What I Learned From Vacation TV


We visited family back in Illinois, and with two weeks to fill, naturally our attention drifted to the TV and the movies thereon. We watched a few, and here’s what I learned. Or what I noticed, anyway: 

“The Green Hornet” — I can almost see how this worked, or at least why the people making it thought it would be good.  Seth Rogen is funny, and the material is plenty ripe for humor, and the idea of having a superhero duo where one guy does everything while the other does nothing could be really funny. But the film is such a mishmash that there’s no way it can hold together for more than an hour, at best. So the lesson here is that of tone. If “Green Hornet” had gone more hard-core comedy, then it would have abided by the rules of that genre, and (probably) would have been more successful. It also has another entry into the unsuccessful character introduction moments with that of Kato. I feel like if anyone knows anything about the past incarnations of “The Green Hornet” it’s that Bruce Lee played Kato, and if anyone knows anything about Bruce Lee, it’s that he was a maximum bad ass. So, sure, you have the unfortunate luck of playing a character who was played by a legend, but use that to your advantage.  Don’t introduce your super-bad-ass character with him being the greatest coffee maker in the world.

“21 Jump Street” — Maybe it was low expectations. . . but probably not, because by the time I started watching, I was had heard that the movie was better than it should have been AND I was excited to see it.  Here was a film that nailed its tone and its characters. It also serves as a great sample of creating a story through the characters given to the scenario. I’m sure the writers — charged with the pre-existing title and property — thought, “OK, so the scenario of the old TV show was that young adults go undercover in a high school. How do we make it worse for these characters?” And they came up with the idea that there were unresolved high-school issues for Jenko and Schmidt so that we, the audience, could enjoy seeing them overcome some form of difficulty and eventually conquer adversity. Character-based adversity. I also admired how these characters only grew in terms of learning how to conquer these story problems, but remained entirely themselves. They were still screw-ups; just screw-ups who managed to learn a few things that helped them solve a case and finally go to prom.

“Happy Gilmore” — I always had a soft spot for this Adam Sandler movie. I still think some parts are funny. But if you have a similar soft spot and you’re in an analytical mood, don’t watch it. It doesn’t hold up. It’s poor acting is only outdone by its poor directing. I never thought it was great, but now I’m convinced it’s worse. I don’t have much of a lesson here other than: “Be good at what you do.” Because being bad at what you do is bad.

“Independence Day” — AMC did a “Christmas Story” thing during the week with the 1996 boom-boom-bang movie, and it’s another example of awkward character introductions. The one to focus on here is Will Smith’s character, who’s name I believe was Captain Will Smith. He’s eventually going to be the alien-punching pilot who will eventually fly a space ship into another space ship. But he’s introduced as a family man, with a Vivica A. Fox girlfriend and a foster son. This isn’t soooooooooo bad, but it’s also kind of weird that they don’t show him as a pilot. It’s mentioned, but it’s not shown. Furthermore, when the aliens do arrive, and the ships are hovering over them, Will denies their hostility. It’s a fine move, I suppose, as far as logic goes. Somebody should put it out there that the aliens might not be hostile. But it kinda makes Will look like a fool to not have suspicions initially, and then turn into a guy who professes to be ready to “kick E.T.’s ass.”

“The Change-Up” — Yikes. Awful. I’d heard bad things about “The Green Hornet,” but they were exaggerated. The bad stuff I’ve heard about “The Change-Up,” however, were underplaying it. The humor feels desperate, the performances are just exposition machines, not to mention completely unbelievable. There’s also a central problem with the very concept of the production: they cast two actors who don’t have big enough personalities to impersonate. With a movie like “Face/Off,” for example, you’ve got to actors who were big personalities and big characters, so it’s easy for one to impersonate the other. That was the fun of the movie. Everyone can do an impersonation of John Travolta and Nic Cage, but who the hell can do a Ryan Reynolds impression? Nobody. Least of all, Jason Bateman. The script doesn’t help either. So the lesson here is ground floor: ask questions about the plausibility and effectiveness of the story being told. Also have characters say things that people might say in the real world, and react like human beings, too.


2 Responses to “What I Learned From Vacation TV”

  1. Seems like there were a ton of funny lines in 21 jump street too but i can’t remember any of them now.

  1. 1 Script Doctor Eric’s Great Movie Challenge « Phillip Mottaz Town

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