Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Genre: Heist/Mystery/Comedy
Premise: Two sets of criminals try to rob a bank at the same time.
About: The follow-up script from the writers of The Hangover. The movie will star Patrick Dempsey, Ashley Judd, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Jeffrey Tambor, and even Mekhi Phifer, who I guess we can confirm from this casting still acts. Lucas and Moore are high-concept specialists, also penning big spec sellers “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” and “Four Christmases.” The two had little success writing alone and bumped into each other while working for the producer of Beverly Hills Cop. After awhile they became the go-to guys for punching up scripts, working on properties such as "Wedding Crashers," "27 Dresses," "Chicken Little" and "Mr. Woodcock."
Writers: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Details: 113 pages – Jan. 10, 2010 draft (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time of the film's release. This is especially true with comedies. So this is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).

Okay so I think I’ve made it clear on the site that The Hangover is the template you should be using to write your own comedy spec. Not the idea itself obviously (there’s enough stealing in Hollywood) but the approach. It’s an original concept. It fulfills the promise of the premise. It’s got a strong goal. The execution is perfect. It’s lean. It’s funny. It’s different. It has great characters. Etc. Etc. It pretty much does everything you wanna do in a spec. So I, like many others, have been waiting to see what the writers, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, would follow it up with. That script is here, in the form of the bank heist comedy, “Flypaper.”

I’m trying to find a base point here while reviewing Flypaper, but the truth is, I’ve never read anything quite like it. This is a comedy, a heist film, a whodunit. It’s its own thing. That’s clearly its biggest strength – the script is original. The question is, in trying to be so many things, does it end up not being anything? Good question. And the answer may not be a happy one.

Tripp Kennedy, an “accidentally handsome” drifter who moonlights as a pickpocket, isn’t able to keep a job for very long. That’s because he has a super-intense version of ADD that severely affects his concentration. On this particular day, we watch him stroll into a bank and start hitting on Kaitlin, a gorgeous teller who’s about to marry an extremely rich man. Tripp senses there’s a disconnect in this relationship however, and pokes around for a potential way in.

The flirting is cut short when a group of men posing as construction workers whip out their guns and tell everybody they’re robbing the place. Except that this happens at the EXACT SAME TIME as two other men (low-rent hustlers who we’ll get to know as “Peanut Butter and Jelly”) whip out THEIR guns and tell everybody THEY’RE robbing the place. What? Two sets of criminals robbing the same bank at the same time??

After some initial arguments between the bad guys about who was here first, Tripp comes forward and suggests that they both rob the same bank. The big-timers can go rob the vault and Peanut Butter and Jelly can go rob the ATM machines. Everybody leaves happy.

In the meantime all the hostages are stashed in a back room, including Tripp and Kaitlin, and proceed to argue about what the best way to handle the situation is. Should they try and escape? Should they just wait til the bad guys are finished? Well it turns out the bad guys aren’t the only people they have to worry about. That’s because our hostages start finding their cohorts murdered and stashed inside concealed places. One by one, the hostages are being offed, creating a triumvirate of chaos. Smart criminals, dumb criminals, and a homicidal maniac killer! Tripp, fashioning himself a modern day Sherlock Holmes, attempts to piece together the clues to out the killer before he or Kaitlyn become a victim.

Okay, so, where do we begin with this one? I wasn’t feeling it. The concept itself is pretty neat. Two sets of criminals try to rob the same bank at the same time. At first glance you’re thinking that could be funny. However, after that awesome opening – when both robbers announce their plans at the same time – you realize that that’s pretty much the highlight of the story. How do you keep the premise funny after that?

I think Lucas and Moore realized this so they tried to come up with a way to keep things moving for the next 100 minutes. This, obviously, is where the “killer within the bank” scenario came up. Here’s the problem with that aspect though: It feels like a completely different movie. The reason it feels like a completely different movie is because you don’t need the “dual-robbing premise” to execute it. You could just as easily have done this with only a single group bank robbery. For that reason, the two plots begin competing against each other, and the script never quite figures out which one is in charge.

This gets to the heart of my problem with the script. It’s never taking advantage of its premise. Everything that happens – all the comedy, all the story - has little or nothing to do with two sets of bank robbers trying to rob the same bank at the same time. I mean sure the two groups get into scuffles every once in awhile, but I wouldn't call that cleverly exploiting the premise.

Tripp, likewise, is a character with problems that have nothing to do with the situation. He has mega-ADD. Okay, that’s an interesting character flaw, but how does ADD in any way play into a story about solving a dual-bank robbing heist? It doesn’t, which makes the flaw seem fancy and a fun character quirk, but ultimately empty. Look at Knocked Up for comparison. Seth Rogan’s character flaw, that he’s lazy and irresponsible, plays directly into the premise, because lazy and irresponsible are the worst things you could be if you were going to raise a baby.

There are some logistical problems as well. Nobody keeps an eye on the hostages and they’re apparently able to run around willy-nilly through the bank, which kept bringing up the question, why didn’t they just walk out the door and leave? I’m sure there was a reason for this – maybe the doors were locked or something – but because they had so much freedom, it just felt like they could do whatever they wanted, and that made their dire situation feel decidedly un-dire.

As is always the case with comedies, the humor here will make some people laugh and others cry. A big portion of the jokes are heaped on the criminals being obsessed over an online ranking system for bank robbers, to the point where every robber here is more concerned with upping their online ranking than actually stealing money. I know this is a comedy but we’re having trouble believing that this hesit means anything to anyone as it is. Robbers gunning for online rankings made the pursuit seem almost like a joke.

I must admit, however, that I loved when each set of robbers picked hostage “teams” like they were on a playground. This is exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for more of – comedy that stemmed directly from the premise. But this is the only joke I remember that did that.

Flypaper is the equivalent of trying to pack a honeymoon’s worth of clothes into a carry-on bag. There’s just too much going on. The competing storylines confuse the audience, the comedy doesn’t take advantage of its premise, and the stakes aren’t high enough for the robbers. My hope is that they have a specific vision based off of all the broad comedy here that somehow comes together when it hits the screen. Maybe they even cut out one of the competing storylines in the final draft. I hope it gets fixed cause I like Moore and Lucas as writers. I think the high concept comedy is struggling and these two are a couple of the only guys who still get it. This draft just wasn’t doing it for me.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: A good way to create a comedic protagonist is to look at your concept and ask, “Who’s the worst person I could put in this situation?” So for Knocked Up, which is about responsibility, your main character is going to be extremely irresponsible (an unemployed loser). For Liar Liar, which is about truth, your main character is going to be a habitual liar (a lawyer). For Happy Gilmore, about the upper crust overly polite game of golf, your main character is going to be a loud-mouthed dickhead who hates the sport more than anything. That’s something I wanted to see with Tripp in Flypaper.