Last week, I posted about 2010 teen movies and Erin suggested we review movies every now and then. Awesome. I love movies! And books! And movies based on books! And since FYA reader Crezia e-mailed us about the Michael Cera overload effect, I’ve been asking myself, “What is it with this guy?” and seeing him everywhere like some kind of crazy stalker. Sometimes, he’s right for a part and sometimes he’s so, so wrong — so wrong, the book gets rewritten when it becomes a screenplay. Like Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which is the subject for this week’s book vs. movie cage match.

Meet the Contestants

Title: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Authors: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Published: 2006

Title: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Released: 2008

Basic Plot of Both(ish)

We have a short little YA version of Before Sunrise — musician Nick and music exec’s daughter Norah meet at a club after Nick’s band’s gig when Nick (in the book) asks Norah to be his girlfriend for 5 minutes. His evil ex, for whom he’s pining in a very Michael Cera-ish way has shown up with a new guy, and he doesn’t want to look like a total wimp. In the movie, it’s Norah who asks Nick because a girl she knows (who happens to be Nick’s evil ex) is making her feel like a major loser for not having a bf and she doesn’t want to look like said loser. Plot change number 1 for the movie (and why? Your guess is as good as mine — it worked really well in the book, and it made Norah look pathetic in the movie. And Kat Dennings should never look pathetic). ANYWAY. they make out, make people jealous then spend the rest of the night on an off-again-on-again date-ish thing.

So like I said, in the book, Nick does the asking. You get his whole thought process from David Levithan (whom I ADORE, by the way — Boy Meets Boy?? Awesome book. And did you know he’s Suzanne Collins’ editor? Holla!), then you get Norah’s POV from Rachel Cohn (must check her out cos I dig the way Norah thinks). So Norah’s all like, “What? No way. What a weirdo. Although … he was pretty hot as the only straight guy in the queercore band, so, um, ok.” THEN she finds out HE’S Tris’s (the evil ex) castoff. The guy she’s been jonesing for for 6 months because of his awesome playlists and song lyrics. And she finds out he’s a pretty hot kisser. Why change this? Why make it all about mean-girl insecurity in the movie? Maybe because it’s easier to portray. I dunno, but it’s +1 for the book and -1 for the movie.

The book has all this great dialogue between Nick and Norah. Cohn and Levithan get a little heavy on the hipster speak (especially Levithan) and the metaphors when it’s just Nick thinking to himself, but they both rock with dialogue. So this should make writing the screenplay easier, right? Except no. Because all the tingly, first-date-awkward, love-hate/on-off Nick-and-Norah solo scenes are eliminated in favor of a weird “Dude, where’s my best friend?” subplot-that-takes-over. See, Norah’s all straight-edge and responsible, and her friend Caroline is a big, drunken hot mess. Nick’s gonna drive them home, then his bandmates step in and offer to take Caroline home so Norah can get Nick going somewhere else but back to cry on Tris’s doorstep. Right on. In the movie, the guys lose Caroline and Nick, Norah and the band spend the whole movie looking for Caroline. Where’s the chemistry? Where’re the deep conversations and the humiliating moments from the book? Gone, since Nick and Norah are never alone. +1 for the book-1 for the movie.

Ok, so Michael Cera is totally lame as Nick. Yes, Nick is lovelorn and a little too emo, he makes playlist after playlist for Tris and he is awkward and has a hard time showing Norah he’s actually interested. Michael Cera, check. But he’s also HOT. AND he has this awesome moment where he calls his phone (Norah has it) from a payphone and it’s all adorable and great. And I just don’t think MC is adorable like that. so -1 for movie.

BUT. Kat Dennings as Norah? Brilliant. Putting her with MC was like putting Kate Winslet with Leo DiCaprio in Titanic; made a little guy look even littler. And Alexis Dziena is a fab Tris — wish they could have written her character to match the book. A little bit mean girl, but occasionally with a got-your-back-bitch side. AND the band boys had such potential, especially Dev. Could’ve been way awesome as flirty, slutty Dev from the book. So +3 for the movie.

Where are we? Book 2, movie 1.

This is getting kind of long, and I don’t want it to be a total bash on movies that are nothing like books since sometimes it works. But why get rid of awesome things for no reason? Or change them so they’re less than awesome? So to make it short …

Awesome Things in the Book Made Not-So-Awesome in the Movie

The Von Trapp Massacre. Umm, a nun striptease to The Sound of Music songs?? Awesome. Replaced by some Christmas/altar boy drag show? Not nearly as awesome.

The Music. God, the music is all over the place like Michael Cera in the book, and barely mentioned in the movie. A few token bits o’ banter thrown in (like the one about what exactly the Cure is the cure for), but that’s it. They spend what time they’re not looking for drunken Caroline looking for Where’s Fluffy, a hot punk band that doesn’t advertise its shows. WF is in the book, it’s a major breakthrough scene. In the movie? we don’t even hear them play! Isn’t this whole thing supposed to be about music? Well, and one night with maybe your soulmate.

Tris. Seriously, she’s way awesomer in the book. Would I be her friend? No way. But she’ll tell you to be careful when you need to hear it. And she’s definitely deeper than she is in the movie.

Sub-Z. Norah’s romantic past is way more complicated than it appears in the movie. Is there room for all of that in the movie? There would be, if there weren’t the random side trips to find Caroline and shots of her wandering around drunk and taking dudes’ turkey sandwiches (not a euphemism).

The ice-machine scene. Not even in the movie. Read the book. There’s lots of sexy-sexy in the book, but the movie just has one laaaaame tame scene. Ok, yes, they were going for the PG-13 rating, gotcha. But really? Pan the musical instruments with a voiceover of giggles and whispers? Yikes.

The Results?

TOTAL SMACKDOWN on the movie. The book wins by like a zillion, and it’s not even Michael Cera’s fault (really)! The book and movie are more distant cousins than The Princess Diaries books and movies. It’s like the movie is that woman who claimed to be Anastasia but really wasn’t, and the book is like the real Anastasia who was killed by the Bolsheviks after all. I know people out there loved the movie, but how does it even compare to the book?

Go read the book. It has really great dialogue and fantastic butterflies of that weird first part of a relationship. Plus, it doesn’t have Michael Cera, which should be an automatic +2478107438 for the book and -65716473892617 for the movie.

Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.