Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Treehouse Gang

Genre: Adventure-Comedy
Synopsis: A Goonies-like gang grows up and decides to go on one last adventure.
About: The Treehouse Gang sold for 750k against 1.5 million.
Writer: Timothy Dowling

Timothy Dowling is a writer/actor who came up with the idea for the then brilliant concept, "George Lucas In Love." He also wrote the recent box office mini-hit "Role Models", which I liked quite a bit. The Treehouse Gang landed him one of the biggest script sales of 2008. But do those dollar signs translate into a well-told engaging story? Let's find out.

The Treehouse Gang's first 10 pages sucked. In fact, they're so bad, I contemplated not reading any more. Now when I say "bad", I don't mean "this person doesn't know how to write" bad. I mean "What the hell were you thinking?" bad. When I hear "The Goonies", I'm expecting something similar in tone to...The Goonies! See while that 80s classic may have been eccentric, it was still based in a realistic world. The Treehouse crew's world is more like some sort of weird fantasy universe that makes up its rules as it goes along.

The "gang" consists of four high school freshman: good looking leader, Billy Hawkins, really good-looking wise-cracker, Trevor, the fat guy, Scottie, and the nerd, Milo. For the most part, I just envisioned the characters from Stand By Me. Anyway, this group goes on a series of adventures in search of real treasure! Like huge golden monkeys that are protected by Indiana Jones like lairs. Each mission is full of killer traps - and not just the kind of killer traps that kids think are "killer". Like, if they screw up, they really die! There are Nazis holding their girlfriends hostage. They get shot at repeatedly. Even stranger, everybody in the area, including the parents and local news stations, know their kids are doing this and do nothing about it! Uhhhhh, what the fuck kind of world do these kids live in??? What parents allow their kids to go off and almost die every day?? If kids are being held hostage with guns, wouldn't the police go out and, oh I don't know, ARREST them? Not in The Treehouse Gang!

So anyway, we cut to 15 years later and Hawkins is working as a Verizon sales clerk. Trevor's fat. Scottie's hot. And Milo is still Milo (funny aside: Dowling suggests they use the same actor for young Milo and old Milo). They head off to their high school reunion where they meet up with the girls they used to date, get drunk, and Hawkins tries to convince them to go on one last adventure to claim the treasure they never found: The Treasure of Shipwreck Island!

The friends say "no thanks" but then Hawkins finds the secret map (the only thing preventing them from finding the island as kids). The Nazi from their youth reappears at that very instant (he must have been waiting in the bushes for a long time), and takes the map for himself! How bout that! The rest of the Treehouse Gang reluctantly signs on (They have to beat the Nazi!) and we move into our movie.

The rest of Treehouse plays out fairly predictably. The girls (now women) tag along. The Treehouse Gang keeps meeting up with Nazi Dude. They almost die. They escape. They get in arguments. Repeat.

The reason I never joined in on this adventure was because I never got over the way the kids were introduced. The Goonies worked because the kids were at that age right before you lose your innocence. When you're a child, everything has the potential to be magical. Your imagination can distort ordinary and extrodinay which makes the eccentricities and the more unbelievable elements of the story believable because you're seeing the world through their eyes. Making the guys high-school age took that opportunity away. In addition, Dowling asks you to believe in a way more ridiculous world than the Goonies ever did. So he loses on both ends. I mean where are there Indiana Jones-like caverns with a million traps and dozens of treasures here in the United States? In The Treehouse Gang there's an abundance of them, all within a 20 mile radius.

I know they've been talking about making a Goonies sequel where the kids go on another adventure and I'd be interested in seeing that. This, not so much. If there's anything positive to say about The Treehouse Gang, it's that it's better than The Adventurer's Handbook. And that they're probably rewriting the hell out of it. My guess is that they bought this one on concept alone.

[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from The Treehouse Gang: You have to create believable rules for your universe no matter how fantastical that universe might be. If I'm to believe that in your world, parents allow their children to gamble with death every day, then life must not be very valuable in that world. If life isn't valuable, I'm never worried about any of your characters when they're put in danger. If their parents/local authorities don't give a shit, why should I?