Changed for the Better?: An Analysis of Comedic Adaptation

For every book that has been adapted into a movie, there is usually a gaggle of supremely loyal fans who scrutinize the film looking for, and often finding, discrepancies between the events and characters that exist in the book versus those that exist in the movie. In his essay on comedies of remarriage, Stanley Cavell argues that the translation from book to screen is “inherently unpredictable” and can fundamentally change many aspects of the original source to make the movie more appealing to mass larger audiences.[1]

An excellent example of this from recent years comes in the form of Wes Anderson’s Adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl novel, Fantastic Mr. Fox. There are many notable differences between the film and the book with one of the most prominent also being one of the main sources of comedy throughout the film.

The writers of Fantastic Mr. Fox chose to omit Mr. Fox’s four sons, instead choosing to have one son, Ash, whose main story arc would be focused on impressing his father and living up to his expectations. By choosing to have the one son, the writers allowed for new comedic opportunities involving Ash which include Ash’s jealousy at Kristofferson over his perceived athleticism compared to Ash’s and Ash’s relationship with Mr. Fox.

This change serves to make the movie more adult whereas the book had been mainly geared towards a specifically much younger audience. By inserting adult humor into the book’s narrative, the writers of Fantastic Mr. Fox were able to make the movie much more appealing to a wider range of people.

[1] Cavell, Stanley. Pursuits of happiness : the Hollywood comedy of remarriage. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1981. Print. p. 25.


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