Indeed, movie novelizations are a strange cultural artifact if there ever was one. Why would you want to read something you could spend 90-minutes watching? We could see people curious about a major blockbuster, say a new "Star Wars" movie coming down the pike, reading to quench their thirst for spoilers. We could also imagine it was fun before the era of home video to revisit a favorite flick in your mind's eye. But THESE movies?
That's right, we've uncovered 10 hilariously misguided efforts to novelize movies that should never have been made at all, let alone canonized as "literature." Cheesy horror sequel? Check. Video game adaptation? Check. One of the biggest flops of all-time? You bet. We've read through them all to pluck out the most ridiculous excerpts we could find, so you don't have to... Not that you'd want to.
Gallery | The 10 Most Ridiculous Movies Turned Into Books
- 'Crossroads' (2001) by Jenny Markas
Like William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying," novelizer Jenny Markas writes each chapter of "Crossroads" from a different character's point-of-view. Whether it's smarty pants Lucy (Britney Spears), popular girl Kit (a pre-"Avatar" Zoe Saldana), pregnant Mimi (Taryn Manning) or any of the cute dudes they encounter on their roadtrip to stardom in LA, the author of "Scooby Doo! And You: The Case Of The Doughy Creature" takes us through each triumph and heartbreak with writerly aplomb. It's no wonder that this proved to be such a fruitful debut outing for pop star Spears, who's ascended to the top of the acting heap in the decade since it was released. Or not.
At least they got guys right in the midst of all this female empowerment, like this scene with Ben (Anson Mount):
"'I'm a guy. You know, a guy. And for days, I've been listening to pop music and girl talk and watching you all do your chick things. I'm a guy. I want to do guy things. And I haven't complained, because I know I'm outnumbered. But my car!' He smacks his forehead. 'It's, like, the only thing that wasn't taken over by girls. Okay?'"
- 'Halloween III' (1982) by Jack Martin (Dennis Etchison)
One of the most notoriously panned horror sequels of all-time, "Halloween III" alienated the franchise's fanbase by doing away with masked killer Michael Myers for a completely different story which also centered around the holiday. The convoluted tale of an Irish warlock using Halloween masks to turn children's heads into bugs/snakes that kill their parents (the actual plot) almost killed the series, but Martin's book injects dread and perspective largely absent from Tommy Lee Wallace's movie. The novel itself is dedicated to Dennis Etchison, the real name of pseudonymous Jack Martin, who crafted descriptive sentences like "The sun became the eye of a man waiting to die," imparting the feeling that Etchison -- later an acclaimed horror writer in his own right -- was a little depressed novelizing dreck like this.
Even the following (literally) cheesy passage ends in a splendid haiku:
"In the distance, the tattered man reappeared balancing a palmful of soda crackers and a pressurized can of processed cheese food. The air was crystal-clear, the scene as sharp as a magic realist painting. The man suspended his diatribe long enough to unload a long strand of cheese directly into his mouth. Then he began singing a song. Crackers flew out of his mouth like moths. The last member of a dying breed in Santa Mira was making it through another night. Challis didn't want to disturb him. He moved on."
- 'Super Mario Bros' (1993) by Todd Strasser
"This ain't no game." So goes the tagline for Disney's disastrous "Super Mario Bros." movie, which hairy star Bob Hoskins later claimed was the worst mistake of his career. That's the same career that includes "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties," so there you go. This also ain't no movie, which means whatever 10-year-old was reading this could imagine their favorite mushroom-stomping plumber as his cheery 8-bit self and not the apoplectic British character actor who played a call girl's chauffeur in "Mona Lisa."
