Slaughterhouse-Five Movie Review

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There are certain authors that simply do not lend themselves towards adaptation. The reason for this makes perfect sense: when one reads a book, they are forced by the book to envision the world that the author creates. When one is part of the visual medium of film, the world looks more like reality. Since the world looks more like reality, we are prone to question it in greater detail.

That is why successfully adapting a Vonnegut is one of the Holy Grails of film adaptation.

Vonnegut had been adapted six times. All but two have been failures. The two successful adaptations (Robert B. Weide's adaptation of Mother Night and Stephen Gellar's adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five) have managed to be successful by staying as close to the book as possible and by picking books that can make a transition to the screen with less difficulty.

Slaughterhouse-Five is the story of Billy Pilgrim, a man unstuck in time. He is constantly drifting from one point in his life to another, pseudo-randomly working his way through three intertwined storylines about his experiences during the war (culminating in the bombing of Dresden), in the psychologically unpleasant life of suburbia, and on the planet Tralfamadore with porn-starlet Montana Wildhack.

As bizarre as this summarization sounds, the movie actually manages to do Kurt Vonnegut's novel about accepting the bad things in life a good amount of justice. This is mostly do to the wonderful transitions that director George Roy Hill gives us, which lay down a sort of pattern to Billy's time travel.

Although Michael Sacks plays Billy Pilgrim in the exact naïve fashion which the character was conceived, the supporting cast ends up slightly disappointing. For instance, Paul Lazzaro (Ron Liebman) ends up coming off as if he were the villain from Johnny Dangerously. He gets too deep into his character and transforms it into a stereotype.

Still, giving credit where credit is due Slaughterhouse-Five is the first good Vonnegut adaptation. It was proof that it was possible, and a Holy Grail of screenwriting grabbed.

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Slaughterhouse-Five Rating

" Good "

Rating: R, 1972

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