The Bad Movie Writer

Sometimes I feel sorry for Abby, my girlfriend who is constantly bombarded by questions and theories and comments from me that neither pertain to her, nor interest her.

One such instance occurred recently after watching, in succession, a movie starring Ryan Reynolds called “Just Friends” and a movie starring Dane Cook called “Employee of the Month.”*

*Before I go any further, I want to point out that Ryan Reynolds and Dane Cook, for acting purposes, are the same guy. They are completely interchangeable. Both always play the male lead who’s kind of a jerk (usually on purpose) but comes around in the end, while making lots of pithy insults along the way and pretending not to care.

This was the thought that “Just Friends” and “Employee of the Month” inspired: Who is writing all these bad movies, do they know they’re bad while they’re writing them, and, if so, why not just write a good one?

To be clear, I’m not including movies made by nobodies, here. I’m not suggesting it’s easy to make a good movie. Most people can’t do it. But these are major studios with big budgets and access to the best writers, producers and directors in the world. They could make a better movie than “Just Friends” (I think).

That was the thought.

These are the facts:

“Just Friends” was written by a guy named Adam “Tex” Davis, who has not written anything else I’ve heard of (although according to Wikipedia he did write a movie called “Spring Break Lawyer”). This in no way means he is a bad writer. It’s just that the only thing of his I’ve seen isn’t very good. (Heaven knows I’ve written a lot of bad stories that could be used against me.)

“Employee of the Month” was co-written by Don Calame and Chris Conroy, neither of which has written anything I’ve heard of, both of which also co-wrote something on television called “Hounded” (2001). Again, same rules apply. In fact, it turns out that Calame is a published book author.

Out of curiosity, I looked up some other bad comedies on IMDB to see who wrote them. Here is a list:

Blades of Glory

Plot (courtesy IMDB): “In 2002, two rival Olympic ice skaters were stripped of their gold medals and permanently banned from men’s single competition. Presently, however, they’ve found a loophole that will allow them to qualify as a pairs team.”

Writer: Jeff Cox

Other work: None.

Lead actor(s): Will Ferrell, Jon Heder

Nacho Libre

Plot (courtesy IMDB): “Berated all his life by those around him, a monk follows his dream and dons a mask to moonlight as a Luchador (Mexican wrestler).”

Writer: Jared Hess

Other work: Napoleon Dynamite

Lead actor(s): Jack Black

The House Bunny

Plot (courtesy IMDB): “When Shelly, a Playboy bunny, is tossed out of the mansion, she has nowhere to go until she falls in with the sorority girls from Zeta Alpha Zeta. The members of the sorority – who also have got to be the seven most socially clueless women on the planet – are about to lose their house. They need a dose of what only the eternally bubbly Shelley can provide… but they will each learn on their own to stop pretending to be what others want them to be and start being themselves.”

Writer(s): Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith

Other work: “She’s the Man,” “Legally Blonde,” “10 Things I Hate About You”; Same.

Lead actor(s): Anna Faris, Hugh Hefner.

Anna Faris has made some really terrible movies over the years.

Anna Faris has made some really terrible movies over the years.

Who’s Your Caddy?

Plot (courtesy IMDB): “When a rap mogul from Atlanta tries to join a conservative country club in the Carolinas he runs into fierce opposition from the board President- but it’s nothing that he and his entourage can’t handle.”

Writer: Don Michael Paul

Other work: Half Past Dead, Half Past Dead 2

Lead actor(s): Big Boi, Faizon Love, Finesse Mitchell

This is obviously a very scientific study I’ve conducted here. But two things jump out at me:

1) It is likely that the writer of a bad comedy has either not written anything else of note, or specializes in writing bad comedies.

2) Although I cannot demonstrate this with facts, it seems to me that, somewhere along the way, the people in charge probably have conversations like this:

Studio Suit: “Will Ferrell, he’s so hot right now. Do we have anything we could put him in?”

Lower Level Suit: “Not at the moment. Let me call Bad Comedy Writer and see if he can whip something up.”

30 minutes Later, on conference call …

Bad Comedy Writer: “What if I wrote something where we could put Will Ferrell and Mike Ditka together in a standard sports movie plot, only with lots of yelling, often at little kids, and shots to the package?”

