Monday, August 3, 2009

Malcom McCree And The Money Tree (Repped Week 2 of 5)

For those who have forgotten, this is two in a series of five scripts I'll be reviewing this week from represented writers who have not sold a script. The exercise is meant to explore the level of quality it takes to obtain agency representation. Enjoy!

Genre: Comedy
Premise: A down on his luck Jr. High teacher is shocked when he finds a real live money tree growing in his house.
Writer: Ryan Belenzon

Malcom McCree And The Money Tree gets my Title Of The Month award. And the concept is great. How many times have you heard, "Money doesn't grow on trees"? But what if it did? What if you had your very own bank with no withdraw limit? No fees? No deposit slips or Quicken entries. Just pure endless money. This modern day Brewster's Millions could easily star Jack Black or Will Ferrel prancing around buying everything in sight. But I had some substantial problems with Mr McCree and his money tree. Enough so that a couple of rewrites may be in order before this is legitimately "spec-ready."

Malcom is a junior high teacher who's just lost his girlfriend, Daisy, a science teacher and the very definition of marriage material. The West Side Story superfan can't make it through a single day without realizing how miserable his life is. To add salt to the wound, the school's having a budget crisis and decides to cut back on Malcom's salary. Malcom heads to a local bar with his insane postman friend, Jerry, and laments about how being poor has ruined his life. If only he was rich...all his problems would go away.

So after meeting a strange Indian Man at his local 7-11, he buys a lottery ticket and heads home. The lottery ticket turns out to be a dud, but it slips through a crack in his living room and the next morning a tree sprouts through the floor, a tree filled with 100 dollar bills. After Malcom realizes he isn't dreaming, he quits his job and goes on the world's wildest spending spree (hey! That sounds like a reality show in the making). Malcom experiences cars and clothes and trashy women galore. A world with money is exactly how he envisioned it would be. What a life.

But alas, too much of a good thing gets old no matter what that thing is. I remember when I first discovered Cold Stone. I went there every day for two weeks... I haven't been back since. That was three years ago. So yeah, Malcom becomes so numb to money, he doesn't even know what to do with it anymore. It gets so bad he actually conducts experiments such as filling up his pool with horse manure and seeing how much money it will take for people to swim in it.

Once the money has seeped into his veins, Malcom completely loses a grip on reality. The onetime nice guy has turned into the world's biggest sleazeball. So he shifts his attention to getting Daisy back - as he realizes she's the only thing that can offer him true happiness. But she's moved on to an asshole politician running for office named (I have to admit, this made me laugh) "Scott Scotterson". Scott ups the ante when he becomes Daisy's night in shining armor - offering to save Malcom's former cash-strapped school. But Malcom finds out Scott's got more on his mind than giving Mikey and Tina nicer science books. Looks like Scott's embezzling a huge chunk of the incoming budget and funneling it directly into his campaign.

But before Malcom can expose Scott, Scott does some investigating of his own and becomes very suspicious of Malcom's tightly guarded house and newfound wealth. He believes Malcom's counterfeiting money (which, essentially, he is) and threatens Malcom with a counter-threat. "I'll tell on you if you tell on me."

There are three things that bothered me about Malcom McCree and The Money Tree. The first is the lack of a goal for Malcom. I'm a strong believer that in these high-concept comedies, the protagonist should be trying to achieve something. Take Liar Liar for example. Jim Carrey is trying to win the case that's going to get him partner. Without that, the main character wanders away from the story and we keep forgetting what the point is. Second, I wasn't convinced that Malcom was ever *really* in need of money. Sure he had a low-paying job. But there's no evidence that money played any part in Daisy leaving him, or is responsible for any of the major problems in his life. Therefore the appearance of this money tree doesn't have that "save the world" effect I think it's supposed to have. Finally, all the stuff with Scott and Daisy felt more like an attempt to flesh out the story than to create a plot that actually meshed with the movie's theme. To me, everything should've revolved around money. That's what we're talking about here. So why we were delving into politics and saving schools was a mystery to me.

Malcom McCree And The Money tree is a great concept with a great title that needs a little more focus. But I want to thank Ryan for being brave and allowing me to read his script. Check out Malcom McCree yourself and tell me what you think.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest

[ ] worth the read

[ ] impressive

[ ] genius

What I learned: Malcom McCree And The Money Tree has a great premise. What would you do if a money tree started growing in your house? But a concept like this isn't as much of a slam dunk as you think. High concept comedies always feel genius when you first think of them. But veteran writers know that all the funny stuff in those ideas is going to last 15-20 minutes of screentime tops. What are you going to do with the other 90 minutes? The question shouldn't be, "How many funny scenes can I get out of this?" But rather, what am I trying to say with this story? What kind of character do I want to explore? Will he have enough depth to take us through a 110 page screenplay? What characters and sub-plots can I add to ensure this story warrants an entire movie? If you have strong answers to those questions, then maybe you have a screenplay. If you don't, you might want to move on to the next idea. I'm not sure Malcom McCree And The Money Tree falls into this category because I think a rewrite can improve the script a great deal. But more than a few times I asked myself, "Is there enough here for an entire film?"