If you are reading this, I am going to assume that you either (a) are familiar with Focus on the Family’s bafflingly long-lived kids’ radio drama or (b) are an avid fan of mine and will read anything I write. Either way, I love and appreciate you.
For the uninitiated, Adventures in Odyssey centered around the many adventures of John Whitaker, a portly, aging inventor who owned and operated an ice cream parlor where kids would go when they needed a moral lesson tacked on to their daily lives. The ice cream parlor also had a time machine, which did not make it nearly as popular a tourist destination as you might think.
My parents bought me almost every episode on tape and I loved them. I measured long car rides in how many Odyssey episodes you could listen to on the way. And while many of the episodes slipped into the worst of Focus on the Family’s tendencies (one infamous episode ended up with a character getting attacked by a forest demon after playing too much Dungeons & Dragons) the writing staff had a knack for humor and characterization, and the voice actors were top notch.
Therefore, it’s time Adventures in Odyssey got a live-action adaptation. I assume the reason it hasn’t happened yet is that nobody’s sure who to cast, a problem I aim to rectify.
Logan Lerman is rumored to be up to be the next Spider-Man which, sure. Fine. At this point, being Spider-Man is kind of a rite of passage for Hollywood’s young actors. I’m not saying he wouldn’t be a good Spider-Man, but Jimmy Barclay served as Odyssey’s stock boy character. Whenever someone needed to learn a valuable lesson about boy things, Jimmy was good for it. Lerman’s face—so tender, so trusting—would serve him well.
Jimmy’s older sister, Donna, likewise served as Odyssey’s stock girl character. She could frequently be a bit overbearing in a very oldest sibling way, and as an oldest sibling, I resent the stereotype (I, myself, have always been plagued by self-doubt and a lack of ambition and am therefore deeply distrustful of birth order personality test hacks.) But Donna was an oldest sibling and so as an oldest sibling we must cast her. Willa Holland has typically played the younger sibling (on Arrow and The O.C.) but she has the authoritative tone for it. It is time for her to spread her wings and play the oldest sibling she was born to play.
As badly as I wanted to cast Sam Elliott here, I think Tom Riley needs a curveball. In Odyssey, Tom was sort of a folksy old farmer who said things like “boy, howdy” a lot. Bridges doesn’t necessarily seem like a “boy, howdy” kind of guy but MAYBE THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THIS PART NEEDS. Bridges will put a little spice into Tom’s generally staid existence, making him a fresh, vital character ready to face the challenges of 2015.
I know what you’re thinking and, yes, I did consider casting Joffrey from Game of Thrones here, Rodney Rathbone being the most despicable of Odyssey’s children. He and his gang of ne’erdowell’s tormented the good denizens of Odyssey in a variety of ways, ranging from the mundane (framing people for murder) to the truly wicked (suing Mr. Whitaker for having a Nativity scene in his front yard because something, something Separation of Church and State.)
That’s why I think this portrayal needs a surer, more nuanced hand than Joffrey. Teller’s becoming a big deal—let him earn his stripes here.
Bernard Walton—depicted as a curmudgeonly but generally good-natured window washer—always served as Odyssey’s de facto kindly grouch and could be counted on to provide a good moral lesson when Mr. Whitaker was otherwise disposed. Paul Giamatti could bring to Bernard the sort of sadness that I think must fuel any life long window washer.
“Tyler,” you say. “Are you just casting Jurnee Smollet as one of Odyssey’s primary characters because you love Friday Night Lights and know, without a doubt, that it is the greatest TV show of all time?” No, I am casting Jurnee Smollet because her grit and drive make her ideal for portraying Connie’s lifelong dedication to her job at Whit’s End. Get it together, and if you’re going to accuse me of playing favorites, get your facts right first.
Oh, what, you were expecting Jesse Eisenberg? Yeah, you and everyone else, which is why Andrew Garfield is such a slam dunk. Yes, I’m aware he’s the second Spider-Man on this list, but in fairness, he was the second best thing about the attempt at a new Spider-Man franchise, and also, he can play a VERY SMART person, which is what Eugene was. Also, Eugene was—near as I can remember—Odyssey’s only non-Christian resident, so Garfield would have to play a spiritual outsider, which I think he could manage.
Katrina Shanks was eventually introduced as an intellectual match/love interest for Eugene, and though I looked far and wide, only Gina Rodriguez could match Garfield for sheer portrayal of vast intellect. Plus, she is a very big star right now and this movie will need some star power if it’s going to break even at the international box office.
Yes, I am aware that I am probably playing with a lot of people’s idea of Mr. Whitaker’s race here, but the show never explicitly said he was white and if you were so sure he was, maybe you should think about what that says about you. In any case, who else would you cast? Morgan Freeman and Morgan Freeman alone could convey Mr. Whitaker’s deific blend of kindly wisdom, tough love and spritely whimsy. He holds the town together by virtue of his spiritual know-how, and if it was my town in question, I’d definitely want Morgan Freeman. If you would want someone else, that’s on you.