Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn could be heading back to the Dodgeball arena. Stiller’s production company Red Hour has hired Clay Tarver to start work developing a screenplay for a sequel to Stiller and Vaughn’s 2004 comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
There had been some talk over the years since the film’s initial release of a possible sequel and since Dodgeball earned $114 million at the domestic box office against a budget of $20 million I had expected them to get around to moving on a follow-up long before now.
Although their characters were rivals in the original film, the Hollywood Reporter states “the sequel will focus on Vaughn and Stiller forced to team up to fight an even bigger threat.”
If Traver’s name is unfamiliar, you’re not alone. Not many people saw the 2001 thriller Joy Ride which he co-wrote with J.J. Abrams. More recently, though, he has been working in comedy on such projects as Men Making Music, about the world of competitive barbershop quartets, and with Mike Judge on a satire about hunting, Meat in the Freezer.
In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, we’ll talk about how the world of alternative comics made their way to the movie screen.
Much like as it was in music at the time, the 1980s marked the dawn of the alternative comic. Drawn from the underground comix of the 60s and 70s, but with a more literate and artistic temperament, alternative comics provided an alternative to the superhero dominated comic books that ruled the comic shops and newsstands. The output ran the gamut to the art comics such as Art Spiegelman’s RAW—where his Pulitzer Prize winning examination of the Holocaust, Maus, first appeared, the parody turned social satire of Dave Sim’s Cerebus, to sword-and-sorcery themed Elfquest by Richard and Wendy Pini and Bob Burden’s esoteric parody of the superhero, Flaming Carrot.
It was in Flaming Carrot Comics where the Mystery Men first appeared. The character Flaming Carrot, created by Bob Burden, is hard to describe. He is a rough and tumble urban vigilante whose costume is a dress shirt, a pair of slacks, green flippers, and a giant carrot with flames instead of stalks for a mask. He’s like Batman, only instead of a Batarang, Flaming Carrot has a baloney gun, and instead of the Batmobile he has a nuclear powered pogo stick.
The character and the comics he appeared in were a surrealistic parody of comic book tropes and into this world in 1987 came the Mystery Men. They were Burden’s surrealistic take on the superhero team, and 12 years later, they were brought to the big screen.
You could say that Mystery Men was ahead of its time. It came at the very beginning of the superhero movie trend, when the time wasn’t exactly right for parody. If it arrived five years later, it would probably have been better received. I thought of it as a pretty funny film. It had an all-star cast that ranged from Ben Stiller to William H. Macy to Greg Kinnear. Its tone was less esoteric than the comic it was adapted from, but it was still dark, unique and quirky comedy. It was greatly underrated.
The next indie comic book that was brought to the big screen was adapted from a miniseries that was never completed. Dark Town was created by writer Kaja Blackley and artist Vanessa Chong and detailed the adventures of a man who falls into a coma after a car accident and enters an alternate reality filled with talking puppets. He, armed with only his imagination, must climb out of this strange land before his body dies. There was only one issue published of the series, but that was enough for it to be optioned for a movie. That movie would be 2001’s Monkeybone.
On paper, Monkeybone had a lot going for it. It was produced by Chris Columbus, the man who would bring Harry Potter to the big screen that very same year. It was written by Sam Hamm, a comic-friendly writer most famous for the first Batman film. And it was directed by Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. That was a pretty good pedigree to have.
Perhaps they were hampered by having an incomplete story to work with. Or maybe the way they altered the original concept to fit the ending they wrote for the story. But the film that came as a result was a chaotic mess.
The main character was still sent to a surreal mindscape as a result of a grievous head injury. But he was now changed to being a cartoonist named Stu Miley and the landscape was one influenced by his most famous creation, Monkeybone. The plot involves the Stu’s attempt to escape the fantasy world he was trapped in and recover his body from Monkeybone, who took his place in the land of the living.
The film was an example of forced wackiness. Being wacky on film is not easy to do. The Marx Brothers were masters of cinematic wackiness, because it was effortless for them. When you force the issue, when you try too hard to be wacky, typically you fail miserably. That’s what happened here.
Another creator with a penchant for surrealistic satire is Daniel Clowes. One of the biggest “superstars” of the indie comics scene, Clowes became an ipso facto voice of Generation X through works such as the Lloyd Llewellen miniseries and his anthology Eightball. His work captured the ennui that generation felt and was filled with characters with as many bad qualities as they had good ones to whom boredom was their greatest enemy.
Ghost World, directed by Terry Zwigoff and co-written by Zwigoff and Clowes himself from his 1997 graphic serial, captures the tone of the original work to a T. The film starred Thora Birch and a young Scarlet Johansson as two teenage outsiders in search of a sense of belonging in their small suburban town.
The pair garnered an Oscar nomination for their work on the script. The film was a modest success, which encouraged the pair to adapt another one of Clowes stories to the big screen. We’ll cover that film next time, along with two of the biggest and most iconic indie properties to be adapted to the big screen.
