The Kite Runner radiates fakery: the kite fights look computer-generated; the Afghan city looks like plastic; the houses look like Ikea displays; the Afghan children look like earnest cyborgs; their parents look like old, earnest cyborgs. Like the yellow skin and eyes of one suffering from jaundice, these cosmetic symptoms betray serious internal deficiency. Doctor, do you think it's my plot? As in the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, a little boy without much courage (physical, moral or otherwise) spends his childhood in Afghanistan, betrays his only friend, ends up in America after the Soviets invade, grows up a bit more there, discovers "a way to be good again" (hint: it involves the friend he betrayed), plucks up some courage and, after a bit of predictably harrowing adventure, becomes good again. In the novel, this bag of cheap tricks was held together by Hosseini's ability, shared by all authors of beach reads, to repeatedly make you say "well, just 10 more pages" 30 times in a row. There's a crude art to this sort of thing, and the director Marc Forster isn't fit to hold Hosseini's easel. The two paint the same scenes and stories, but Hosseini's touch somehow makes you overlook their fundamental skimpiness which, viewed through Forster's lens, becomes unavoidable.