As a means of introduction, here’s an introduction: this is my new column. If you like it, I’ll keep doing it. If you don’t like it, I’ll probably keep doing it until I don’t like it. Thing is, I’m not sure if I like it right now, so maybe you’ll like it, but I’ll stop doing it, and then you’ll be sad. The important thing is to not take any of this personally, as mine is a mercurial disposition. I mean, let’s be grownups about this.
of you fuckers might be tempted to recommend renaming the below categories to
denote "seeding", "soil quality", "yield" and shit like that. Don’t. That would be twee. And I don’t do twee.
The Crop: Big Brothers
The Director: Luke Greenfield
The Writer(s): Moses Port & David Guarascio and maybe Timothy Dowling, though his name is absent from the 1/22/07 draft.
The Cast: Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott
The Premise: Danny (Rudd) and Wheeler (Scott), two epically irresponsible corporate salesmen for Budweiser, party their way into huge trouble with their bosses. To keep their jobs, they must join a Big Brother program.
The Script: Since everyone’s writing R-rated comedies nowadays, it’s no longer necessary to praise writers for having the temerity to go heavy on tits, f-bombs and drug use. Besides, it’s not like this is a novel development. Remember Tomcats (aka the maiden cinematic voyage of Joe Roth’s Revolution Pictures)? It had all of that shit and remains one of the worst movies ever made*.
What’s really surprising about Big Brothers is that a writing team most notable for holding down staff gigs on Mad About You (bad) and Just Shoot Me (eh) has banged out a massively profane script that compares favorably to the recent work of Judd Apatow**. Structurally, it sets up like Wedding Crashers, with the reader being plunged into the boys’ Dionysian lives, which consists of non-stop partying barely broken up by the easiest job in the world: convincing bar proprietors to stock Budweiser. After a frenzied fifteen pages, their pagan idyll is despoiled when they ram a semi-truck hauling hot chicks and a bounce-house through the main gate of Budweiser’s corporate headquarters, which somehow becomes a public relations debacle (a bit strained, but whatever), thus forcing their boss to sentence Danny and Wheeler to community service as some kind of penitential gesture.
Though it might not seem like it, the Big Brothers organization, which I’m pretty sure will refrain from endorsing this movie, is actually a ballsy choice. After a fairly amusing introduction to the program, Danny and Wheeler are paired up with two troubled youths. Danny gets Augie, a geeky fourteen-year-old whose parents died in separate plane crashes on the same day (he’s being raised by his older sister, who, of course, is hot and becomes a love interest for Danny). Wheeler gets Lewis Tubman Sawyer, a seventeen-year-old African-American thug who, according to the script, is "built like a brick shithouse" (stunt casting suggestion: LeBron James!).
The primary arc of the script has Danny gradually warming to Augie, an asthmatic, LARP-ing enthusiast, and not just because he desperately wants to bang the kid’s sister (though that does help to keep his interest). What’s great about Port’s and Guarascio’s treatment of this relationship is that they write Augie as a sexually frustrated teenager instead of a nerdy kid intimidated by the idea of sex, which is to say they have a scene in which Augie ruins Danny’s flatscreen television by rubbing his dick on it. Danny correctly identifies this as a cry for help, and his hilariously blunt efforts to ease Augie into young adulthood are, in the best Apatow tradition, oddly sweet while being very, very wrong.
Wheeler, on the other hand, strikes up an adversarial relationship with his little, who’s intentionally written as a racial stereotype on the page – i.e. he steals, smokes weed and carries a gun – so as to pull off a very stock reveal in Act III. That it didn’t bother me too much is a tribute to the script’s effectiveness.
As for the supporting characters, there’s the disapproving head of the Big Brothers program (who only approves the guys due to Budweiser’s financially significant sponsorship), a naif named Floyd who participates in the program even though he’s not assigned a little (he’s predictably, but amusingly abused throughout the script), and Augie’s sister Kate, who barely registers.
Why It Should Be Good: Luke Greenfield. Sure, Rudd will be the on-screen MVP, but, in Greenfield, this production is getting a vastly unappreciated director who’s finally receiving his much deserved follow-up to 2004’s The Girl Next Door, a derivative, but utterly endearing coming-of-age comedy that’s become a huge hit on DVD and cable after 20th Century Fox spectacularly mishandled its theatrical release. Aside from some considerable comedic chops, Greenfield’s greatest strength is his directing of young actors; walking out of The Girl Next Door, I was convinced that Emile Hirsch would be his generation’s Tom Cruise in two years flat. Three movies and three corresponding, underwhelming performances later, this assessment appears a bit off. Oops. Greenfield also coaxed a believable performance out of Elisha Cuthbert, which, given her subsequent work, is akin to getting Jan Michael Vincent out of bed.
And it’ll be nice to see the talented Seann William Scott working with some decent material for a change (has it really been four years since The Rundown?). He’s been overshadowed since the sudden rise of "The Apatows" (I hate "Frat Pack" and will never use it), and could use a hit, especially since Southland Tales still (and criminally) languishes sans release date.
Why It Might Suck: Greenfield shows up to the set every day loaded to the gills and insists on directing the movie like it’s Convoy.
When You’ll Get to See It: 2008. That is, provided everything goes smoothly and the movie commences principal photography in April as initially planned. Please don’t fuck this up, Universal.
What I’ll Be Rambling About Next: My emasculating struggles with weak stream. And maybe Hitman.
*I also don’t do hyperbole. That movie is the My Lai Massacre of R-rated comedy.
brings up the separate issue of why Rudd has strayed outside the Apatow
Compound to make his first comedy vehicle. It would break my heart if
Rudd and Apatow had a falling out. Anyone care to issue a statement assuaging my fears?