Sorry Bookworms, The Giver Offers Little
Critics aren't impressed with this 'same old' story
By Arden Dier, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2014 11:51 AM CDT
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(Newser) – Excited to head back to your school reading days with the new flick The Giver? You may not be after reading what the critics have to say. Despite big names like Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges, the film adaptation of Lois Lowry's classic 1993 novel has just a 29% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's why:

  • "Another week, another movie about a special adolescent who saves society from the forces of darkness," writes Liam Lacey at the Globe and Mail. The Giver is too much of "the same old, same old" in which "Lowry’s serious but simplified ideas get reduced to a barrage of visual kitsch."
  • "The Giver was ahead of its time as a book. But as a movie, it’s too late," writes Joe Neumaier at the New York Daily News. He's one of several critics to note the similarity to recent flicks like The Hunger Games and Divergent. He acknowledges, however, "young audiences may become aware of touchstones" like Nelson Mandela or Tiananmen Square "that they might normally have tuned out." Oh, and Taylor Swift appears in "an unnecessary cameo."
  • "The cast is good" and there are strong scenes when the Giver, played by Bridges, passes his knowledge on to Receiver Jonas, played by Brenton Thwaites. But the movie "just falls flat, in almost every way. It exists and not much else," writes Bill Goodykoontz at the Arizona Republic. "It's all too predictable, and way too heavy-handed."
  • Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post apparently didn't get the memo. Lowry's novel "comes to life," she writes. It's "handsomely directed" with "an appealing, sure-footed cast," including strong performances from Alexander Skarsgard and Katie Holmes, who play Jonas' parents. Overall, it "perceptively caters to its teenaged fans' own cardinal desires and anxieties," she writes.

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Showing 3 of 6 comments
Aug 20, 2014 4:18 PM CDT
Ya want a good story.....a big box office....critical bitching....and a great feeling ? Do Starship Troopers the way it is in the book.
Aug 17, 2014 3:23 AM CDT
I thought you meant, MacGyver
Roger Wilko
Aug 16, 2014 9:23 AM CDT
The book was interesting and a lot of students liked it (many also did not), but it was the message that concerned me. While well-written, the novel had frightening facists overtones. I got the, old, tired, Reaganesque nonsense about government "being the problem" from the book. Not only is the message scary and tiresome, it's simplistic, juvenile, stupid, wrong and irresponsible. Another featured book that's gotten a lot of buzz is "Unwound", which continues with a similar, upsetting narrative in which children who have become unruly are parted out for their organs. Not sure if this is an anti-abortion thing or what, but I'm sure somebody will seek to turn this nightmare into a film, especially if "The Giver" does well. I'm not suggesting banning books or not getting both sides of a story, but If you want anti-government propaganda in the schools, you already have a literary classic on the shelves. It's called "1984" by George Orwell. In these newer books, I see a frightening, conservative message that isn't healthy for anyone, let alone kids, particularly when tea partiers and neocons want to confuse their political message by lamenting that "booth sides" aren't being given on issues like evolution and global warming - issues that simply do not have both sides. Same thing with another story that is often part of school curriculum, "Harrison Bergeron"... and Vonnegut's a writer I adore. What these flawed, dystopian efforts have in common is that they ignore the fact that we really don't need fiction to show us nightmare societies. We've had all of human history to see witness them, from Genghis Khan, to Stalin, Mao and Hitler. Look at North Korea today. There have been, and continue to be, right wing and leftist horror stories all around us. For every "1984" and "Farenheit 451" there are other less-nuanced works like "The Giver", "Unwound" and yes, even Huxley's "Brave New World" that really miss the mark and warn about all the wrong things. What's next? Fox "News" in the classroom? Who needs that?