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The Langoliers (1995)

DVD Cover (Republic Pictures)
Genres:
Psychological Thriller, Sci-Fi Horror, Science Fiction
Director:
Tom Holland Tom Holland
Starring:
Patricia Wettig Patricia Wettig
Dean Stockwell Dean Stockwell
David Morse David Morse
Mark Lindsay Chapman Mark Lindsay Chapman
Frankie Faison Frankie Faison

5.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: October 12, 2007
When translating a novel to the big screen (or in this case, the small screen), there are countless things that can - and usually do - go wrong. The filmmakers could decide to change key elements of the book in an effort to appease a larger portion of the viewing public, but doing this usually tends to piss off the fans of the source material - the people who should be the target audience for obvious reasons. On the other hand, these filmmakers could do a literal translation, but this poses another problem... some stories definitely need to be trimmed when presenting them in this fashion, as some authors enjoy putting far too much emphasis on things that just aren't very exciting when we watch them take place on our television screen. Then, there's the third thing that can go wrong: some stories just weren't meant to be told outside the pages of a book, and this is the problem that The Langoliers suffers from.

The storyline for this one begins on a red-eye flight across the country, and things get interesting when a blind girl named Dinah (Kate Maberly) wakes everyone else up by screaming at the top of her lungs. Well, by "everyone else", I actually mean "everyone else that is left"; you see, all but ten of the passengers who were aboard this plane have mysteriously vanished, leaving behind only their watches and pocket change to signify that they were even there in the first place. Thankfully, one of the ten people left behind happens to be a pilot, as even the previous crew for this flight have vanished into thin air with no signs of a struggle. Once the group finally gets the plane landed safely, they discover that the mysterious circumstances that they encountered on the plane was only the beginning... and they also discover what the langoliers are. Included in the group are Bob Jenkins (Dean Stockwell), Laurel Stevenson (Patricia Wettig), Nick Hopewell (Mark Lindsay Chapman), Craig Toomey (Bronson Pinchot), Albert Kaussner (Christopher Collet), Don Gaffney (Frankie Faison), Brian Engle (David Morse), Bethany Simms (Kimber Riddle), and Rudy Warwick (Baxter Harris).

First, the praise. I was glad that the filmmakers decided to be faithful to the original book when writing the teleplay for this one, as that seems to be a rarity when it comes to adapting Stephen King's work. Sure, some minor things have been changed here and there to ensure that it could air on network television, but the changes that were made were minor and did nothing to hurt the overall storyline. There were certain pieces of the storyline that I was certain wouldn't make it into the film due to either the subject matter or for the sake of keeping a sane running time, but I was pleasantly surprised in that regard once all was said and done.

Now we find ourselves looking at the downsides of the film. This was a made-for-TV movie, and it certainly shows from scene one onwards. For starters, the budget must have been somewhere in the triple digits, as damned near everything was done with computers and looks downright horrible. I would have complained about the look of the langoliers even if this had been an anime feature, their destructive power comes across as extremely silly, and hell, even the plane flying through the air was done digitally and looks more like a rocket floating through space than a passenger plane. I firmly believe that the langoliers were never meant to be seen anywhere but in your imagination, and seeing them in this film reaffirms that belief tremendously. Events that were haunting and memorable in the novel come across as silly and laughable in the film, and that, my friends, is a damned shame.

Then there's the cast, which was seemingly made up of sitcom rejects. Kate Maberly as the blind and psychic child was downright brutal to watch, as this little Caucasian kid would have a hard time convincing me that she was white with her acting abilities. It didn't help that the script called for her to be annoying as possible every time she got a line, and how many times did they need to remind us that she was blind, anyway? It seemed like she was shouting that little fact at the top of her lungs in every other scene, and needless to say, it got old quick. We've also got Bronson Pinchot as the crazy guy who is obsessed with making it to his meeting in Boston, and he plays the character in such an over the top fashion that it's hard for us in the audience to fear him or get behind him or anything as we're simply too busy laughing at him. These are two of the main characters in the film, and trust me when I say that the actors found here don't get much better as you scroll down the credits.

The film is saved to a certain extent by featuring an interesting storyline, but that only goes so far when damned near everything else about the film is abysmal. This could be an epic and classic film with the right budget and cast, but this particular telling of the story simply did nothing for me. 3/10.
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Crispy #1: Crispy - added 10/12/2007, 01:50 PM
This book was amazing. Like you said though, in movie form it really doesn't work. By the way, did you delete that Stephen King list you were working on?
Griffinheart #2: Griffinheart - added 10/12/2007, 02:08 PM
It's been awhile since I dealt with either the book or the movie of this, but I remember both being somewhat enjoyable (the book more so than the movie). I'll tentively give the movie a 5/10 until I watch it again to double-check.
Chad #3: Chad - added 10/12/2007, 02:26 PM
Stephen King list - Yeah, because you can now click his name and see all of his writing credits, which is basically the same thing.
bluemeanie #4: bluemeanie - added 10/12/2007, 03:56 PM
This is one of the worst adaptations EVER. "Four Past Midnight" was a decent set of four novellas from King, and "The Langoliers" was great on the page, but turning it into a beefed up mini-series was a mistake. Tom Holland just can't direct horror that well, "Child's Play" included, and "The Langoliers" is both boring and unfaithful to the novel to a staggering degree. Yuck. 2/10.
Chad #5: Chad - added 10/12/2007, 04:32 PM
I have to disagree about the faithfulness of the movie - save for a few minor things, it was very faithful. It's been a while since I read it, but the only differences I can think of are:

1) Craig was beaten much worse with the toaster. Understandable that they toned this down since it was airing on TV.
2) Some of the characters were fleshed out better. Again, considering the confines of fitting it into a movie, understandable.
3) I seem to recall a discussion about a dildo that they found on the plane which was quite humorous, but again, network TV kills that.

It still doesn't change the fact that the movie sucked, totally agreed there, but I thought it was damned faithful.
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