Today: the novelization of the film THE NICE GUYS, by Charles Ardai.
Fast forward to March of this year. I bought, read and loved Charles Ardai's novel 50-to-1. I'd never read Ardai, didn't know him as anything but the publisher of Hard Case Crime, and frankly, the concept of 50-to-1 struck me as just a gimmick, the kind of stunt a publisher can get away with when its his own work. It is a gimmick, but it's not just anything. It's a great novel and Ardai is a fantastic writer. I sought around for more of his work: he'd only written four novels, I found, including 50-to-1 and the adaptation of the NICE GUYS. Well, here we were and so I picked it up.
I absolutely loved it. The novel was fast-paced, with a lot of action, an intriguing mystery and enough backstory and characterization to make the characters come to life without shoving it down our throats. It was also hilarious. I read twentyish novels a month, and this was definitely favorite I'd read in a while.
Fast forward again to this past Monday, when two Netflix envelopes arrived, including THE NICE GUYS. My wife put it on our list after I'd told her how much I enjoyed the novelization.
I enjoyed it. It's a good movie. If I hadn't read the novel, though, I'd probably have enjoyed it more.
Don't get me wrong - it's a fine film and all the same basic elements are present. But the film skimps on characterization - Healy, for example, is just an incongruously well-spoken, thoughtful thug in the film. There are hints scattered around that there's more to him, but there's literally no way to put them together from the film. In the novel, we get his backstory, we get his history, and we get inside his head. He's not only a much more well-rounded character in the novel, he's simply a better one. Whether this was information the film's scripters passed along to Ardai or Ardai's own creations, I don't know, but it's important info to the character that the film simply doesn't have.
The same goes, to a lesser extent, for March and his daughter, Holly. Mostly, this is a case of a novel allowing us inside a character's head in a way that it's hard to do in film - especially an action movie like this one, but it really made a world of difference.
Don't let me scare you off the film; as I said, it's a fine film. Action-packed, funny, all that good stuff.
But the novelization is better. Sure, the action may not be quite as dynamic as film can provide, but it's got more body, more soul, and it's a hell of a lot funnier.