Following on the heels of the news that a fresh version of “Popeye” will obliterate any lasting memory of the comparatively dignified Robert Altman film, not to mention the brain-searing whorl of “The Smurfs,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and the fact that the pillaging of similar cartoon properties continues undimmed, it’s perhaps unsurprising that MGM are seeking out everyone’s favorite bobble-hatted crowd-dweller Waldo (he of “Where’s Waldo?“) to get in on the action. Variety are reporting that this series of narrative-free picture books are set to be adapted into a live-action feature film, following on from several failed attempts to bring the defiantly non-agoraphobic ‘hero’ to the big screen since the 1990s.
If Hergé’s Tintin is the high watermark of this sort of thing, then Waldo is surely the cow-licked Belgian’s backward cousin – less Bob Woodward than the Banjo Boy from “Deliverance,” as his only discernible skill appears to be to stand in densely populated areas and grin at the reader. Waldo’s entourage also includes a snow-colored dog called Woof, an identically dressed woman called Wilma and – weary sigh – a sorcerer named Wizard Whitebeard. His “arch-nemesis” is the boss-eyed Odlaw, who dresses in yellow and black whilst struggling to find our said hero in exotic locales that invariably constitute a background that doesn’t blend well with red and white pinstripes. What’s fine for a simple point-and-search picture book, very well drawn by British illustrator Martin Handford, seems simply untenable for a feature film, but the numbers speak for themselves with 55 million copies of the books sold worldwide. And it’s no less stupid than Jennifer Lopez portraying Carmen Sandiego.
Presumably struggling to keep a straight face, Eric Ellenbogen, co-CEO of Classic Media, who will produce the project for MGM, blurted out “Waldo is the most searched-for character in the world. With thanks to MGM, fans everywhere will find Waldo in movie theaters with his motion picture debut.” Meanwhile that eternal question – “Where’s Waldo?” – currently begs the rejoinder, “Bent over the cash register.” Fans of those Richard Scarry books better watch their back.