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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 10/13/2010

5 Rules for making 'FAMILY CIRCUS' into the newly announced live-action film

By Michael Cavna

With "Marmaduke" having grossed $80-million at the box office, Fox is ready to try its hand at turning another half-century-old single-panel comic into a major motion picture.

Fox and Walden Media have announced that after years of effort, they've acquired the rights to turn Bil Keane's "Family Circus" into a live-action film -- although that's as far off the drawing board as the deal's gotten.

"It is just at the very beginning stages," son Jeff Keane, who co-creates the strip now, tells Comic Riffs. "No script, etc."

"I guess I look at it from the perspective of the quote from 'Annie Hall,' " Keane tells us, quoting Woody. "Right now, it's only a notion. But maybe we can get money to make it into a concept. And later turn it into an idea.

"So, in this case, it's beyond a notion now and working it's way to an idea."

Which is good enough for us to begin getting our own ideas about what a feature-film "Family Circus" must accomplish. So here they are, Comic Riffs's Five Rules for Making "Family Circus: The Movie."

1. Dad must drink. One thing we love about the primordial, '60s-era "Family Circus" is the acknowledgment that raising a rambunctious brood of ever-chatty Scottsdale tykes could drive Pops to hit the sauce. (It's unclear whether all those kiddie malapropisms have ever compelled Thel to seek "mother's little helper.")


2. Now that the Keanes have signed on the dotted line, give us a film filled with dotted lines. Like John Madden hyperventilating over a Telestrator, we'd pay to see "Family Circus's" legendary dotted line running willy-nilly through the live-action scenes. (If the cinematic "Scott Pilgrim" can produce plenty of graphic "Thwaks!" we want similar visuals for the King Features version of "Raising Arizona rugrats."

3. Give us "Family Circus: The Gremlins' Revenge." All those mischievous gremlins populating the comic -- including the misbehavin' ringleader "Not Me" -- deserve some serious CGI time on the big screen. If Marmaduke and Garfield can so readily mingle among the live-actioners, then give the gremlins their graphic due. (Will it work? "Ida Know"?)

4. Let the pesky Zeebas move in next door. One of the tongue-in-cheek "Brady Bunch" movies invoked the comically infallible Nasty Neighbor plot twist -- and "Dennis the Menace" has mined a comic mint from Mr. Wilson alone. So, because Stephan Pastis is so fond of "Pearls Before Swine" crossovers -- the "Circus" kids squat so often in "PBS," we suspect it's all part of a Jeffy "Scared Straight" Program -- we must insist that the crocs take up residence as they hungrily eye Barfy, Sam and that especially fluffy hors d'oeuvre, Kittycat.

5. The film must be shown in Round-O-Scope. In the name of artistic integrity, letterbox isn't good enough for "Family Circus." If James Cameron can push for 3-D retrofitting for his films, then the Keane Comic Opus deserves to be depicted in an onscreen circle. After all, what better way to reflect the sense that for 50 years, we've all been keyhole-style voyeurs on the askew world of Jeffy, Dolly and Barfy? Circle gets the square.

By Michael Cavna  | October 13, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  The Comic Strip, The Holly Word  | Tags:  Bil Keane, Family Circus, Jeff Keane, Stephan Pastis  
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Of course, to make the movie as authentic as possible to the spirit of the present-day FC, it would have to be a shot-for-shot re-make of an earlier version from 40 years ago.

Posted by: seismic-2 | October 13, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

After "Family Circus" I think we need a live-action version of "Family Guy" next; maybe Jack Black as Peter?

Posted by: greggwiggins | October 14, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Also, to stay true to the strip, it should not be funny or interesting in any way, and should take up space that could be used by more interesting and creative movies.

Posted by: dex241 | October 14, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I just hope this will revive interest in the Mark Trail movie.

Posted by: staxowax | October 14, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

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