Studio Suit: “Sure, whatever. Why did I need to be on this conference call? Just have it done by tomorrow morning.”

Being a bad comedy writer seems like a terrific gig to me. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems like almost anybody could write a movie as good as “Just Friends” or “The House Bunny,” partially because some variation of those movies have been written 1,000 times already. I imagine these writers leaning back in their desk chairs after sending off the script and thinking, “I can’t believe somebody is going to pay money to see that” and then cashing a check for $100,000.

I’m assuming these people are good enough to write better movies, but generally choose not to because there’s  no incentive.

11 thoughts on “The Bad Movie Writer

  1. I feel sorry for me, too. Let me make this clear to anyone reading the blog: Tully was handling the remote control and make the executive decision to watch these bad movies.

    Not only are Ryan Reynolds and Dane Cook bad actors, but Anna Faris is too. Just Friends? House Bunny? Scary Movie? Scary Movie 2? Why would a young woman who has broken into Hollywood settle for crappy movies that everyone identifies and classifies as bad movies?

  2. not that he needs my defense, but for movies as bad as those, tully was either doing research for this blog, or he was trying to score points with his girlfriend.

    regretfully, i saw “just friends” in the theater with my wife, mom, and sister one dreary day before Christmas, and i understood everything i needed to know about the movie when i saw the commercial before we left for the mall. but given that these three women in my life were giddy to be around eachother, and i was going to fly home with one of them, and i wasn’t going to convince them that they needed to see “sin city”, i dutifully bowed my head and appeased the ladies. it required me to pull out MY wallet, and pay for the tickets with MY money, but it doesn’t mean that i wanted to watch it, nor that it was a good movie. it was a bad movie.

    the same thing happens in america every day, for 90-minute intervals in millions of living rooms, with millions of eye-rolling men & the same number of giggling snuggling ladies. the guys who hold the remote are just trying to remind themselves that there is still a whisper of freedom amid the tedium.

    so yeah, i can believe that tully picked those.

  3. So my girlfriend, ahem, I mean fiance, generally passes on those movies for equally gut wrenching “Elizabethan Era” movies. Somehow, they all seem to star Cate Blanchett or Keira Knightly. After reading your blog, it makes me wonder if it’s the same situation… I think these writers are equally untalented. They just rip off some Shakespeare story, insert Cate Blanchett, and POOF! another crappy elizabethan era movie is made.

    Suit: “Hey, we need a new movie. Why don’t you call Joe the Crappy Elizabethan Era movie writer and see if he can come up with something by tomorrow.”

    Lower-level suit: “Ok, done. I’ll also call Cate Blanchett.”

    Suit: “Great, we’ll have another highly profitable movie that is pretty much the exact same story as all the other really crappy elizabethan era movies that we’ve put out. Well, works done here…wanna grab a cocktail?”

  4. Somehow I think the likes of Jane Austen would not be thrilled to be referred to as “Joe the Crappy Elizabethan Era movie writer,” but you’re entitled to your opinion…

  5. The thing to remember is that most of these screenplays start off being pretty funny, which is how they get picked up by the studios in the first place. The problem starts soon afterwards, in a process called development. Everyone who works for the company, no matter what their qualifications needs to put their “creative” stamp on the project in order to justify their salaries.
    Due to Writers Guild guidelines, it’s almost impossible to get the original writer’s name removed from the credits of a film. Generally, if a star or director’s name is listed in the writing credits, that usually means that they’ve rewritten well over 50% of the shooting script. A lot of the times, the original writers have not been involved in the project for well over a year, and couldn’t pick the finished product out of a lineup.
    So to answer your question, the reason so many movies suck is that they are rewritten by committee, rather than letting the creative people do their jobs.

  6. This is what’s great about the Interwebs. I can write a breathy, uninformed post pondering bad movies, and someone like Ed can come along and explain it all in about 100 words.

    Thanks for stopping by Ed. Come back soon.

  7. Felt like pointing out that Anna Faris, Dane Cook, and Ryan Reynolds have all been in at least one movie together. Kind of seems that maybe they are a crappier version of the Happy Madison crew. No, wait, Happy Madison was the production company for House Bunny. Think I’ll stick with Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill for a while. At least I know going in what to expect.

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