Thursday, July 5, 2012

Twit-Pitch Review - Douche Patrol

Genre: Comedy
Premise: (Original Twit-Pitch Logline) Two partners in the newly created Douche Patrol try to expose a plot to douchify the masses through a reality TV show.
About: For those recently joining Scriptshadow, I held a contest a few months back called "Twit-Pitch," where anyone could pitch me their screenplay on Twitter, as long as it was contained within a single tweet.  I picked my 100 favorite loglines and read the first 10 pages of each (which I live-reviewed on Twitter), and then from those, picked the Top 20, which I'll read the entire screenplay for.  This is one of the finalists.
Writer: William A. Lawrence
Details: 103 pages

We're back with another Twit-Pitch contestant.  There are 20 finalists and as of now I have.......18 left to read. I'm so cruising.  And I'm not going to lie - there's a bit of planning involved in reviewing these scripts.  I'm saving the ones I think are going to be best for last.  That's not to say I'm expecting the scripts I review early to suck.  They just have little things that concern me here and there, like today's script, Douche Patrol.

Douche Patrol has one of those loglines that makes you laugh but also makes you wonder, "Is this an entire film?"  I mean can you extend a premise like this out for a full 100 minutes? That's what I was worried about, even though I laughed my ass off during those first 10.  Well, let's hope William pulls it off.  He's been the epitome of an anti-douchebag to me on Twitter, so I'm rooting for him.

Late 20s Ryan Connor has a problem with douchebags.  His parents were killed by one.  Which is why he's the star cop in a new police division specifically built to take down douchebags.  If you're driving a lime green Honda Civic, blasting obnoxious music, reclined 70% back, talking on your phone?  The Douche Patrol is going to get you.

Ryan's partner is the alcoholic overly shy Jenna Snow.  Jenna believes just as much in taking douches down as Ryan.  She's just not as vocal about it.  In fact, Jenna has such a problem voicing her opinion on anything, she's turned heavily to the drink and secretly goes to public speaking courses at night.

After a routine takedown of a douchebag, Ryan and Jenna are led to a sex bomb MILF named Marlene Cardrow (think Sharon Stone).  Marlene seems to be associated with a lot of douchebags, and they want to know why.  But Marlene is cool as a cucumber.  It turns out she's a casting director for reality TV shows.  It's her job to go out there and look for douchebags to put on these shows.

That's good enough for Ryan, who's instantly smitten by Marlene, but Jenna's not swayed.  Something more is going on here.  It takes her awhile to convince Ryan, but she finally does, and this leads them to realize Marlene is working for a huge reality TV show producer who's using reality TV to douchify the masses so that he can get them to buy all the stupid douchey things that douchebags buy.  It will take everything in Ryan and Jenna's arsenal to eliminate this producer's douchiness and stop the douchefying before it's too late!

I'll be frank with you - I'm still not sure what constitutes being a douchebag.  I think about this often actually.  Isn't the saying that if you don't see the big deal about something, then maybe you ARE that something?  So maybe I'm a douchebag.  I don't know.  I mean I definitely don't own a lime green Honda Civic.  So I'm probably not a major douchebag.  But still.

All right, we're getting off track here.  Which is douchey.  Douche Patrol is pretty much what I was afraid it was going to be.  It's a funny idea for about 25 pages, and then when story and character development need to kick in, it loses steam.

That's not for lack of trying on William's part.  He does his best to add a story here.  But the thing with really broad premises is that it's difficult to add depth to them.  Broad and depth just don't mesh.  That's why broad usually works best in a half hour format (Seinfeld, Family Guy, etc.) where it doesn't have to come up with some big elaborate storyline to keep you involved.

I mean take Jenna for instance.  William worked really hard to create a developed character here, but it just didn't fit.  Jenna is an alcoholic??  In a movie about douche patrolling?  That doesn't work.  Indeed, her storyline (where she sneaks off after work and downs bottles of whiskey) feels as awkward as cleaning up a used douche.  In a drama, sure.  But not in a kooky broad comedy.

Speaking of Jenna, if I were William, I would turn her into a guy.  I know making her a girl is unique - but different doesn't always mean better.  In addition to that, the whole thing where she's quiet doesn't play.  Scripts don't work well with silent characters because we just end up forgetting they're there.  And again, in a movie as broad as this, you want the sidekick to be fun, not mute.  Turning Jenna into a guy and making him a lot funnier is definitely the way to go here.  Jenna, as she stands, is the worst part of the screenplay.

The plot also had problems.  Once we arrest Lime Green Honda Civic Dude, Ryan seems hellbent on finding and questioning Marlene.  But it's never clear exactly why.  She's been seen in a picture with him, but I don't know why that constitutes concentrating an entire investigation on her.  Also, because the reasoning for questioning her is so murky, I'm never sure what he's asking her for or about.  I get that in general it's about her hanging around douches, but again, that's not enough.

If I were William, I'd establish that they've been looking for a MYSTERIOUS SUPER DOUCHEBAG (possibly the producer) for a long time.  But as of now, he's just a mystery man to them.  There are no leads. When they find Marlene, there's some suspicious backstory on her that alludes to her maybe knowing this Super Douche, and that's why they go after her.  There are fragments of this approach in the script, but they're too vague.  They need to be clear.  Remember, this is the plot point that's driving your entire investigation.  It can't be confusing.

This is where a lot of comedy scripts end up.  They have funny moments, but not enough story.  Coming up with a comedy interesting enough (and with high enough stakes) to last an entire 100 minutes is one of those challenges that screenwriters get paid the big bucks for.  Make us care beyond the gimmick and you're golden.

Script Link: Douche Patrol  

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

What I Learned: Make sure the tone of your characters and story match.  If you're writing a broad comedy, you can't have one of the characters be a hardcore alcoholic.  Their flaw should be funnier (more broad!).  Maybe Jenna's weakness is that she's always gone out with douchebags, and is inherently attracted to them.  She's a reformed douchebag dater.  So she's constantly at war with herself when she's arresting these guys.