Monday, June 7, 2010

The Most Annoying Man In The World

Genre: Comedy
Premise: A man is forced to travel cross-country with his annoying brother in order to get to his wedding.
About: Disney picked this spec up back in 2009 for 250k. Kopelow and Seifert have been writing for TV for over a decade, having worked on shows ranging from "Kenan & Kel" to Oxygen’s “Campus Ladies.”
Writers: Kevin Kopelow and Heath Seifert
Details: 98 pages - May 16, 2008 (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 not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).

My vote for the most annoying person in the world. Who's yours?

The best “two guys stuck together traveling cross-country” movie is Dumb and Dumber by a mile. The script was actually a bit of a gamble when you think about it. Whenever you write about two people stuck together in any situation, the traditional approach is to make one guy the “crazy/dumb/weird” guy and the other guy the “straight man.” The extreme contrast between the two characters usually provides the most potential for comedy. The Farrelly brothers said screw that and just put two idiots together. Somehow, we got a classic.

The Most Annoying Man In The World goes back to the more traditional pairing of super extreme guy and super straight guy, and proves that it’s still a safe bet when done well. Stuart Pivnick IS the most annoying man in the world, and I have to give it to Kopelow and Seifert for giving us one of the best descriptions I’ve ever read in a comedy. Stuart is described as… “an enthusiastic, hyper, immature, naive, nosy, arbitrarily opinionated, completely un-self-aware, chronic complainer with no sense of personal space.” I love how they not only have fun with the description, but how it perfectly portrays Stuart in the process.

Across the country, finishing his bachelor party in Las Vegas, is Stuart’s brother, Alan. Alan is basically the opposite of everything Stuart is. He always wants to get everything right and boy has that become a problem with his wedding fast approaching. Everything seems to be going wrong and Alan is having to do damage control minute by minute from 2000 miles away.

Alan also hasn’t spoken to his brother in over a decade. Why? Well because he’s the most annoying man in the world! In fact, so relentlessly annoying is Stuart, that Alan’s created a ruse whereby he works at a remote research facility in the middle of the South Pole, one where he’s supposedly unable to communicate with anyone outside of his research operators.

But when Alan gets stuck at O’Hare and all of the day’s flights are canceled, he’s forced to call the only person he knows in town. Stuart.

Stuart, of course, is thrilled! He loves Alan more than anything. And when’s the next time the government is going to let his poor brother out of that research facility? So he welcomes Alan in with open arms, situating a second mattress inside his bedroom so they can both sleep together, then proceeds to read out loud and sing in his sleep all night so that Alan doesn’t get a wink of rest.

Despite being late the next morning, Stuart drives the exact speed limit to the airport, and this leads to a series of problems which result in Alan missing his flight. But Stuart comes up with the wonderful idea that they just drive to Philly together! With options dwindling, Alan agrees. Because Alan can’t tell Stuart *why* he needs to get to Philly so urgently (there’s no way he’s allowing Stuart to come to his wedding), it results in a logistical nightmare, as more and more wedding plans continue to fall apart, and Alan must manage them without letting Stuart on to what he’s up to.

The two take many detours, with Stuart repeatedly screwing everything up as much as humanly possible. He has a medical condition that forces him to eat at EXACT times, flipping out if he’s even a second late. He listens to movie scores in the car and makes up his own words to them (He’ll listen to E.T. and sing “E.T. likes reeses pieeeeces. He’s going home soooon.”) He likes to play games like “Guess a number between one and a million” where Alan picks a number and Stuart keeps guessing which number it is til he’s right. He truly is the most annoying man in the world. And for the most part, it’s really funny.

But like I always tell people who write comedies, you have to have the story and the emotional element up to the level of the comedy, and Kopelow and Seifert do a great job with that here. This is just as much about getting to Philadelphia without letting Stuart in on his wedding as it is about funny scenes. It’s just as much about two brothers reconnecting as it is about making an audience laugh.

I saw “Get Him To The Greek” this weekend and what baffled me was just how unimportant the story was. Nobody really gave a shit about GETTING TO THE DAMN GREEK! Outside of Jonah Hill half-heartedly reminding Aldous every few scenes, nobody, from the record label to the fans, gave a shit whether Aldous made it to his concert or not. I remember that at least in the original script, Aldous hadn’t played a concert in 10 years. So it felt like the concert actually meant something and was a special event. Here, he plays a fucking concert in the middle of the damn movie!!!, completely sucking dry any of the importance of the concert that’s supposed to be the whole damn point of the movie! – My point is, if we don’t feel the push of the story – If that isn’t completely dominating the narrative – then none of the comedy freaking matters. The Most Annoying Man In The World, much like The Hangover, feels like the characters’ plight actually matters and isn’t just a convenient destination for the movie to end.

My only real complaint here is that the script needs to axe some of the generic situations its characters find themselves in. At first, going to a carnival/theme park sounds funny, but in the end it has very little to do with their specific journey, and therefore feels more like a desperate laugh grab than a logical story sequence. In fact, I think all of the set piece scenes here could use a jolt, except for the car getting stuck on an ice sheet scene – which had me laughing for a good five minutes. I thought The Hangover did this well. In the initial draft of that script, one of the guys wakes up to find out he was at a gay bar the previous night. I couldn't figure out why they ditched that in the film, but then I realized we've seen that before. We've never seen characters steal Mike Tyson's tiger though. It just reminded me how you have to push yourself to come up with original sequences in comedies.

Overall, a solid comedy. And more importantly, one I think could make a great movie.

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

What I learned: Comedies, more than any other genre, allow you to tell your story in the title. 40 Year old Virgin. Knocked Up. This is obviously a huge advantage in an ADD Twitter-obsessed 5-second-version no-fat-allowed world. But don’t just sum up your movie in the title, make sure it’s still funny and/or jumpstarts the imagination for what kind of movie it could be. 40 Year Old Virgin did the best job of this (I immediately thought of all the hilarious scenes you could have of a 40 year old man trying to get laid for the first time) and the 2008 spec sale “I Wanna F--- Your Sister” also did a wonderful job. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There’s still an art to it. “Two Guys, One Who’s Dumb, Roadtrip To Marriage,” may tell us your story, but doesn’t roll off the tongue. So if the opportunity’s there and you come up with something clever, do it. If not, specs like “Due Date” and “Cedar Rapids” are still selling. So don’t sweat it.