One of our favorite snippets from the end name-drops a famously downbeat Hubert Selby Jr. novel, kudos to you if you can spot it:
"Thanks to Mario's earlier sabotage, the inside of the ventilation duct was lined with ice. With a whoosh! the mattress shot downward. Mario and the Brooklyn girls held on tight. 'Last exit to Brooklyn!' Mario shouted as they corkscrewed through the shaft, ducking huge hanging icicles. Then suddenly Mario saw the bottomless chasm ahead. 'Lean!' he cried. Shrieking, the girls all leaned. The mattress banked up along one side of the shaft and just missed the chasm. 'Yaaa-hooo!' they screamed."
- 'Con Air' (1997) by Richard Woodley
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer was at the apex of his explosive prime when he unleashed this beast of an action cheesefest on the public, which starred Nicolas Cage as Cameron Poe, an ex-soldier locked away for manslaughter who winds up with a first-class seat on a hijacked plane full of prisoners. The novelization even opens with a quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky (!) as if to rub salt in the "I'm reading 'Con Air' the book" wound. You won't feel quite "The Idiot" while reading, but this is definitely a cut and dry adaptation of Scott Rosenberg's screenplay, mostly cribbing dialogue from the screenplay and moving at a steady clip.
The best passage comes at the very beginning, when Woodley paints a picture of Cameron Poe's military background with descriptive glee:
"Never again would he crawl on his belly or darken his face with paint or hang from a rope or drop from a plane; he wanted no more of those silent, superhot adrenaline rushes followed by gurgles of blood and bodies in front of him; never again would he strap on a killing knife above his ankle or carry a length of piano wire with which he could sever a head. His left shoulder would always ache from tissue torn by a 7.62-millimeter bullet, his left knee would always stiffen in damp weather, like now, from too many hard landings in dark places. No more ambushes. No more explosions. No more dread. He craved a peaceful time to heal his wounded dreams."
- 'Paradise Alley' (1978) by Sylvester Stallone
Oh Sly. Throughout his career Sylvester Stallone has stayed in amazing shape by repeatedly lifting his 500lb ego, and when he isn't cranking out directing/starring vehicles for himself, he's hammering away at the keyboard, doing multiple "writing reps" each day. One of Sly's lesser-known exercises was his wrestling-centric directorial debut "Paradise Alley," and for this 1940's period-piece, the star sang the title song and provided a novelization of his screenplay to boot. We're inclined to believe it was Stallone himself, not a ghostwriter, who did the busywork because the book is a grammatical nightmare filled with clumsy syntax and Hell's Kitchen clichés.
Luckily the "Rocky" legend maintained a certain sense of humor about himself, as is evident from this description of his streetwise character:
"Cosmo Carboni was an angular piece of hustling machinery bent into the form of a man. His dark eyes resembled a pair of oiled raisins jammed into his skull with a broom handle. His shockingly long hair was shiny enough to reflect the sun, and a thing that resembled a banana was considered his nose. An urban Indian is what he most resembled."
- 'The Toxic Avenger' (2006) by Lloyd Kaufman & Adam Jahnke
Leave it to Troma Studios sludgemeister Lloyd Kaufman ("Class of Nuke 'Em High") to pull down his pants and moon the very concept of a novelization. Although published long after the original "Toxic Avenger" bowed in 1984 to widespread cult appeal, he and Adam Jahnke wrote a book that features not only the transformation of 98-pound wimp Melvin Ferd III into a hideously mutated superhero, but also contributions from "J.D. Salinger" and "Oliver Stone" and all sorts of tongue-in-cheek sex and violence. For a B-movie that has spawned four sequels, an animated series, a comic book, an off-Broadway musical and an upcoming remake supposedly starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (fo realz), it's a fitting entry into the Toxie canon.
This intro excerpt will give you a taste of the mocking, politically incorrect tone in store:
"This, then, is the movie we would make if we had unlimited money and freedom. In this book Toxie looks more realistic than if we hired twenty years' worth of Oscar-winning makeup designers. We have the best-looking Tromettes in our history, with the biggest, most expensive breasts money can buy. Or, if you prefer, they have smaller, more natural breasts and an androgynous boyish quality. Whatever turns you on."
