Monday, July 19, 2010

Jeff The Immortal

And Roger makes three! This week we have an unprecedented THREE impressive scripts, one that even joins the coveted Top 25. That just doesn't happen. Especially lately. The other two scripts are...ehhh, not very good. As for where to find it, this script has been around for forever (get it, cause it's immortal?), and I know plenty of people have it. Maybe they'll pop up in the comments section. Anyway, here's Roger with his review!

Genre: Supernatural comedy
Premise: (from Hollywood Reporter) A slacker discovers that he is the latest in a long line of immortal warriors, a la Highlander, and must fight to achieve his destiny.
About: “Jeff the Immortal” was on 2007’s Black List and it was picked up the same year by Universal. From Rope of Silicon: “Apparently Bishop got the idea for the film after watching Highlander, the 1986 fantasy tale starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, and wondered what he and his buddies would do if they got such powers.” Bishop was a writer on the Drew Carey Show and is also the author of Hardly Working at Relationships: The Overachieving Underperformer’s Guide to Living Like You’re Single When You’re Not. Bishop is also the writer on the American adaptation of the German comedy, Night of the Living Dorks.
Writer: Chris Bishop


Like I do with Terry Pratchett novels, I made that sound a lot while reading this script. And, that’s kind of what this script reads like. Imagine if Terry Pratchett was an American screenwriter who was obsessed with arcade games like Dragon’s Lair and musicals like Wicked, then imagine him writing a script that parodies the Russell Mulcahy cult classic, Highlander, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from “Jeff the Immortal”.

I haven’t seen Highlander, Rog. What’s this sucker about?

Jeff Seagal has spent a decade or so just hanging out, and now he finds himself on the cusp of thirty, anxious to marry his girlfriend Scarlet. Jeff used to want to be a chef, and in fact he even got into culinary school once-upon-a-time, but he could never afford the tuition. Instead, he finds himself working at the Bullseye Department store, a job that requires him to wear a nametag. Marrying Scarlet is his attempt to reclaim the American dream of doing something with his life and owning a house by thirty.

When we meet him he’s playing a videogame with his jaded co-worker LaQuinta who warns him that marriage means the end of oral sex, “My Rodney said ‘I do,’ but the rest of the sentence should’ve been ‘n’t eat any more pussy.” Later in the day, Jeff notices a balding heavy-set white dude dressed in sweat pants and a ratty old FUBU shirt peeking at him. Soon after, Jeff is victim to a paper cut. Then, he notices something weird.

He watches the wound heal before his eyes.

When he looks back up, the strange, old dude is gone.

Undettered by LaQuinta’s ominous warning of no more oral sex, Jeff arrives at his home to discover that Scarlet is leaving him. Apparently, she has been cheating on him for months. With the mailman. And then the UPS guy. Then she had a three-way with the FedEx man and the milk man. “Milk man? There are milk men left in America?”

“It’s a dying profession. His name is Logan. I think I love him.”

Jeff goes to a bar with best friend Russ for consolation. Russ’ life is all ice cream and blowjobs. He tries to cheer his buddy up, “Look, it isn’t as glamorous as it seems. I sell RVs for a living. I live with my Great Aunt. I drive a piece of shit yellow Saturn. Sure I’ve had my fair share of notches on the futon, but am I truly happy?” The funny thing is, Jeff realizes that he’s not so torn up about Scarlet. He realizes he’s been dating a bitch who hocked all his DVDs, cleaned out his bank account and slept with every dude who wore a Flyers jersey.

When they get back to Russ’ Great Aunt’s house, they are surprised by the creepy guy in the FUBU t-shirt. They mistake him for a homeless man but he screams at Jeff, “Do you want to live forever? DO YOU?!”

Russ goes to town on the guy with a frying pan, breaking his neck. Supernaturally, the guy’s neck straightens back out. Russ goes after him some more with the frying pan, but the old guy is mostly just annoyed, “That. Doesn’t. Work. Asshole.”

Who is this old guy, and why can’t he die?

His name is Angus, and he’s the first character in the script we meet besides Jeff. He’s an eleven-hundred year-old cantankerous immortal, and in the first five pages of the script, we learn that he’s the man who invented the longbow in the 1400s. He’s a Scotsman hanging out in the French countryside when he’s accosted by King Henry V, who steals his longbow, “Lord in Heaven, we will destroy the French with this weapon. Make haste and reproduce this ‘longbow’ for our archers.”

“No, that’s for hunting purposes only. Or possibly killing the Spanish.”

The Britons run him through, leaving him for dead, but that’s pretty much when we learn the guy is invulnerable to death.

In the present day, he’s been stalking Jeff, and we also learn that his life hasn’t been too much different than Jeff’s. While Jeff has been a slacker for a decade, Angus has been a slacker for centuries. In fact, he’s an immortal who waits tables at Applebee’s, and is content to be demeaned by his twenty-something manager, Kaley. Angus is obsessed with not bringing any attention to himself, and as a result he’s a guy who has managed to live through several centuries without ever taking any chances.

