I'm guessing the box office success of the Harry Potter flicks has made studio greenlighters take another look at the tween/teen demographic, because there are quite a few film adaptations of books targeted at that age group in the works. And I'm glad to see this, because my nine-year-old is getting to the stage where films for younger kids -- the Over the Hedges and the Ant Bullies -- are more of a cinematic snack than a satisfying movie meal. She's waiting with bated breath for the next Harry Potter film and the last book in the series, but is also aware that the series is coming to an end and thus has been hunting out more tween books to satiate her literary needs. Much as she likes to read, though, she also loves to see films made out of her favorite books. Here's a short list of movies on the horizon that will hopefully meet her expectations, and mine as well:
How to Eat Fried Worms: This classic gross-out kids' book by Thomas Rockwell, which first came out in 1973, was one of my favorites when I was in fourth grade or so. The film tells the tale of a kid who's bullied into a dare to eat a worm a day for 30 days. Mark Mothersbaugh wrote the score for the film, and when I interviewed him during the Seattle International Film Festival, he said "I thought it was gonna be another bullshitty kind of Nickelodeon movie, and then this movie took a turn about three-fourths of the way through and you realize it's a buddy flick, and you realize it has a really good heart in it and instead of just being gross or whatever, the main character and the bully become friends."
The Giver: Lois Lowry crossed the bar from kiddie lit to genuine literature with The Giver, for which she won the Newberry Medal. The book is about Jonas, a boy living in a "perfect" society with no sickness, poverty or crime, who is chosen on his 12th birthday to be the next "Giver" -- the keeper of memories for his people -- and learns for the first time of the lies and hypocrisy of the world in which he lives. Think Brave New World for kids. As we reported back in March, The Giver will be directed by Vadim Perelman, who previously directed House of Sand and Fog, and is being produced by Jeff Bridges, who will also star as The Giver. No word on IMDb about who will play the role of Jonas, but let's hope they do a good job with this film. Its release date of the moment is listed vaguely as "2007."
Eragon: This book about a boy who finds a dragon egg was written by Christopher Paolini when he was just 15-years-old, and it shot to the top of bestseller lists. Why? Because Eragon is an excellent coming-of-age adventure story, full of mystery, intrigue, a wicked king with magical powers and a boy who must assume the responsibility of resurrecting the Dragon Riders and bringing justice to the land. With a cast including John Malkovich as the evil King Galbatorix, Jeremy Irons as Brom, the old man who trains Eragon, and Djimon Hounsou as Ajihad, leader of the rebel forces, this film could really rock. Brit newcomer Edward Speleers plays Eragon, the boy hero. My greatest concern is that they're going to make Eragon's dragon, Saphira, look cheesy, but hopefully, with a cast this talented, they're putting enough money into that bit to make her look amazing.
The Golden Compass: We've covered this one so much, it seems it ought to be in theaters by now. The first in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman, The Golden Compass is a rather dark tale about an orphan named Lyra who lives in a magical version of Oxford, a world where people have daemons (manifestations of their souls in animal form), and scholars and religious leaders are in a desperate race to unleash a power that will allow them to cross into an a parallel universe. Lyra and her daemon, Pan, are swept into adventure when her friend and playmate Roger disappears, and the pair must go on a quest to find Roger and other missing children and rescue Lyra's imprisoned uncle, Lord Asriel. There are two other books in the series, so expect to see more if this film does well. Film is being directed by Chris Weitz (About a Boy), who also wrote the screenplay. Cast includes Paul Bettany as Lord Asriel, Nicole Kidman as the evil Mrs. Coulter, who kidnaps children, and newcomer Dakota Richards as Lyra.
Monkey's Paw - This horror film, produced by Sam Raimi, is an adaptation of the old scary tale about a man who comes home with a creepy artifact that grants any wish -- at a price. Muahahahaha. There have been a couple of adaptations of this classic story (which I first heard around a campfire at Girl Scout camp waaaaaay back in -- well, a long time ago), including one I vaguely remember seeing on Nickelodeon's Are Your Afraid of the Dark some years back. The film doesn't have a director or cast attached at the moment, and it will very likely tip out at the upper end of the teen age group as far as appropriateness -- but Sam Raimi's involvement is heartening, yes?
Inkheart: German author Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord was already adapted to a movie (which hasn't shown in the United States, dammit), and a screen version of her book Inkheart is underway. The story is about a young girl named Meggie, whose father has the mysterious and terrible power to bring the things he reads aloud to life. Film is being directed by Iain Softley (The Skeleton Key, Hackers). No cast is yet announced on IMDb.
Nancy Drew: The Mystery in Hollywood Hills: We told you back in February that Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric, niece of Julia) had been cast in the highly desirable role of Nancy Drew in Nancy Drew: The Mystery in Hollywood Hills. My nine-year-old is psyched about this film. She loved Emma Roberts in Aquamarine, and she loves Nancy Drew to the extent that trips to Portland involve coming back with sacks full of Nancy Drew hardcovers. The old series is full of crap that rankles my feminist soul -- I love how the other girls are always saying things like, "Oh, Nancy, I could never be as brave as you are!", and how she runs around solving mysteries while wearing a skirt and heels. The more modern update on the series is less annoying in that aspect, and I'd expect that's the Nancy Drew execs are looking to adapt to the big screen.
[Hat tip to Alex at First Showing, whose comprehensive list of films to be excited about in 2007 inspired me.]