Unlocking another 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid'
With "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" one of the year's first sleeper hits, plans are under way to develop a follow-up film based on the second book in the popular series.
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" is expected to follow its corresponding novel closely -- it will track the adventures of Greg and other preteens awkward, clever and occasionally confident in a new year of middle school, with a school talent show a linchpin of the narrative.Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, who wrote the shooting script on the first picture, have been hired to write the second movie, and author Jeff Kinney will again be heavily involved in development, a factor that observers say made the first movie both a creative and commercial success. Producer Nina Jacobson is once more producing through her Color Force production banner.
The X-factor is director Thor Freudenthal, who according to sources has not ruled out but is nonetheless unlikely to return for the second film (he's meeting on the teen supernatural movie "Agnes Quill" at Paramount, to which he's been attached for some time, as well as other projects).
Sources say that Fox 2000, which financed and distributed "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," has not yet committed to making the second movie, but there is a sort of development urgency to it; both preteen audiences and preteen stars have a tendency to age very quickly in franchises of this kind, suddenly making a movie feel very different. No one likes deep voices where they didn't hear them before.
Fortunately for the studio, most of the legal issues are locked up. Zachary Gordon and other cast are signed, and Fox has an option all five books in the series, which ends when Greg finishes middle school (the last book is set to be released this year). The studio will likely make a final decision after seeing both a script and more box office results.
Made for $15 million by the studio's Fox 2000 label, "Wimpy Kid" proved almost an instant success, earning $21.8 million in its first weekend.
Parents like the film because, well, their kids like the books and because the movie is a slightly more elevated, edifying form of the preteen genre. "Wimpy Kids" is also the kind of property that Hollywood executives like these days -- there's built-in brand awareness, the ability to franchise numerous films and, maybe most important, a manageable price tag.
-- Steven Zeitchik
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