Thursday, April 24, 2014

A WHAT Movie?

I have always been of the opinion that a good movie can be based on any source material. The first "Pirates of the Caribbean" was a lot of fun, and its theme park ride origins were barely apparent in the movie. "Clue" is one of my favorite 80s comedies, despite being based off of a board game. I haven't seen "The Lego Movie" yet, but the raves and the box office success its enjoyed suggest that being a giant extended toy commercial didn't mean the movie couldn't also be fun and entertaining and artistically ambitious too. Time and time again I've come across movies with completely absurd premises that have somehow managed to make the best of them and be great.

Then again... an awful lot of movies with unlikely origins have come out about as badly as you'd expect them to. And there are dozens of announced projects based on more rides and games and toys have never made it off the drawing board. For every "Lego Movie," there's a "Stretch Armstrong" languishing in development hell. Back in 2008, Hasbro and Universal Pictures signed a deal to create a series of board game movies, only one of which was ever made - the disastrous "Battleship." And then there are the Disney rides. Lot of projects have been announced, from "Magic Kingdom" to "Adventureland," but nothing has move forward except a TV project based on "Thunder Mountain Railroad," which didn't get past the pilot stage. In the past couple of days there have been a flurry of announcements for a new crop of these tie-in films. Let's take a closer look at their prospects.

The Barbie Movie - There's been a long-running series of CGI animated direct-to-video Barbie movies for little girls, but this one is going to be a live action theatrical feature. After the success of "The Lego Movie," there's been renewed interest in building franchises around toys. Sony Pictures announced this one yesterday, and their plan for it actually sounds pretty promising. The Barbie character will be a do-gooder polyglot whose overstuffed resume (is there a profession she hasn't tried?) gives her the skills to become "a modern-day Mary Poppins." The script is currently in the hands of Jenny Bicks, the showrunner of "The Big C." Lots of variables are still unknown, but I can see how this could be an interesting project. Barbies were never my favorites, but I did play with them and retain some fondness for them, as I'm sure many women and girls do.

The Peeps Movie - I actually know the world of the marshmallow Peeps better than most because I have a friend who collects them. Seriously, he's got an ever- growing Peeps collection that features all sorts of seasonal variants, stuffed toys, related merchandise, and fan-created work that ranges from the impressive to the somewhat disturbing. But even with a healthy appreciation of the creativity swirling around the beloved Easter candies, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around a Peeps movie. At this point the project is one writer, Adam Rifkin, who optioned the rights and is working on a script for an animated project, involving a Peeps diorama contest. He's certainly got his work cut out for him. Peeps are iconic, but there are no real characters, no semblance of a story, and the point of Peeps boils down to eating too many of them and trying not to feel too guilty about it. I thought "Angry Birds" was iffy enough, but this one really takes the cake.

The "It's a Small World Movie" - Anyone else's eye starting to twitch at the mere thought of That Damn Song wafting out of multiplexes to invade our helpless ears? This is the latest of the aforementioned Disney theme park ride projects, which have mostly been duds after "Pirates of the Caribbean." Jon Turteltaub of the "National Treasure" movies has been attached to direct. No story details have been announced, but I'm guessing there's probably going to be some kind of globe-trotting element, a la "Around the World in 80 Days." I hope that they don't entirely drop the underlying philosophy of the ride, which was to promote peace, love, understanding, and all those other 60s hippie ideals, but that is probably asking too much. I expect this is probably going to be in development for a long time, and doesn't have nearly as good a chance at getting a greenlight as some of the other ride movies currently in the pipeline.

The Mrs. Doubtfire Sequel Movie - Finally, because this came totally out of the blue and there's been such a negative reaction to it, let's talk about the "Mrs. Doubtfire" sequel. I liked the original. It's one of those gentler family comedies that I wish they made more of these days. Fox is behind this one, and is all set to reunite director Chris Columbus and star Robin Williams. Note that neither are at a particularly good point in their careers right now, much like former 90s stars Arnold and Eddie Murphy, who are subjecting themselves to similar head-scratcher sequel projects. My worry is that in trying to modernize the concept, we're in for a more typical, cruder, lazy cross-dressing comedy in the vein of a bad Adam Sandler movie. And we have enough of those.


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