Pick your favourite Harry Potter film. Not the nearest visual approximation of your favourite Harry Potter book, but the one that works best as a stand-alone film. Got one? It’s neither of the first two, is it? It is? Have you seen any of the others? You have? And you still like one of the first two the best? Yeesh. Do you also view any flavour of ice cream other than vanilla as an abomination unto the lord? You do? Well then why are you reading about the misadventures of those little satanists at Hogwarts in the first place?
Anyway, today’s your lucky day, because if you like bland attempts to hew as closely to a J.K. Rowling novel as possible, you’ll be thrilled by the news that Chris Columbus – director of the film adaptations of The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets – has signed a deal with HarperCollins to pen a three-volume young adult fantasy adventure series, one no doubt populated by entirely original creations like Hydrangea Danger and Vol-de-Sac.
Columbus will pen the House of Secrets series with young adult author Ned Vizzini, with the first due for release in spring of next year. Plot details are being kept under wraps, but the summary that’s been released contains the phrases ‘video games’, ‘inexplicable transgression’, ‘mysterious place’, ‘troubled fantasy writer’, ‘penchant for the occult’, ‘siblings’, ‘epic journey’, ‘mash-up’, ‘secret history’ and ‘save their parents… and maybe the world’, which I believe is house in Buzzword Bingo.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Columbus explains his desire ‘to do anything we can do to get kids back into reading and make it really, really fun’, like making lumberingly faithful cinematic adaptations of really, really fun children’s books for everyone who needs to catch up but doesn’t have time for all those words and stuff.
Once a screenwriter of no small talent, Columbus’ career since – minus the guiding hand of better directors – has become one that, whilst commercially successful, could charitably be described as spotty at best. As in ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets could legitimately be seen as his peak’ spotty. If his novels follow suit, expect them to be by turns saccharine, shrill, maudlin, baffling and ultimately forgettable, with a distressingly robust financial outlook.