Of a plastic figurine.
I was driving home the other day when I remembered this movie, and that it was a book adaptation. I hadn’t read the book, in fact, I only read it yesterday, but I remembered liking this movie when I was a kid. I kind of regret it now, since I can appreciate the implications of pulling someone from their world and time and bringing them to yours with the added disadvantage of them only being about three inches tall. So without further ado, I give you…
The Indian in the Cupboard
By Lynne Reid Banks
The story of a young boy, Omri, being displeased with his birthday present, until another gift makes it do something cool, like come to life. Yup, this cupboard, key, and possibly wish combination pulls a person or thing from their time and puts them into a no longer plastic figure in Omri’s time. As I said before, I only read this book yesterday, and as I mention later in this post, I haven’t read all three books. Having said that, the book is aimed at a much younger audience, seeing as it was written for her son as a bedtime story.
Now for the Differences
The novel does a good job of letting us know that Omri eventually understands that even though they started off as plastic toys, they are people, from different times. And although he started out thinking it was going to be a great adventure, he learned of the responsibility it takes to take care of the people he magicked out of time.
It seemed like the movie tried to show Omri’s growth, but it just came off as him staring in that “90’s angsty kid” stare that implied that he was becoming aware of something. I understand inner monolog being a difficult thing to convey on the screen. But at least in the book he eventually voiced his doubts and misgivings to his friend, Patrick, which could have easily been done in the movie by more than Omri just yelling, “They’re people!” and deciding that’s good enough.
Also, the book takes place in the U.K. whereas the movie is set in New York, so it was considerably Americanized. I haven’t read the other two books in the series, but I understand that it taking place in the U.K. may be important for the other two. But since they never adapted “The Return Of The Indian,” or “The Secret Of The Indian” I guess it’s not too critical.
Throughout the movie, it seemed that Little Bear had more of the Jiminy Cricket role of being Omri’s conscience, while in the novel Omri was teaching Little Bear the way things are done in his time.
A scene from the film has the Indian Chief die when Omri takes the bow and arrows from the man. Little Bear wants to bury him, and Omri’s standing there trying to come to terms with the fact that he just killed a guy. When Omri turns the Chief back to plastic, Little Bear scolds him for being a child.
A scene from the book, the Indian Chief dies under the same circumstances, but instead, Little Bear takes the headdress, and cloak off the body proclaiming he is now the Chief and thinks nothing else of the dead man. He begins to demand things of Omri, one demand being a woman.
Now about that lady, I like how the movie handled that, me being a woman and not wanting to be treated like an object and all. I feel that when Little Bear tells Omri not to change her because she has her own life was very modern of him. However, Little Bear is from the eighteenth century. Now I don’t know a lot about the Iroquois peoples or how they were back then, but knowing what I do about women’s rights, and the fight to get those rights, it doesn’t feel too accurate. But again, it felt like they tried to make Little Bear the conscience, not a Native American pulled out of time.
“Boo-hoo” Boone, the cowboy that Patrick brought to life against Omri’s wishes. Every time I saw him on the screen I was reminded of that scene in “Beetlejuice” when Beetlejuice is first called on. The one where he’s on the miniature town. It might be because the exact nature of the cowboy isn’t what anyone would call child-friendly, so he has that (I don’t want to say the name again, but you know who I’m talking about) quality. The “way too adult for a children’s movie” quality.
Lindsay Crouse played Omri’s mom, and I’ve been rewatching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” so every time I saw her, I just saw Professor Maggie Walsh, mild-mannered psychology professor by day, leader of a secret elite demon-hunting operation by night. Which wasn’t too bad, but I couldn’t help but laugh.
There was a cheap jump scare at the end of the movie that involves the escaped pet rat. We understand that average sized critters are not okay for three-inch tall people, one of whom is bleeding out from an arrow wound. We did not need a heart attack, however. Damn kids movie, pulling me into a false sense of security just to give me the adrenaline rush I didn’t ask for or need.
Doing some research into the making of the movie I saw that the screenwriter also wrote “E.T. The Extraterrestrial” and you can tell. There are similarities, like at the end when Omri is standing with Little Bear, as his actual size. It was somewhat reminiscent of when E.T. and Elliot are saying goodbye. In my opinion, E.T. did that way better; I still cry like a little girl when I see that. In “The Indian in the Cupboard,” though, it just felt like an unsuccessful attempt to pull my heartstrings.
It truly surprised me that they cast an actual Native American as Little Bear, that was good to see. Even if the actor, Litefoot, is Cherokee and Chichimeca, instead of Iroquois, but at least it wasn’t some white guy doing a caricature of what he thought an Indian might be.
As for recommendations, I only do so if you’re under ten, and you don’t yet understand the full implications. As for action figures coming to life, I’d much rather watch “Small Soldiers.”