When I was in elementary school, every single year my art teacher would break out Chris Van Allsburg‘s 1981 book, Jumanji. Using different voices and inflections, he’d regale us with the story of two kids who play a board game come to life. Each and every year, it was a major highlight. Hollywood is hoping that repetition works in movies too.

In 1995, Joe Johnston adapted the book into a movie, starring Robin Williams and a young Kirsten Dunst, and now Columbia is going back to the well. The studio has just hired Zack Helm, the writer of Stranger than Fiction and writer/director of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, to write a new version of Jumanji. Read more after the jump.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of this film, which will be produced by Matt Tolmach and Bill Teitler. Helm most recently did a draft of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben Stiller’s 2013 film.

Johnston’s version of Jumanji opened #1 in December 1995 and ended up grossing $100 million domestic and another $162 million internationally. That’s a decent size hit for the time, good for number seven of the year. By the time this film comes together – if it does – twenty years will have passed, plenty of time for a generation to once again embrace the story which will inevitably be made with new effects.

What’s so genius about Van Allsburg’s story, and makes the remake more valid than most, is that’s it’s timeless. No matter how life like games get, kids will always play them and always imagine they could come to life. Jumanji isn’t beholden to any time, especially since board games have made a bit of a retro resurgence. And while I’d always advocate new and original ideas over remakes, especially remakes of movies that are already pretty good, if Jumanji worked for me over and over as a child, maybe it’ll work as another movie too.

Are you a fan of Jumanji the book or movie? Does this move surprise you?

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