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'Giver' Fans Likely To Be Disappointed By Movie's Pace


You know, dystopian novels like "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent" seem to jump from the page to the big screen almost instantly. But it's taken a bit longer for "The Giver" which was published more than two decades ago. Now it's in theaters. Here's what the film critic Kenneth Turan thinks of it.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: There's nothing terribly wrong with "The Giver." It's more that the film of the celebrated novel has a planned, pokey quality that will likely disappoint the book's legion of fans. "The Giver" takes place in a regimented, future society where emotion and choice have been eliminated. That new society is headed by a chief elder, played by Meryl Streep, who fills us in on how things began.


MERYL STREEP: (As Chief Elder) From great suffering came a solution -communities, serene, beautiful places where disorder became harmony.

TURAN: Emotions - like fear, pain, envy, hate, even love - are no more. And the residents even see everything in colorless black and white. But because the elders recognize that the past held information that might help them make decisions, one individual was designated as the receiver of memories. All of society's history resides in his mind and his mind alone. Now it's played by Jeff Bridges. This man becomes the Giver, passing on his often painful memories to a young successor named Jonas. It's a fraught process with potentially grave results for society, as the Chief Elder well knows.


STREEP: (As Chief Elder) The boy must hold in the pain. Don't fail us again.

TURAN: The problem with "The Giver" is not that it adds things like surveillance drones and hints of romance; it's that it's been unable to find a way to make the essence of the novel cinematically involving. The film's very earnestness weighs it down, reminding us of the truth of Jonas' cri de Coeur. If you can't feel, what's the point? A very good question.

GREENE: Always good to have Kenneth Turan on the program. He reviews film for MORNING EDITION and also for the Los Angeles Times. And this is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.
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