In 1993 Stephen Spielberg gave us Jurassic Park; John Grisham's novel The Firm was successfully translated to film along with his novel The Pelican Brief. Sleepless in Seattle, Groundhog Day, Cool Runnings, Dave, Indecent Proposal, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Good Son, Tombstone were all released in 1993. And so was Needful Things, a movie based on Stephen King's novel.
My six year old daughter and I watched Needful Things last night. I had seen it before, but couldn't remember much. I have read the book several times and love it. It is a long, carefully woven tale build on characters. It is King at his best! I love it..
As I'm watching the movie, I find myself thinking: Something isn't working here. And it's not the typical complaining that the movie isn't exactly like the book -- of course they had to combine characters and make changes. But at a deeper level, the story doesn't work on screen; at least not in this presentation. Te back of the DVD box sorts a quote from Jef Craig (who?) of Sixty Second Preview (huh? do they make these companies up for the back of boxes?) who wrote, "The best Stephen King Film ever!" I guess he missed Carrie, Green Mile, and Stand by Me.
There is a lot of build up to a pretty unclimatic ending. Lots of explosions, but no real effort to explain what's happening. Worse, the ending. Instead of Polly batteling a spider or any of the other one on one fights that take place, we get a drawn out version of the town fight. This scene was fun in the book -- a whole town goes to war. But on the screen, they managed to make this a sleeper. How? Too much talking! Lots and lots of speeches. Gosh, I was starting to think I was watching meet the press. Gaunt has a speech, Pangborn has a speech -- and so on. Anyone head into a story thinking: Gee, I hope there's a good speech at the end! Maybe even a sermon!.
Ed Harris and Max Sidow do their best to pull this off, but the script doesn't give their haracters room to act. The idea that Gaunt (Sidow) is the devil himself is very overplayed. Instead of hinting that this might be the head demon -- we have to be told over and over again! Gaunt's appearing in unexpected places is annoing also. Insead of Polly being left to fight the spider, Gaunt appears and seems to attempt to seduce her. The character of Leon Gaunt is not scary! Well played, but as the movie progresses, he is so over-used in each scene that he isn't the least bit frightening. "Ah," you say as Gaunt appears in a scene, "It's the old shop keeper, I'll bet another speech is on the way!" And you would be right..
At the end of the film my daughter said, "Dad, movies usually try to teach you a lesson." Sigh. Now I was ready for my 6 year old to throw rocks and this. Fine. Okay, I said, but this movie didn't have a lesson, did it? "It had a lesson. It was trying to say that people are more important than things.".
It is funny how hard the movie tries to present Castle Rock as a "pleasant little town." Can anyone say -- Cujo? Dark Half?.
imdb.com writes: "One man buys a first edition, signed copy of "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson. In later scenes, he and the little girl who stole it refer to the title as "Huck Finn" by Mark Twain. In the video and DVD release, his words are dubbed over to correct the mistake. On the television broadcast, the mistake was not corrected. This is an audio mismatch and a continuity error, depending on which version you saw."
Clue's You've Bought A Bad Movie:
- Not many quotes on the box praising the movie.
- No commentary on special features. Translation: No one wants to be associated with this movie!
- Only extra thing offered "original theatrical trailer."
- A 2 DVD set or "special edition" doesn't exist.