While you've got to give director Walter Salles ("The Motorcycle Diaries") credit for tackling such an ambitious project, his adaptation of Jack Kerouac's beloved classic just doesn't work. It's way too long, for one, clocking in over two hours.
But more importantly, it doesn't capture the essence of being on the road. Granted, that's a difficult thing to encapsulate on the big screen. It's certainly not easy to depict the moments of self-discovery that occur while gazing out of a car window deciding what to do with your life. That said, it seems as though the flick doesn't even try. Most of the travelling scenes are completely glossed over. Instead, we just see the characters jump from New York to San Francisco to Virginia and back again.
Naturally, there's a lot more to the book that just being on the road. The movie does try to capture the complex, life-changing relationships that Sal (Sam Riley) has, particularly with his best friend Dean (Garrett Hedlund) and Dean's free-lovin' girlfriend Marylou (Kristen Stewart). Even that feels a little superficial, though, and it's never entirely clear exactly why Sal puts up with all of the shit that he does.
All in all, the movie falls flat. It's a difficult novel to adapt, but then again, so is "Life of Pi," which Ang Lee managed to translate onto the big screen beautifully. On that note, it'd be fascinating to see what Lee would do with "On the Road." But I digress.
"On the Road" got me thinking about other disappointing adaptations that have hit the theaters over the years, so I've compiled a list of the five biggest misses in recent memory.
(Coincidentally, two of these stinkers ("The Time Traveler's Wife" and "The Other Boleyn Girl") star Eric Bana. We can't blame him, though. The books were good, so he had every reason to believe the movies had a solid foundation when he signed on.)
1. "Dreamcatcher". Not only is this a terrible adaptation of Stephen King's novel, it just may be one of the worst movies ever. It doesn't make any sense, and the aliens are funnier than they are terrifying. The only thing that makes this flick worth watching (aside from laughing at how ridiculous it is) is checking out a pre-"Homeland" Damian Lewis and a pre-"Justified" Timothy Olyphant.
2. "The Time Traveler's Wife". If I hadn't read Audrey Niffenegger's book before seeing the movie, I would have been completely lost. The movie zips through key plot points, and completely omits some of the book's finer points. Perhaps worst of all, it loses almost all of the book's nuanced tenderness in favor of over-the-top sappy romance.
3. "The Other Boleyn Girl." It's difficult to fathom how the filmmakers could take author Philippa Gregory's sexy, scandalous, backstabby material and turn it into such a snoozefest. Because really, a tale of two ruthless sisters who share a king (and an exciting king like Henry VIII, no less) shouldn't be this boring. 4. "The Scarlet Letter". If there was any question of whether Demi Moore could act or not before this adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel came out, this gave us a definitive answer: she cannot. In her other films like "St. Elmo's Fire" and "Disclosure," she could skate by on her looks and her sultry voice. A complex role like Hester, though, deserved an actress who could do her justice. This adaptation may not have been such an epic fail with a more capable actress in the lead.
5. "Memoirs of a Geisha." Arthur Golden's book is so good, it's only natural that a movie adaptation would be somewhat disappointing. While Rob Marshall's movie certainly isn't terrible, it just doesn't capture geisha Chiyo's inner turmoil. In fact, the movie makes being a geisha look kind of glamorous.
"On the Road" opens in limited release on January 18, 2013.