Back in Russ’ Great Aunt’s kitchen, Angus humors our heroes as they test his claim of immortality. There’s a time cut and we see that the kitchen is covered in blood, gore and even sinew. “Okay, you’ve poked out my eye, chopped off my leg, stabbed me in the gut, strangled me, held my head under water, burned me –- Gave me something called a suplex, and made me yell the n-word at your neighbor. Are you convinced I’m incapable of dying?”

So Angus is here to tell Jeff that he is immortal, too?

Although there’s a humorous scare that Angus might have the wrong protégé, we do in fact learn that Jeff is immortal. He’s a descendant of the McConnor Clan, a group of Scotsman who were cursed with immortality by a dark wizard from a rival clan. The whole death-proof curse kicks in on their thirtieth birthdays.

Because Jeff is tired of working at a job with a nametag, he decides this new immortality thing is just the shot in the arm he needs. Angus gives him a dire warning, telling him that he must not bring attention to himself. But Jeff blows him off. Burned by Scarlet and his minimum-wage status, his new goal is to get as rich as possible. Russ convinces him, “We gotta think of the most lucrative job for an immortal.”

Well, what is the most lucrative job for an immortal?

They’re kind of unsure, but Russ decides that being a daredevil and landing in the Guinness Book of World Records is a good start. Meanwhile, Jeff begins courting Liz Johnson, his old prom date from high-school. She’s a recent divorcee who has moved back to town to start anew. Apparently, all her ex did was play videogames all day and get hammered with his buddies, and Jeff does his best to hide the fact that he owns an XBOX and a bong.

But, you know, this his chance to change things for himself.

Jeff the Javelin attempts to jump a shark tank on a motorcycle at Big Joe’s RV Emporium, but the news crews gathered for the event capture a horrible accident and the miraculous death and resurrection of Jeff on their cameras.

Uh oh. Lemme guess. His high profile catches some unwanted attention?

You got it.

In Venice, Italy, we meet Gargomel of the McDonald Clan. No, I’m not making this up. The villain’s name is Gargomel. Yes, it’s from The Smurfs. He watches Jeff’s footage, suddenly a man possessed. He tosses the scantily clad Italian whores from his bed and pulls a gigantic sword out of a chest. He tells his Peter Lorre-like assistant, named Pierre, “Get me the next flight to America.”

As Jeff considers his next move, which is either lion tamer or man-on-man porn, Gargomel arrives in town, donned in his Wicked t-shirt and wielding his giant ass-kicking sword. He enters the Bullseye Department store and punches out the elderly greeter. And, that’s when we’re treated to some Highlander-esque mayhem in what is pretty much a Target, with Angus arriving to save Jeff’s ass. It’s pretty gory as whole torsos are dismembered and regenerated, and several civilians are possibly poked with stabby objects.

So, Jeff isn’t one-hundred percent immortal?

Right again.

Turns out that Gargomel is from the rival clan that cursed the McConnor’s. Because of the magic involved with the curse, the McDonald’s gave the McConnor’s eternal life, but they accidentally cursed their own progeny to die at age thirty.

Gargomel is approaching his thirtieth birthday, and the only way for him to reverse his curse is to kill an immortal from the McConnor Clan. He wields the Sword of Braemar, a blade tipped with a rare yellow diamond mined from the Glen Braemar Mountain. “If this stone pierces your heart, you will cease being immortal. You will die.”

Jeff also learns that Gargomel’s parents killed his own parents.

To complicate matters, Liz’s life is also put in jeopardy.

Sounds fun! Does it work?

I thought so. I think this script is a perfect example of how to write a fantasy comedy (or a horror comedy). It’s funny, without losing sight of the story. It’s adventurous, without going off the rails. It’s silly, but it’s smart in how it exploits and parodies the genre. It has a simple mythology, that never once feels convoluted, confusing or complicated.

And it does all this while providing a satisfying emotional journey for the protagonist.
But calling “Jeff the Immortal” just a parody film would be like calling Shaun of the Dead just a parody film. Sure, it pokes fun at the genre, but never at the expense of respect to that genre. It’s a genuine fantasy story with an honest-to-God emotional arc that is about stepping out of your comfort zone, taking chances and claiming your destiny as a hero. It’s kinda like an Apatow flick, but with swords. Hollywood, can this please star Jay Baruchel?

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

What I learned: Villains are rarely the villain in their own minds. Yep, I’m pretty much quoting Warren Ellis on this one, but there’s a scene in “Jeff the Immortal” that perfectly illustrates this idea. Jeff banters back and forth with Gargomel, “This isn’t over. The hero will triumph.”

“Yeah! I know.”

“You...want me to triumph?”

“You? I’m the hero.”

“No, you’re the villain. I’m the hero.”

“No...I’m the hero.”

“How are you the hero?”

“I die at 30. I’m fighting for my life here. That makes me the hero.”

Gargomel is the hero in his own story. Gargomel doesn’t want to die when he turns thirty. To achieve this goal, he has to kill Jeff. And, Gargomel is pretty much willing to do anything to prevail. So, let me quote Warren Ellis again, “The difference between a ‘hero’ and a ‘villain’ is often the ruthlessness and extremity they’re prepared to go in order to achieve what they want.