The Westing Game (1997, Terence H. Winkless)

The Westing Game might be the perfect example of why a novel should never be turned into a movie. There are a lot of examples of the inverse, but watching Westing Game… it’s hard to imagine ever wanting to see a book adapted into a film again.

There are no redeeming qualities to the film, unless one wants to count Lewis Arquette not being atrocious like everyone else. Dylan Kelsey Hadley’s script is so bad, not even Ray Walston can deliver his lines well. Watching the movie, there’s not much to do besides pick out the worst performances.

What’s extraordinary about the film is how often director Winkless invites the viewer to laugh at the characters. Jim Lau’s Chinese restauranteur is a stereotype from the forties, Sally Kirkland’s neurotic, spinster secretary plays like… wait, I figured it out. Winkless and Hadley aren’t so much interested in adapting a novel as they are turning an episode of “Scooby Doo” into a movie.

A really bad episode of “Scooby Doo.”

The source novel is technically a kids’ book–it won the Newbery Medal, which is for juvenile fiction–so I assume the adaptation’s target audience is kids. Really dumb kids. The movie follows around Ashley Peldon, who’s tragically precocious and wise beyond her years.

It’s a big mistake, as Peldon’s awful. Though she’s not as bad as June Christopher, Diane Nadeau or Sandy Faison. The less said about Shane West–who plays a surprisingly fit disabled kid–the better.

Westing is atrocious.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Terence H. Winkless; screenplay by Dylan Kelsey Hadley, based on the novel by Ellen Raskin; director of photography, Kurt Brabbee; edited by Jim Makiej; music by Pamela Fuller; production designer, Stuart Blatt; produced by Julie Corman; released by Showtime.

Starring Ashley Peldon (Turtle Wexler), Diane Ladd (Berthe Erica Crow), Sally Kirkland (Sydelle Pulaski), Cliff De Young (Jake Wexler), Sandy Faison (Grace Wexler), June Christopher (Judge J.J. Ford), Lewis Arquette (Otis Amber), Diane Nadeau (Angela Wexler), Billy Morrissette (Edgar Plum), Jim Lau (James Shin Hoo), Shane West (Chris Theodorakis), Ernest Liu (Doug Hoo) and Ray Walston (Sandy McSouthers).

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