a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Some Movies Just Shouldn't Try To Be Funny

So the other day I watched (on DVD) FINDING AMANDA, which stars Matthew Broderick as a TV writer who is hiding his serious gambling problem (he likes the horses) from his wife.

When he learns that his niece (played by Brittany Snow) is turning tricks in Las Vegas, Broderick volunteers to go get her and to put her into rehab, though actually it's just an excuse for him to go to Vegas and gamble more.

He finds her, but doesn't stop her as she turns more tricks, while she likes her job, which is painted here as being a pretty drama-free for a pretty young girl to make some good money (at times it's practically a recruitment ad). Indeed, even at the end there's every implication that she is going to stick with it.

This could easily have been a serious character piece, a la LEAVING LAS VEGAS, but instead the filmmakers keep trying to make it a wacky comedy, complete with strident "ha ha isn't this funny" music and Broderick pulling every comic-reaction face he has learned from his 80 years in the business.

(Okay, he isn't that old. But he's starting to look his age. Apparently the picture in the attic got accidentally sold in a garage sale. Obscure reference. Okay, moving on).

The problem with FINDING AMANDA is that there just isn't anything funny to this story at all. At all. It just feels like a train wreck, pretty much all the way through. Even when Steve Coogan shows up, he doesn't have anything funny to do.

There have been a lot of movies that have blended comedy and drama successfully. Let's take BEVERLY HILLS COP, which has a serious basic storyline -- tracking down the killer of your friend -- and layers a lot of funny scenes on top of it.

Because the humor comes from the comic conflicts. Eddie Murphy in LA, reacting with the pretentious peeople there. Eddie Murphy jiving with the bad guys. Eddie messing with the uptight LA cops.

FINDING AMANDA has no layer of funny. It's all just sort of icky, even to me, who is no blushing rose.

And the revelation in writer/director Peter Tolan's commentary that it is sort of based on a true story (he had a gambling problem, it was the daughter of a friend who was hooking) just makes it feel like he is in denial.

Trying to blend genres is fine -- but it needs to work.


At 10:48 AM, Blogger deepstructure said...

"Apparently the picture in the attic got accidentally sold in a garage sale. Obscure reference."

i wouldn't call that an obscure reference.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

You're probably right, at least for the crowd that pops by here.

I've never The Picture of Dorian Gray, but I read the script for the remake, and it's pretty solid.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

I know it because it was a novel.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger citygirl said...

See, we all know about The Picture of Dorian Gray, too.

At 11:09 PM, Anonymous yvonnjanae said...

I'm just floored by the movies that are getting made. I wonder how this particular one got greenlighted.

How many scripts have you read that were so, so much better than this one?

In a way, I think Hollywood has become so inbred that it has lost its mind. Not enough new blood from new writers.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger deepstructure said...

i don't have scott's experience (and wouldn't wish it on anyone), but the more unproduced scripts i read the more convinced i am that there aren't any good scripts out there - including the ones being produced.

i'm getting more and more convinced that writing a good script (as apposed to coming up with a good idea), is a very very difficult thing to do - and 95% of those who attempt it fail.


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