1. The Watch (Fox, 3,168 Theaters, 98 Minutes, Rated R): On paper, this film has a lot going for it. It’s Ben Stiller reunited with Vince Vaughn for the first time since Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. This film was co-written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg of Superbad and Pineapple Express fame. It’s directed by Lonely Island’s Akiva Schaffer. And it should be the first widespread exposure America get of talented British comedian Richard Ayoade (The Mighty Boosh, The IT Crowd).
However, Stiller and Vaughn seems to be just doing the same roles they have done in most fo their other movies (Stiller as the uptight and slightly anal man who takes thing much too seriously, Vaughn as the sarcastic man-child who doesn’t take things seriously enough), the plot–a neighborhood watch group uncovers an alien invasion–seems a bit too one-note to build a film around, and the last film Rogen and Goldberg wrote was the incredibly lame The Green Hornet. So, it’s anybody’s guess what kind of film you will be getting.
2. Step Up Revolution (Summit Entertainment, 2,567 Theaters, 99 Minutes, Rated PG-13): So, it appears that they are still making Step Up films. And why not? They are the McDonalds of the film world–made cheaply (no -name actors are a must), the quality is bad (hackneyed plots are the rule) yet enchantingly tasty (there’s a lot of flashy dancing and attractive people wearing tight clothing to ogle) , and you forget the experience hours after you leave the building (I defy you to quote me the plot of any Step Up movie without getting it mixed up with the plot of another Step Up movie).
This year’s version focuses on Emily, a girl who loves to dance who relocates to Miami. While there, she falls in with a group of flash mob dancers and falls in love with their leader, Sean. The group is ready to combat a land developer who is looking to raze a historic district to modernize it. In a stunning plot complication, the developer just happens to be Emily’s dad.
Now, Sean and his friends have to fight back the only way they know how–with intricately choreographed dance routines that seem impromptu but are not and Emily has to decide where she stands–with the man who loves her, provided for her, and brought her up, or that cute guy who dances she just met.
1.Tower Heist (Universal, @3,200 Theaters, 104 Minutes, Rated PG-13): The buzz about this film should be about two comedy icons who help define film comedy in two different decades–Eddie Murphy from the 1980s and Ben Stiller from the 1990s–coming together on screen for the first time. Or it should about the plot, about a bunch of laid off workers planning to steal from the fat cat that cost them their jobs, a plot made even more relevant by the themes of the “Occupy (Insert City)” protests. In other words, buzz that would get people in the seats.
The controversy made for an interesting story. I mean, it’s a crap shoot to tell if people will spend $10 on a Stiller or Murphy film, let alone the $60 Universal planned to charge for the VOD, but the smaller theater chains were forced to act because it meant the first salvo in the battle for their continued existence. However, this kind of “bad press” isn’t the kind that would entice people into the theaters.
2. A Very Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas (Warner Bros./New Line, @2,800 Theaters, 90 Minutes, Rated R): There are several things that amaze me about the Howard and Kumar franchise. One is the way it rose from its humble beginnings to become a franchise in the first place. I’m always fascinated when that happens.
Another is how far the cast has come. When the first film was released, the cast was living in obscurity–two unknowns and one former sitcom star. Now, mostly because of that first film, John Cho has taken over the iconic role of Sulu in the Star Trek film franchise, Neil Patrick Harris has once again become a TV icon as Barney from How I Met Your Mother, and Kal Penn, for me most impressive of all, has gone on work for the Obama Administration as the Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Liaison.
But was is most amazing the fact that the three princpals have returned for this sequel. Lord knows they didn’t have to, but it rocks that they did.
This film seems like more of the same, as the search for a replacement tree for the one owned by Harold’s father-in-law that Kumar accidentally burned acts as the framework for their wacky adventures. In 3-D no less. I’m not a fan of 3-D, but I do admire the way that the makers of this film have tried to come up with the schlockiest effects to take advantage of the 3-D process.
Even if Universal seems to have no enthusiasm for making a sequel to the 2001 comedy Zoolander, the film’s writer, director and star Ben Stiller continues to talk up the proposed project.
In a profile to be published in the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter, Stiller talks about the sequel and let slip one new story detail. -
The story will pick up 10 years after the first film left off and, Derek’s “School For Kids Who Can’t Read Good” has been destroyed, leaving him in charge of its pupil.
Stiller isn’t deterred that Universal has been balking at getting the film into production, even though he states that they have gone through “maybe 20, 30 [script] drafts” for the film. His 2008 hit Tropic Thunder bounced around in development for the better part of a decade, going through numerous drafts before it went into production. Stiller has been collaborating on the Zoolander 2 script with his Tropic Thunder co-writer Justin Theroux.
