July 28, 2009 / 6:56 AM / 8 years ago

New film version of "Rats of NIMH" in works

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Paramount smells a rat.

As rodents prove surprisingly likable on the big screen, the studio is developing a feature version of the Newbery Medal-winning children’s book “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.”

Director Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) is in talks to write the screenplay.

The movie would be the second theatrical go-round for the book, which MGM brought to the screen in 1982 as the animated “The Secret of NIMH,” directed by Don Bluth.

Robert C. O‘Brien’s book has been a staple in children’s bookstores and libraries since it was first published in 1971. The story centers on a mouse -- the titular Mrs. Frisby, renamed Mrs. Brisby in the MGM movie -- faced with a crisis when her son falls ill and she must move her family to escape a farmer’s plow.

Mrs. Frisby enlists a group of former lab rats, whom she soon discovers possess advanced technologies and run a highly evolved society, dividing labor in the manner of a human community.

Usually relegated to sidekick status, rodents recently have come into their own as main characters. This past weekend “G-Force,” which centers on a mission undertaken by a group of computer-animated guinea pigs, took the box-office cheese, earning $32 million and besting holdover “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Those familiar with “NIMH” noted, however, that the material has elements of a parable and reflects more serious ideas than the light comedy of “G-Force.”

The new “NIMH” likely will combine live action and animation in the manner of “Alvin & the Chipmunks” and other kiddie hybrids.

“NIMH” would be Burger’s first foray into family fare. The writer-director’s previous work includes the Ed Norton period magician’s tale “The Illusionist” and the Tim Robbins post-Iraq feature “The Lucky Ones.”

Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters

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