As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to. This week, Print to Projector presents:
This Book Will Change Your Life
A guide with a new challenge everyday to drag you, willfully kicking and screaming, from the rut that you’re in. Sing a song, throw something you love away, write to the Pope. If you follow the book’s instructions, you’re promised 365 new experiences.
We’ve been fairly high-minded in this column (I wear a monocle while writing it), but it’s time for a break from all that. After all, brilliant, memorable films aren’t the only ones being made in Hollywood, and they’re certainly not the only ones with merit.
There’s not much to discuss about the book itself. It’s a manual, a lifestyle, a bit of chaos that you can accept into your life. Essentially, it’s the perfect model for the premise of most middling comedies – the most recent that instantly jumps to mind is Yes Man. A change needs to be made, a device for that change is introduced, it works, it works too well, and then a stasis is discovered so that the main character is changed for the better.
As far as formulaic comedies go, this book would make a fantastic device for the character change. In fact, the book itself seems almost born from the archetype in films of a character agreeing to a drastic change in order to become better, get the girl/boy, or beat that asshole at work who is after the same promotion. Bruce Almighty talked to God. This Book Will Change Your Life will make you write your own eulogy, sweat it out in a sauna, and enter all the competitions at your local supermarket.
Most of the entries are silly, but many of them would make a killer mid-run-time montage to show the character really going through that wacky change, and there are certainly enough severe ones to show true, drastic transformation.
There’s nothing wrong with elevating a middling comedy.
The writing is going to be crucial because of just how standard this genre has become. Who among us can make that change, make something average stand out? To this end, I look to the most recent proof of someone doing so: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore tackling The Hangover. What might have been a plain ol’ drunken buddy comedy became something memorable (and crushed the box office).
Bear with me here. I’m going to throw out a name, and I’m gonna need a leap a faith from you. That name is Leonard Nimoy. The man, as we all know, directed Three Men and a Little Baby, and he needs to return to comedy. He’s proven himself as director, and he could definitely add just a bit more to the standard comedy than it’s used to.
Ewan MacGregor as Joe Havernacker: The names of this segment are all going to be ridiculous and made-up since the book itself doesn’t have characters. Why Ewan MacGregor? Because he’s a great actor, and great actors can take average work and make it better. Plus, he’s done well in comedic roles in the past, particularly Down With Love and the Star Wars prequels (those were comedies right?).
In this flick, he’d play Joe, a down-and-out astronomer who’s unlucky in love and in life. His friend Squeaks gives him a book and explains that it will change his life if he only agrees to follow its instructions every day. Pretty soon he’s getting an absurd haircut and interacting with strangers in elevators. Hilarity ensues.
Lizzy Caplan as Kelly Featherswitch: Everyone loves Lizzy Caplan. Think of her as Zooey Deschanel with acting range. She’s an edgier sort of magic pixie dream girl and criminally underused in Hot Tub Time Machine (a slight comedy that didn’t manage to rise above the average). Her time has come to take a turn in the middling comedy where she grabs the spotlight and helps elevate the end product.
Patton Oswalt as Squeaks: Patton Oswalt being the buddy sidekick for Ewan MacGregor makes absolutely no sense. That’s why it would be brilliant. Oswalt is one of the funniest men on the planet, so including him in any comedy is never a bad idea, but it seems like tossing him into this already-eclectic mix would be even better.
Donald Sutherland as Fritz Havernacker: Sutherland plays father to MacGregor’s character and gives him 1) the crucial guidance he needs to find the truth about living and 2) give him an emotional challenge near the beginning of the movie.
Zoe Kazan as Sarah Wischweister: Kazan is blowing up in a big way, but no one has ever heard of her. At least my mom hasn’t. She may want to stick to indier flicks, but she would also make a great Frazzled-Lonely-Hearts-Side-Kick-With-Terrible-But-Sometimes-Insightful-Advice-For-Her-Best-Friend-Who-Has-Fallen-For-A-Guy-Who-Is-Changing-His-Life. Side romance with Patton Oswalt? Sure. Why not?
Who Owns It
To my knowledge and research, it doesn’t look like anyone has bought the film rights so it still rests with the publisher and authors.
I firmly believe that this would make excellent fodder for a standout, average comedy. Give a man who isn’t doing so hot in life a mantra, and see how far he takes it. Most of the humor would come from the characters and from the strange tasks that the book (which you can also do in real life if you go buy it) makes our hero do. Not earth-shattering, but there’s nothing wrong with a little light comedy every now and then.