The feature film adaptation of the adventure novel series The 39 Clues continues to linger in development. The Scholastic book series was initially picked up by DreamWorks as a potential directorial project for Steven Spielberg, but Brett Ratner was subsequently tapped to take the helm. Ratner’s iteration of the film never came together, and Night at the Museum helmer Shawn Levy signed on to direct earlier last year. We hadn’t heard much about the project in the meantime, and it appears that was for good reason: DreamWorks put the project in turnaround. Now THR reports that Universal Pictures is in negotiations to acquire the rights from DW, with the hopes of finally getting the film off the ground.
As part of the Universal deal, however, Levy is no longer attached to direct. The filmmaker has a fairly busy slate anyway, though, as he recently wrapped the family drama This Is Where I Leave You and will next direct Night at the Museum 3. Hit the jump for a synopsis of The 39 Clues.
When their beloved Aunt Grace dies, Dan, 11, and Amy, 14—along with other Cahill descendants—are faced with an unusual choice: inherit one million dollars or participate in a perilous treasure hunt. Cahills have determined the course of history for centuries, and this quest’s outcome will bring the victors untoward power and affect all of humankind. Against the wishes of nasty Aunt Beatrice, their reluctant guardian since their parents’ deaths, Dan and Amy accept the challenge, convincing their college-age au pair to serve as designated adult. Pitted against other Cahill teams, who will stop at nothing to win, the siblings decipher the first of 39 clues and are soon hot on the historical trail of family member Ben Franklin to unearth the next secret.
Adeptly incorporating a genuine kids’ perspective, the narrative unfolds like a boulder rolling downhill and keeps readers glued to the pages. As the siblings work together to solve puzzles and survive dangers, they develop into well-drawn individuals with their own strengths and personalities. Supporting Cahill cast members come across as intentionally exaggerated caricatures, adding to the tale’s breathless fun. The book dazzles with suspense, plot twists, and snappy humor, but the real treasure may very well be the historical tidbits buried in the story. Part of a multimedia launch including a Web site, collectable game cards, and a 10-title series (penned by different authors), this novel stands solidly on its own feet and will satisfy while whetting appetites for more. [Amazon]