A Whole New Turd (or Synergy!): A Whole New World by Liz Braswell

Welcome to a new YA series that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways. Each book asks the question: What if one key moment from a familiar Disney film was changed? This dark and daring version of Aladdin twists the original story with the question: What if Jafar was the first one to summon the Genie?

When Jafar steals the Genie’s lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish.To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed Princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war.

What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.

Source: GoodReads

If you ever read fan fiction you’ll inevitably come across the practically plagiarized fic where the only thing original about said fan fic from cannon is its disclaimer.

This book is much like that fic.  Okay, it eventually does diverge from cannon but that’s when things get really bad.

It’s too bad that Agrabah doesn’t have an official cocktial because I’d so make myself one now.  I’m thinking for this book I need something pretty strong.  A vodka tonic might do the job.

Or maybe a good sidecar.  Can’t go wrong there.  Taste like battery acid, those do.  And that’s sort of what I need after this book.  Something to get the bad taste of forced synergy out of my mouth.

Currently synergy is a big thing for Disney.  Look at Once Upon a Time-or how many Disney movies that aren’t even fairytales can we stuff into an hour of programming .  I like Once a lot, but sometimes I just roll my eyes at the Mouse doing some very obvious self marketing.

This book was like Once Upon a Time’s infusion of Frozen last season.  Good on paper, but epic fail.  A lot of it was that it didn’t try to deviate from cannon at all. The first hundred pages are basically a novelization of the Aladdin but with horrible purple prose.

Just look at the opening paragraph:

A High White Moon cast its light on the city below as brightly as the sun was said to shine in northern countries.  White mud-brick buildings gleamed like pebbles form a faraway beach.  The golden onion domes on the capital glittered like a dream against the pale dunes and the dark, starry void. (1)

You could’ve condensed this into something like this:The moon cast a light on the city below.  It flickered on the white brick buildings and the dome of the capital.

Okay, you could probably eliminate said paragraph in its entirety to be honest.  But I was trying to be nice here.

Screw this book.

It doesn’t deserve nice.

It is a blatant attempt to cash in on a popular 90’s film and recent broadway show.  However, instead of showing me a whole new world it showed me that Disney could make a whole new turd on once fabulous merchandise.

The cover is wonderful too, really this book does not deserve a cover.

Sigh…

The thing about trying novelize a Disney novel, is that you can’t do a blow by blow play of the movie when the character are pretty flat-to be fair to the movie it was only a little over an hour long and it had Robin Williams as the Genie so that helped some of the flatness.

Speaking of the genie, when the book went AU his lines were probably some of the most painful.  It’s sad how a bad book is yet another painful reminder of how great the late comedian was.  The lines that Braswell wrote were just bad.  I even tried to think of Robin saying them.  And no, just no.

I didn’t stick around to the end.  Mainly because I didn’t see a point.  There was no great deviation from the source material till the AU and once it hit the AU…..well, The Return of Jafar was written better.  And we all know that was a direct to video Disney sequel (which Steve Jobs ex-nayed because they were so bad, BTW).

Overall Rating: A  DNF with an F.  Disney you should think about making sure your synergy is of quality.

 

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Book vs Movie: Avalon High

One of my favorite books is Meg Cabot’s Avalon High.  I think if anything because it combines two things I love 1) Meg Cabot and 2) The Arthurian legend.

I know weird combination, right?

The Arthurian legend, admittedly is pretty depressing.  Meg Cabot books not so much.  However,  the two of them combined sort of works.  The book itself is not a retelling of the Arthurian legend (thank God), but rather it uses the Arthur mythos to help accelerate various aspects of the plot.  I also have to give kudos to Cabot for using aspects of the Arthur legend that aren’t normally used in retelling (a.k.a. The Lady of the Lake).  Overall, it’s one of my favorite Meg Cabot books of all time.

The book itself has three manga sequels which I honestly do not care for.  I thought the story itself was weak and the artwork was subpar.  However, the manga sequel in hindsight was a lot better than that the crappy Disney movie I’m about to review.

