overworked assistant Grace Cooley and the much-abused yes-man Eliot Loudermilk.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Based On: Homer’s The Odyssey Most Drastic Change: Instead of journeying home after a great war, Ulysses has escaped from a prison chain gang. Best Reference to the Source: The film is filled with references to the epic, but the cleverest is the repeated use of the song “Man of Constant Sorrow,” as the name Odysseus (the Greek equivalent of Ulysses) means “man who is in constant pain and sorrow.” You’d Only Notice This if You Read the Book: In order to win Penelope’s hand in marriage, all the suitors must string Odysseus’ bow and shoot an arrow through a dozen axe heads, but only Odysseus is strong enough to string the bow. In the film, Ulysseus also strings a bow in order to prove that he is who he says he is, and not an imposter.
Ruby Sparks Based On: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.Most Drastic Change: In the play, Higgins “makes” Eliza by transforming her from a flower girl into a lady, but in the film, Calvin physically creates Ruby, as she is a product of his imagination.Best Reference to the Source: At the end, Ruby becomes her own person, and leaves Calvin behind to do what she wants and become who she wants, which reflects the controversial ending of the play, in which Eliza leaves Henry behind in order to marry Freddy, even though Henry disapproves. The ending of Shaw's play was very controversial when it was first performed, but it was important to him that Eliza doesn't marry Henry. You’d Only Notice This if You Read the Book: Calvin’s brother, Harry, repeatedly warns him to be careful with what he’s doing, and not to disregard Ruby’s emotions, just like how Henry’s friend, Colonel Pickering, constantly warns Henry to be kind to Eliza and to treat her like a real person, rather than an experiment.
The original Superman films were the first superhero franchise to take its lead character’s emotional story as seriously as his amazing adventures--a tack the best of the comic book films have followed. Superman Returns wisely builds its two-tiered story around the hero a) journeying back to Metropolis after a five-year absence to try to find his place in a world that may have moved beyond the need for a super-powered savior and b) hoping to find a place in the heart of his former paramour Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) who now has entanglements--namely a child and a fiancé--that even his mighty abilities may not be able to overcome. It’s a potent set-up. Of course lurking around the corner as always is his ever-nefhavarious and even nastier nemesis Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) who plots to use a little piece of Superman’s birthplace Krypton to wreak havoc here on Earth. The film falters in this aspect and there are almost too many references to the original Superman. Still like its title character the film’s powerful combo of spectacle and heart win the day in the end. Sure Brandon Routh won’t make you forget Christopher Reeve. Indeed the casting of the look-a-like newcomer is clearly intended to evoke the iconic actor. His Superman is not as majestic and commanding as Reeve’s nor is his Clark Kent as absurdly awkward--but these are good things. Both of Kal-El’s personas move closer to the center and the end result makes for a more human and vulnerable hero. Bosworth is more effective as the conflicted Lois than expected but her extreme youth and slight frame still make it difficult to buy her as a seasoned Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Nevertheless she and Routh share a palpable if not combustible chemistry. As anticipated Spacey unleashes unctuous charm and chilling menace in equal parts--but that’s not always a good thing. The threadbare Luthor plot consumes far more screen time than it merits and too often Spacey resorts valiantly to filling up the screen with his personal pyrotechnics in the absence of strong scenes. Frank Langella provides punchy panache as Perry White and Eva Marie Saint is a soulful Ma Kent. Props in particular go out to James Marsden in the thankless role of Lois’ new love for providing a believably acceptable romantic alternative to the Man of Steel. But the usual sparkplug Parker Posey disappoints going through the uninspired motions as Luthor’s moll Kitty while Sam Huntington’s Jimmy Olsen grates rather than acts as supposed comic relief. Nearly two decades after star Christopher Reeve and director Richard Donner made audience believe a man could fly director Bryan Singer as he did with the first two X-Men films brings an elegant emotion-tinged touch to the super-heroic proceedings. Things get off to a rocky start in the first half hour which feels bloated choppy and a touch directionless as Singer and the screenwriters reveal surprisingly tin ears when it comes to what (barely) passes as comedy in the film. But then with Superman in action and Lois wrestling with her feelings for him there is strong stuff indeed with the third act full of ripe intriguing emotional beats that fortunately overpower the director’s distracting over-reliant reverence for the Reeve-Donner films. While many of the nods to the original films work marvelously--the use of Marlon Brando footage the Kryptonian production design and the original John Williams score among them--others feel like rote even slavish attempts to recapture the original magic. The whole is less of a fully formed film but Superman Returns is a great kick start to a potentially knockout new franchise which ultimately leaves the audience like the people of Metropolis when its greatest hero returns to the skies brimming with hope.
Once respected NYPD detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is now pretty much on his last legs literally and figuratively. He drinks is relegated to a desk job and walks with a limp. One morning after a long shift he’s corralled into transporting a petty criminal Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to the courthouse 16 blocks away so he can testify by 10:00 a.m. What Jack doesn’t know is that Eddie is one of the key witnesses in a case against crooked cops--that is until the two start getting shot at. Then it becomes crystal clear. The main bad guy Jack’s former partner Frank (David Morse) basically lets Jack know Eddie will never testify to just go ahead and hand him over but Frank underestimates Jack’s desire to finally do something good. So Jack and Eddie fight their way to the courthouse block by gut-wrenching block. Oh no there’s nothing formulaic about 16 Blocks not at all. In a film as predictable as this the only thing that’ll make it stand out is the performances. 16 Blocks nearly succeeds--but not quite. It would seem Willis is playing a character he’s played a hundred times before--the misunderstood and slightly unorthodox cop with a heart of gold. But as Jack the actor does a nice job trying out some new things namely playing fat bald and grizzled. You can almost smell how bad Jack’s breath has to be. Rapper/actor Mos Def who usually brightens any film he’s in also tries his hand at something different but his choices aren’t as smart. As the talkative and affable Eddie Mos comes up with one of the more annoying nasally accents ever recorded. After about five minutes of screen time you desperately want him to stop and say “Just kidding! I don’t really talk like this.” But he doesn’t. It’s too bad something like an accent can ruin an otherwise decent performance. Old-school director Richard Donner best known for his Lethal Weapons is a consummate professional when it comes to making these kind of movies. In other words he pretty much paints by numbers. We watch Jack and Eddie get out of one tight situation after another as the gaggle of bad cops try to gun them down. I mean 16 blocks doesn’t seem that far to go so they better throw in as many highly implausible obstacles as they can. Chinese laundries alleyways rooftops subways. And yes even a city bus which the pair--who have by now bonded big time--has to hijack. Donner also employs a popular but nonetheless annoying technique of zooming in when the action heats up so you can’t really see what’s going on. Even if you’re addicted to action movies--a Bruce Willis action movie no less--16 Blocks just doesn’t deliver the goods.