Hollywood Tramples My Childhood. Again.

Since we appear to be delving back into my cherished childhood memories this week, I think it only appropriate to bring the following story to your attention. It caught mine — attention, that is; or throat, maybe — when it appeared in my DefinitelyNotGoogleReader™ a few days ago:

Encyclopedia Brown is getting the big-screen treatment. …Warner Bros. is in final negotiations to pick up the movie rights to the iconic children’s book series for an adaptation to be produced by Roy Lee and Howard David Deutsch.

Encyclopedia Brown is the nickname of Leroy Brown, the son of a local police chief, who runs his own detective agency out of the family’s garage. The books featured Brown, often with his friend and “bodyguard” Sally Kimball, solving various petty crimes, often committed by the local bully Bugs Meany.

I love Encyclopedia Brown. Spent hour after youthful hour with that kid, and few things gave me more pleasure than correctly deducing the case’s solution before flipping to the back of the book. (Come to think of it, just about the only thing that gives me more pleasure even to this day is the fact that Sean — #2 Son — appears to be as wholehearted a fan as I was “back in the day.”)

At the same time, the notion of figuring it out for oneself was such a fundamental part of that enjoyment, I’m not sure what a movie would have to offer. The characters are mildly entertaining, I suppose; but little more. Sobel’s true genius lay not in his artfully-crafted characters, but in concealing the solution right before your childhood eyes, and giving out just the clue(s) you needed to connect the dots for yourself. How can a movie possibly duplicate that feeling? (Maybe I should check out the blessedly short-lived, early 90′s TV show to find out how it handled the problem. Not.)

On the other hand, things could always be worse, right?

Robert Luketic was attached to a version being developed in the early 2000s, while a few years later Ridley Scott dabbled with it. Warners reportedly even tried to put together a movie in the early 1980s starring Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn.

Chevy Chase. Ridley Scott. …Yeah, I got nothin’. Except “Thank you, Lord.”

Bonus: Sobel also wrote a series called “Two Minute Mysteries,” featuring a sleuth known as Dr. Haledjian. They are similar in format, but intended for a slightly older audience. And they are awesome. Plus, Encyclopedia’s given name always cracked me up. Because Croce.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.

  • nicdavidson

    E. Brown and S. Holmes were the best friends I had as a child!

    It’d be great if they did as well with this as the BBC did with Sherlock.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/summathissummathat Joseph Susanka

      That would make me very happy, Nic.

      …but it’s still tough for me to get my head around. Holmes and Watson are fascinating characters, and their strange friendship is almost as interesting as the cases they’re solving. It’s just hard for me to imagine the “feel” of the Encyclopedia Brown stories — the rush you get from identifying that clue — translating into a film.

      (Also, it sounds like our childhoods were not dissimilar. Are you a fan of Jacques Futrelle’s “The Thinking Machine?”)

      • nicdavidson

        I’m about to be!

        Futrelle died in the sinking of the Titanic, apparently!

        Thanks for your great blogging, by the way.

  • Maggie Goff

    You have the *best* posts. Thanks for Croce. Brings back mixed memories of the 70′s.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/summathissummathat Joseph Susanka

      I’m always happy when someone finds the Hidden Links, Maggie.