Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Book Review - The Man Who Ate The 747

Watch Scriptshadow on Sundays for book reviews by contributors Michael Stark and Matt Bird. We won't be able to get one up every Sunday, but hopefully most Sundays. Here's Stark with his review of The Man Who Ate The 747!

Welcome once again to Scriptshadow’s Sunday Review of Books where we make the jobs of sexy studio story editor’s even easier by picking some primo books that they need to be turning into flicks. Plus, for our faithful readers learning the craft, we suggest some light beach reading cause who really wants to get sand up in their laptops?

Today, watch me pull something out of my hat that I know our site’s creator will really like. It’s perhaps the magic hybrid producers have been in search of for decades now – A chick flick that guys will actually want to go see!

Don’t judge me cause I like the occasional chick flick. Maybe I’m just a little Estrogen dominant from all the bottled water and hormone injected happy meals I’ve had. Hell, those great screwball comedies of yesteryear were all romcoms – just with snappier dialogue, double beds and way better actors.

Ben Sherwood’s The Man Who Ate the 747 is a wonderful, old fashioned screwball comedy about an obsessed man who ingests a bunch of screws, bolts and metal shavings for the gorgeous gal he loves. This is something that would definitely appeal to old movie buffs, date night audiences and the whole Focus on the Family Crowd. The curb appeal is wide!

Why do I think this is a flick that guys would line up to see? The dude is eating a fucking plane!!! Ze Plane, Boss!!! He’s eating a Snakes on a fucking Plane plane!!! He’s eating a Joey, do-you-like-movies-about-gladiators Airplane!!! What real man wouldn’t want to see such extreme competitive eating?

Sherwood, a former producer for Good Morning America already has his second book, The Death and Life Of Charlie St. Cloud, heading towards the silver screen with Zach Effron in the lead. Old posts indicate that 747 was optioned by Bel Aire Entertainment and even at one point destined for Broadway as a musical. My research may be off, but nothing seems to have yet taken flight.

C’mon, Hollywood, let’s correct that error with a gentle nudge.

For the record, the book chronicles the story of the greatest love ever.
And, that chronicler should know. J.J. Smith has traveled the globe a few thousand times over for the World Book of Records. He has measured the world’s largest, unbroken apple peel; calculated the furthest flight of a champagne cork from an untampered bottle and documented the longest ever attack of the hiccups.

He is best friends with pole sitters, corn palace builders and the guy with the world’s longest and dirtiest fingernails. J.J. has a really cool, freaky job!!! Another excellent man-draw for the film. Groovy gig aside, the man is stuck with a head full of statistics and a heart hopelessly set on autopilot.

Luckily, hearts, like world records, are about to get broken!

We start out in Paris, where we find a couple pulling a tres romantic Robert Doisneau, trying to break the record for the longest kiss. Merde, they miss it by a mere four minutes and J.J. high tails it out of there. Second place means nada in his book.

Although J.J. specializes in the superlative, he is actually rather ordinary – an average man with average looks and an average height and weight. His parents didn’t exactly set him apart, saddling him with the truly unremarkable name of John Smith.

Written in 2000, we’re thankfully free of American Idol, Jackass and You Think You Can Dance. But, the World Book of Records still has some serious competition with Cops, When Animals Attack and America’s Most Awesome Videos. To save his job, J.J. now needs a story his readers can really sink their teeth into.

He finds that story from the santa-sack-sized-stack of letters that arrive daily to their office.

A story that takes him to America’s heartland – the small, small town of Superior, Nebraska. Now, I’ve spent a few years in a small town. It wasn’t anywheres as romantic. It was pretty much a rural prison sentence in one of the few places that Starbucks and Barnes & Nobles forgot.

Superior is a folksy, charming place chock-full of eccentric characters that would rival Twin Peaks, Stars Hollow and whatever fanciful town the Runaway Bride just couldn’t run away from.

Seems, a few years back, a 747 crashed landed in Wally Chubb’s field and he started eating it as a testimony of his pure (but unrequited) love for Willa Wyatt, the only person in town who dutifully showed up to his 10th Birthday party.

Note to producers, I see Karen Black safely landing that fucking plane in the flashback.

Willa (Can you say O Pioneers!) has grown up into a real firecracker, sticking around Superior to take over her dad’s newspaper. Now, what kind of screwball comedy would it be without a sharp shooting, crack reporter in the mix?

She has good reason to be suspicious of strangers. Traveling salesmen and hucksters have passed through here before, pursuing the beauty and breaking her heart. She’s pretty guarded when J.J. comes to town, trying to find the jet-eating curiosity. He may not be the slickest city slicker, but she vows to protect her quirky town from him and the media circus that soon follows.

And, of course, J.J. quickly falls head over heels in love with her.

Wally has no interest in breaking any records or getting an endorsement deal with Pepto Bismol, so J.J. has to connive and convince the farmer to continue his fancy feast. He needs the story so he can stay close to Willa – even if his great scoop may have some fatal colon-colliding-consequences!

I’m not gonna spoil any more of the nuts and bolts of the tale. Go read it. The Man Who Ate the 747 could be your next Nothing Sacred. Your next what??? For you whippersnappers without subscriptions to Turner Movie Classics, I recommend you start delving deeper into the history of cinema. There were some rather great romantic comedies made before Lopez and Anniston hijacked the genre.

Now, cause I want this filmed soooo badly, I might as well cast the whole project for you. I see the serious-sided Jim Carrey as J.J., Jenna Fischer as Willa and Patton Oswalt as Wally (cause the man is a damned underused genius). Get the writing team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who wrote the freak fantasy dejour, Ripleys Believe It or Not, to adapt this to screen (Hell, I’d pimp myself for the gig, but there’s that pesky non-self-promotion clause in my Scriptshadow contract). And, to direct – Duh – Gary Marshall. For you newbies who just moaned, you best pick up a copy of his amazing bio. “Wake me Up When It’s Funny.” If you don’t soil yourself laughing while reading it, you are either an uber snob or in a vegetative state

What I learned: Whimsical is sometimes pretty hard to pull off. Especially in these United States. Set something far off in the Caribbeans and you can go all Gabriel Garcia Marquez on it. Place it in modern day America and you’ll have to tread more carefully. The TV show Pushing Daisies nailed it perfectly. Cougar Town, on the other side of the slug, better start watching its whimsy factor, Stat! Ugh, it’s like getting force-fed 18 bags of Mint Milanos every episode. Who knows? Maybe they’re willfully turning their audience into Foie Gras.

So, for discussion: How does one balance their magic and romance with their realism?

Stark’s further rantings and rave-ups about both trash and culture can be viewed here: