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Customer Review

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than I expected, not as good as I hoped., October 16, 2006
This review is from: How to Eat Fried Worms (New Line Platinum Series) (DVD)
How to Eat Fried Worms (Bob Dolman, 2006)

Here's your daily "what were they thinking?" factoid: How to Eat Fried Worms is banned in Malaysia. Yes, I'm serious.

In a case of true chip-off-the-old-block-dom, my daughter has started writing movie reviews for her middle school paper, so it's up to me to start taking her to all the movies her mother and stepmother have no desire (and rightly, so, many times) to see. At the top of the list was How to Eat Fried Worms. Now, Thomas Rockwell was one of my favorite authors in middle school, both for this wonderful novel and for his much more obscure (and now long out of print) and even more brilliant The Portmanteau Book. Given that, and the decidedly lukewarm reviews to be had, I went into this fearing the worst. And I must say, I didn't get it. I grant you, this movie could have been miles better, especially had it been more faithful to the book. But, you know, for a dumbed-down brought-up-to-date movie based on a kids' book, it's not half bad.

Billy (Because of Winn-Dixie's Luke Benward) is the new kid at school, and as such is immediately picked on by the local team of bullies, headed up by Joe (The Shaggy Dog's Adam Hicks). Really, all you need to know is that the two of them end up making a bet that Billy can't eat ten worms in the space of a day. There's also a kinda-sorta romantic subplot between Billy and Erika (Hallie Kate Eisenberg, the Pepsi girl), who gets roped into watching Billy's little brother during the contest, but it gets relegated to the back burner pretty quick.

I think a lot of the negative reaction to the movie is coming simply because it's an adaptation of a classic kids' book, and not a really great one. And there's a case to be made that if you're going to adapt a great book, you need to turn it into a great movie. I also think that argument is pure bunk. A book and a movie are two entirely separate things, and sometimes you just have to look at them as such. (Consider the 1974 Tobe Hooper adaptation of 'Salem's Lot.) If this weren't an adaptation of Thomas Rockwell's novel, what would we be saying about it? That it plays into the gross-factor? (Better with worms than with the infantile potty humor of The Ant Bully.) That the motivations of its characters are shallow and silly? (Compared to Cars, these characters are as well-drawn as any major character in War and Peace.) That it's episodic and overly simplistic? (Three words: Over the Hedge.)

Comparatively, this is one of the best kids' movies we've seen this year, though I'm certainly willing to concede that it's just been an awful year for kids' movies. It does have just about everything it needs to attract the pre-teen set, though you might want to consider whether you want your eight-year-old running around yelling "sphincter!" all day afterwards. ** ½
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 4, 2007 11:56:37 AM PDT
The nameless says:
The book was no better than mediocre. Its minimalist writing style actually made the film (including its changes to the plot) better, because the troop of actors could fill in all the needed details of characterization to make the story work. Rockwell's book really didn't bother with the details that were needed to convince. Like many kid's books, it relies on the imagination of the readers to fill in the details that were not provided. The film actually does a much better job at imparting moral lessons, although with a totally different style.
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