Movie Review: Doctor Sleep (2019) (Which, Yes, Is The Year It Came Out, But Also The Number Of Times I Said WTF?)
BEWARE: SPOILERS FOR DOCTOR SLEEP (AND ALSO… RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER)
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (but that’s out of 237⭐️)
The novel Doctor Sleep is a very good book.
The movie Doctor Sleep is… a movie.
A movie that is not — and I can not stress this enough — Doctor Sleep.
And I don’t mean in the nitpicky “I can’t believe they changed that drugstore cashier on page 145 from a blond, five-foot-seven, thirty-two-year-old woman to a blond, five-foot-seven, thirty-three-year-old woman” way. I mean in the “WTF — they changed the drugstore cashier into a telekinetic vampire aardvark” way (not a spoiler — that is obviously from Cujo).
Okay, not the whole movie is like that. For about two hours, it is your standard Stephen King adaptation — more LOL (Left Out Lots) than WTF (Whatta Terrible Film). It basically felt like a skeleton of the book, the meat and flesh stripped away for time, possibly stored in a dank, dark cellar for later use in Doctor Sleep 2: You Snooze You Lose.
Yeah, well, what are you going to do? Adapting King’s novels (15,872 pages, on average) to anything shorter than a ten-hour Netflix series is a fool’s errand. There are exceptions, sure — Misery, Shawshank Redemption, and Stand by Me, for example, are all excellent movies (based, not coincidentally, on two novellas and one of King’s shortest novels*). But throw in some supernatural hijinks and — aside from the original Carrie (oh look, based on a veeerrrry short novel) — nobody can seem to make a satisfying movie out of his literary horrorshows.
But the final half hour of Doctor Sleep is when we cross the city limits into WTFville. Simply, it is no longer the book. Not even a version of the book. It is suddenly Doctor Nostalgia, crammed with “remember this?” gimmicks having nothing to do with, you know, the book.
Imagine you’re watching the animated Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the first time, having been a big fan of the song. It’s going along as you expect — Rudolph gets made fun of, Santa asks him to save Christmas, Rudy accepts his role as holiday savior. Off they go. But then, still harboring a burning resentment toward their original noseism and only acting as if they like him when they need something, he guides them all smack into the side of Mount Rushmore. How would you like that? Not what you signed up for, is it?
Sure, Rudolph already takes plenty of liberties with the song. There’s no aspiring dentist elf or grizzled prospector or depressed, poorly designed toys in the happy little ditty. And certainly no horrible monster Rudolph has feared more than anything his entire life who seems to have been subdued but then reappears after Rudolph has returned to the blizzard-battered home of his youth, where the monster performs an act that is actually helpful to our hero and his friends…
Holy crap — Doctor Sleep and Rudolph have the same plot!
Anyhow, Doctor Sleep has a 78% positive rating from critics (and 90% from audiences) on Rotten Tomatoes, so probably don’t listen to me.
Just don’t read the book the week before you see it.
*Sit down, Children of the Corn; I’m not saying short source material never gets royally screwed up.