The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favorite books, so I waited eagerly for the movie to be released on DVD. Yesterday it became available, and I ran over to my local Blockbuster and rented it, and DH and I watched it last night. Now I really wish I hadn't bothered.
Why was I disappointed? I don't mind that the characters and the plot were altered somewhat-- I don't mind it when adaptations change things around. No, what I object to is that all the humor was taken out of it, making it one of the most unfunny comedies I've ever seen. Certainly it was still strange, but strange is not the same as funny.
There were lots of recognizable scenes from the book, yet all the scenes had been shortened in such a way that the humor was lost. For example, where Arthur complains about his struggle to find the plans for the bypass, in the book the exchange goes this way:
"I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"That's the Display Department."
"With a torch."
"The lights had probably gone."
"So had the stairs."
"But you found the plans, didn't you?"
"Oh yes, they were on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the leopard.'"
In the movie, he says, "I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them." That's it. There were lots of scenes like this, where the writers decided to keep the general gist of the scene but inexplicably excised the humor. Which is odd-- the plot (such as it is) certainly isn't the reason anyone reads the book. The book is all about the humor.
Anyway, bringing the topic back to writing: Making a comedy unfunny is one of the most disappointing things you can do to your reader (or viewer). If you're writing a comedy, make sure it's funny!