First Glance: The first time I watched this film, I was excited.  I had set it to record on the DVR as a treat for myself to watch after I finished writing my memo for LRW I.    So needless to say, I was overly exhausted when I watched it for the first time and a lot of the crap that I’ll later mention got by me.  But it still wasn’t my favorite.   I understood that a lot of things change from book to movie, but there were two things that really made me dislike the movie: Miles and the ending. Let’s talk about Miles first.  He’s the self insert character for Merlin.  In the book the Merlin reincarnation is this cool, quirky English teacher.  A character I actually liked and wanted to see in the movie adaption.  He really did remind me of Merlin.  This Miles insert character not so much.  He’s as cliche as you get for the high school nerd that becomes the MC’s b.f.f.  And you know what, while I usually like nerds I didn’t like Miles.  He thinks rather highly of himself throughout the film and it doesn’t help matters that Disney totally made him a Gary Stu (i.e. he has these super psychic visions).

However as bad as Miles is, he’s definitely more tolerable than that ending Disney decided to give the audience.  Disney states the ending was changed to give the movie more of a female empowerment edge.  And you know what I say, bull shit.

My sentiments exactly, good queen Bess.

The ending itself doesn’t make sense on several levels.  I won’t go into spoiler specifics here but that little twist ruined an entire subplot of the movie and book.  Plus, honestly it just doesn’t make sense.  While the twist that the book had did.  Cabot’s use of the lady of the lake was brilliant.  Simply brilliant.   I guess some people could say that the Mouse dumbed down the book so that it’s targeted age group  could watch it, but I disagree.  I think most kids this age aren’t as stupid as Disney seems to think they are.  A little exposition on who the Lady of the Lake is would be all that is needed.

Note, this image was found on Wikipedia.  I’m sure curious viewers of the movie could easily Wiki Lady of the Lake if they really were that confused.

Upon Second Viewing: In preparation of writing this post I watched the again so I could give it a more proper analysis and review some more of it’s technical elements.

The Casting:  I seriously think the Disney Channel casting agents just looked at who they had on contract and went from there.  No joke. None of them fit.  Not even Britt Robertson, who I think is a fairly decent actress but not Elle.  And let’s not even get started with Greg Sulkin…..

The Acting: Horrible.  Just horrible.  Okay, Britt Robertson does a fairly decent job as Elle Allie, but the rest of the cast with the exception of Jen sucked.  For example, Elle’s (I refuse to call her Allie, even though that’s what Disney changed her name to) parents were over the top.  And did not come off as parents at all.  Then there’s Miles a character that is suppose to be the funny nerd that everyone loves, well he came off as pompous and condescending to me.  And while a lot of that was the writing, the actors mannerisms were off as well.  Then there is Greg Sulkin’s performance as Will.  Poor, poor, Greg.    I feel bad that he even got casted in this movie, but that still doesn’t excuse his British accent from slipping several times throughout the movie.

 

Story:  I would say that the movie kept true to the book about fifty percent of the time.  The bare bone story is there, but as previously stated there have been some major changes.  And these changes are what robs the story of it’s moments of brilliance.  I’m going to be honest here, if Meg Cabot wasn’t such a skilled writer, then Avalon High would’ve been a cliched Arthur retelling like…well, the movie.

Writing: Piss poor.  The dialogue itself often felt fake.  I at first blamed the actors, but after a second viewing I noticed just how bad the writing really was and it just made the relationships and consequently everything else in the movie fail.  I really wish they would’ve bought Meg Cabot or her screen writing counterpart, Amy Sherman Palladino, to write the script.
 

Overall Rating: Three out of ten.  I think if you’re a Cabot fan and for that matter a Cabot fan who really likes Avalon High, you’re going to have some issues with this movie.  I get that movies differ tremendously from books, but I think this adaption took too many liberties.  Then again, some fans I’ve talked to really like the movie.  I guess it depends on how critical you are.