I’m sure that fans of the first Zoolander, and I count myself among them, are glad that Stiller has not given up on bringing us another story featuring the dimwitted but well intentioned male super model Derek Zoolander. The character’s appearance on the recent Saturday Night Live episode that Stiller hosted was a highlight of the show.
Ben Stiller is reuniting with his Reality Bites scripter Helen Childress on a new project, but don’t expect it to be in the same vein as the 1994 Gen-X comedy. Titled The Mountain, their new collaboration will be a period horror story based on the 1917 Edith Wharton novel Summer.
Deadline described the film’s plot as a “sophisticated horror premise in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby,” and synopsized the story as such -
Set in the early 1900s, The Mountain revolves around a young woman who struggles to confront her destiny after stumbling upon a mysterious object that forces her to examine the secrets of her past.
How that ties into Wharton’s novel about the sexual awakening of a young New England woman who falls in love with and gets pregnant by a man who is engaged to another wonan is anyone’s guess at this point.
I’m sure there are some raised eyebrows over Stiller directing the project. After all with films like Reality Bites, The Cable Guy, Zoolander and Tropic Thunder on his resume, this film doesn’t sound as if it is in his wheelhouse. But then again, no one really believed that a Kevin Smith-directed horror film sounded like a good idea either, but his Red State turned out to be a strong change of pace for the comedy writer/director.
It is unclear as to when this will head into production. Stiller is currently shooting the Akiva Schiffer comedy Neighborhood Watch after which he will move on to Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young. He also has a role in the big screen adaption of the British television series Rentaghost and directing and starring duties in a remake of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty on his schedule.
It’s looking like Cinemark’s refusal to book the upcoming comedy Tower Heist in response to Universal Studios’ plan to make the film available via Video On Demand services just three weeks after its theatrical opening might just be the opening salvo in a new battle between theater owners and Hollywood studios.
Yesterday, a group of independent theaters joined with Cinemark in boycotting the comedy which stars Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Galaxy Theatres, Regency Theatres, Emagine Theatres and a small number of cinema’s representing another 50 screens have all vowed to not screen the film.
“We just feel it’s a time to draw a line in the sand,’’ said Rafe Cohen, president of Galaxy Theatres, which operates 106 screens in California, Washington, Nevada and Texas. “This is virtually a simultaneous release that we don’t think will be helpful to anyone. We’re standing on principle that it’s best to preserve the theatrical window.”
For its part, Universal is only making Tower Heist available on a total of 500,000 homes in two markets – Atlanta and Portland,– at the price of $59.99 as part of what studio execs are calling “a test.”
But theater owners are seeing the move as just the first crack in a dam that, if burst, would entice audiences to stay at home and not head to theaters to see the latest releases. Theater owners have already expressed anger of a deal that four studios struck earlier this year with DirectTV to make certain titles available 60 days after their theatrical premier for $29.99.
I anticipate that there will be more theaters announcing their own boycotting of the film in the coming days.
While we all await the executives at Universal to decide whether they want to make a sequel to Ben Stiller’s 2001 comedy Zoolander, the comic actor brought the character to Saturday Night Live this weekend as part of his hosting duties.
The comic actor revived his clueless male-model character for a bit during the show’s “Weekend Update” segment next to New York Chamber of Commerce rep Stefon (Bill Hader) to promote a Halloween charity event which will take place in New York hottest neighborhood, SoHoNoHoebo (south of West Houston, below lower Hoboken) and to unveil a new look – Cold Coffee. Although Stiller’s primary reason for hosting the show was to promote his upcoming comedy Tower Heist, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Stiller decided to do the bit as a way to show the Universal brass that there is an audience for a second Zoolander film. Here’s hoping they were paying attention.
Billy Cruddup is in negotiations to star alongside Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn in the science-fiction comedy Neighborhood Watch. According to the Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision blog, Cruddup will be playing “a creepy and weird neighbor.”
The film centers on a group of suburbanites who form a local crime watch group and accidentally uncover an alien plot to destroy the world. Jonah Hill, Will Forte and Rosemarie DeWitt are also in the cast.
British comic actor Richard Ayoade, best known on this side of the Atlantic as one of the socially awkward The IT Crowd, has been cast in the upcoming Akiva Schaffer-directed science-fiction comedy Neighborhood Watch. Reportedly, Ayoade got the role after filmmakers passed on using Chris Tucker.
The film, written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, centers on a group of suburbaniutes who form a neighborhood crime watch group only to uncover a much larger conspiracy. The film stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Rosemarie DeWitt.
Ayoade has been making some headway into Hollywood over the last couple of years. His British independent film directorial debut Submarine was distributed by the Weinstein Company last year. He has also directed a number of episodes of the series Community. His IT Crowd co-star Chris Dowd has been making similar in-roads as well. This summer he had a co-starring role in the hit Brides Maids and next summer will be seen in Judd Apatow’s This Is Forty. Hopefully, their success will not preclude them returning for another season or two of IT Crowd.