It is a long established truism that Hollywood ran out of original ideas and thus it constantly has the need to lift intellectual property.  Sequels, remakes, rip-offs, tributes and every other method of borrowing stories is a common move, even to the length of competitors producing the same story at the same time. (Evidence of this comes next year when two competing “Snow White” movies will be released.)

However this summer it may be even worse, as it appears that not only is there a familiarity between titles, but they may in fact be identical.  Two family pictures – Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and The Smurfs — are on the way that are not only similar, they appear to be the exact same movie.  To illustrate this you are asked to imagine a meeting at a film studio.  You are the executive, and currently you are listening to a writer sell you on their idea for a film.  As they pitch the details let’s compare the two elements from the movies’ trailers.

“With backstory established, at the crucial plot point, our hero receives a mysterious package”


“This is a fun, family picture. I see a solid comedic actor in the lead – someone like a Jim Carey, or maybe Neil Patrick Harris.”

“We open with an establishing shot, over New York City.”

“Our lead plays a sharply-dressed, successful executive.”

“With backstory established, at the crucial plot point, our hero receives a mysterious package”

“And inside he finds a collection of CGI critters who will transform his life.”

“Our hero is very displeased with this arrival –“

“ . . . But his loved ones adore the new creatures.”

“As he tries to figure out what to do there is a comical meal involving our star and the new arrivals, allowing them to bond.”

“There are crucial moments centered on the hind-quarters of the critters – like farting in a tub, or maybe drying their nether region on a heating grate.“

“We’ll need to add in some more bathroom comedy, including a vital scene involving the toilet.”

“Next, for some drama, in enters a cartoonish villain who wants to capture the creatures. I see either a zoo-keeper, or possibly Gargamel”

“Our hero now protects now protects the beloved invaders – and the villain suffers some blunt force trauma as a result.”

“At some point the creatures get out and disrupt a gathering in public. I see them scurrying along the ground, in either an art gallery, or possibly a department store.“

“And eventually they end up loose on the streets of New York.”

“Then, it wraps up with all the characters joined together in a dance. This would be involving a way-cool rap song from the 80s. We could use something like ‘Ice,Ice,Baby’, or maybe ‘Funky Cold Medina’.”


That must have been one impressive pitch-meeting, considering both 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures bought the rights to the exact same script.

(Mr. Popper’s Penguins opens June 17.  The Smurfs opens July 29.)