This news makes me wanna shoop. (And I’ll venture that Eddy Curry’s very pleased with it, too.)
Harold Ramis shouldn’t need the assistance of Judd Apatow to get his next project greenlit, but after the hugely underrated The Ice Harvest sputtered at the box office in 2005 (following the critically and commercially unloved duo of Analyze That and Bedazzled), no one’s rushing to get in the Harold Ramis business – even though the guy is a bona fide comedy legend dating back to his involvement with SCTV (with all due respect, the better SNL) and onward to Animal House, Caddyshack, Meatballs, Stripes, Vacation, Ghostbusters, Back to School, Club Paradise and Groundhog Day. No one’s had a run like that in the comedy genre since the days of Sturges, Lubitsch and Hawks, and, yet, Ramis would probably be lucky if Lionsgate asked him to helm their next Dane Cook laff-stravaganza.
It’s a good thing, too, because the intelligent, enormously talented filmmaker deserves better than compromised studio gigs, and now, with the just-announced Year One, he’ll have an advocate/protector in producer Judd Apatow and a bona fide movie star in Jack Black to hopefully guarantee a sizable opening (I know not of this "Tenacious D movie"). And the happy stuff just keeps on coming: Ramis is co-writing the script with The Office staffers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, while Mighty Michael Cera of Arrested Development will star alongside Black (guess he’s mended fences with The Kaiser of Komedy after that unfortunate and very, very real Knocked Up debacle).
Details are scarce (as in, there isn’t so much as a premise in the Variety story), but we do know that Year One is set up at Columbia, which owns the majority of Apatow projects at present (e.g. Superbad, Pineapple Express, Walk Hard and the Adam Sandler vehicle You Don’t Mess with the Zohan). This is probably why Universal (allegedly) cut Apatow a $1 million check prior to the boffo bow of Knocked Up; though they do have the promising Forgetting Sarah Marshall (written by and starring Jason Segal) on the way, I bet they’d like a little more Judd-love since their other comedy "titan", Tom Shadyac, is about to unleash the flop of summer 2007 in Evan Almighty (also, he just makes shitty movies in general).
Will there come a time when the riff heavy Apatow aesthetic wears out its welcome? I don’t think so. Not if he keeps recruiting interesting directors like David Gordon Green and Ramis to reinvigorate the formula a little. As for folks like Rogen, Segal, Jonah Hill and so on, it’s not like comedic personas have a sell-by date; it’s prolificacy that’s the enemy of longevity (as Ben Stiller’s career has sadly born out). Further to this Ramis project, what I’d love to see Apatow do now is start courting the old-guard likes of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy Catherine O’Hara, etc. When I interviewed Levy a couple of years ago at The Man junket, he mentioned a potential Bobby-Bittman-in-autumn project. Please, please, please give him a shot at that! And maybe drag Rick Moranis’s ass out of retirement. I’d love to see these two eras of blended together. And what about Still Armed and Dangerous? Club Utopia? Caddyshack 2: Part II? Too much?