- 'The Lizzie McGuire Movie' (2003) by J.G. Weiss & Bobbi Weiss
There are many items on this list that were one thing, then a movie and finally a book (as opposed to the typical book-then-movie cycle), but there's something galling about a book based on a movie based on a Disney Channel TV show that calls itself a "Movie" in the title. As "Simpsons" lawyer Lionel Hutz would say, "This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie 'The Neverending Story.'" Having never seen Hilary Duff's show ourselves, we figured this slim volume recounting her middle school graduation trip to Rome would be rife with shallow teenage girl fixations on clothes and boys.
Luckily, we were proved wrong:
"Lizzie began rooting through her closet for a graduation outfit. She was looking for something special. Something that said, 'I am stylin', yet serious about my future.' But there wasn't an article of clothing that said anything remotely close to that. Quickly she painted her toenails, polished her fingernails, applied lip gloss, checked it out, then wiped it off. So not her color."
- 'Cutthroat Island' (1995) by John Gregory Betancourt
When director Renny Harlin ("Cliffhanger") married Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis, he wanted to make more than beautiful music with her: He had designs on turning her into the next Sylvester Stallone. Unfortunately, an action hero she was not; and even though they fared a little better with "The Long Kiss Goodnight," their first pairing on "Cutthroat Island" birthed the biggest turkey in box office history. A hearty pirate treasure adventure across the seven seas was the goal, and the book captures some of that spirit, especially when the non-chemistry between non-stars Davis and Matthew Modine is no longer an issue on the page. Remarkably, the used copy we bought off Amazon for a penny was in mint condition, even after nearly 20 years… almost as if no one had ever read it!
This paragraph could double as a fairly accurate review of how boring "Cutthroat Island" is:
"'We'll rest here for two hours,' she said. 'We'll take turns standing watch. I'll go first, then Mr. Glasspoole, Mr. Bowen, and Mr. Blair. Sleep while you can. You'll need it later.' Gratefully everyone curled up. Soon they were snoring."
- 'The Cannonball Run' (1981) by Michael Avallone
All three "Cannonball Run" films are like a time capsule of the exact kind of picture '80s Middle America would make if they ran a movie studio, i.e. car chases, cleavage, and celebrity cameos out the wazoo. Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, Jamie Farr, Terry Bradshaw, Adrienne Barbeau… all of them yucked it up in sexy cars with the lowbrow jokes flying at a 100 miles an hour. Of course, none of this excitement translates to the printed page. Racism does, though!
Check out this paragraph describing a young Jackie Chan's character, the Hong Kong kung-fu master already suffering the indignity of playing a Japanese Subaru driver:
"The nation of small people who specialized in small things was pretty damn certain it would win this Cannonball affair with two such drivers and their unique machine. In light of this new conquest, maybe the world would forget Pearl Harbor! Finally."
- 'Battleship' (2012) by Peter David
The idea of a blockbuster film based on an old Milton Bradley board game from the '60s may have sounded like a dumb idea. Flash-forward to the movie itself… It was. Hang on, though: What about a book based on that movie based on said board game, neither of which actually contains the line, "You sunk my battleship"? Sure. Respected comic-book veteran –- and prolific movie novelizer -- Peter David attempts something clever by emulating the back-and-forth strategy of the game through narrating both the American Navy officers AND their extraterrestrial combatants, the latter distinguished by italics.
Here's a tongue-in-cheek snippet of alien POV:
"The human flips over the railing and is gone. He is startled. It seems that the human has done a good deal of work, displayed a sizable amount of bravado, only to throw himself to certain doom. Perhaps it is some sort of human ritual for a person of rank to commit suicide in front of its enemy, thus acknowledging that it is supremely overmatched. There is still much to be learned about human culture before it is wiped out. Every little bit helps.
Or… is it possible that humans are capable of surviving in water?"