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Friday, July 10, 2009

Board Games at the Bijou

Ridley Scott will direct a movie based on the Monopoly board game.

One of the writers of Fringe will help bring a View-Master movie to the screen. Even the old vector graphics arcade hit Asteroids will soon become a film.

Turning toys and board games into movies is nothing new –Transformers, Clue and Dungeons and Dragons have all been transformed into narratives – but making a movie based on the View-Master, of all things? I guess if there were top secret information encoded on the picture reels you slide into the viewer…or if magic reels let you see through walls or into other dimensions or something…but still.

I suppose Monopoly isn’t that big a stretch; the board’s streets are based on those found in Atlantic City, so you could turn the board game’s “story,” such as it is, into a Rat Race/Cannonball Run style madcap chase for loot and property. Of course, someone will inevitably quip “Do not pass go, do not collect $200” after some slow-motion action sequence that ends with several people outrunning a fireball. I’m sure Mr. Moneybags will lose his cap and monocle at some point. In fact, I’m sure the movie will be about some plucky small business people who use their wits to break up a Monopoly, defeating the entire point of the game.

Asteroids…I have no idea. A spaceship blowing up space rocks might be interesting for a minute or two, and the game did feature a UFO, which could provide additional dramatic tension. But can a plot this thin really hold up for two hours?

If I were a big shot movie producer, my toy-based pitches might look something like this:

Lite-Brite: The Motion Picture
In this action thriller, a hip fourteen year old boy – let’s call him Billy – is disappointed that his uncool dad gave him a Lite-Brite for his birthday. What he doesn’t know is that his dad is actually a secret agent and hid a miniature nanotech factory inside the Lite-Brite before mysteriously disappearing. With his dad gone, Billy embraces the toy he shunned out of nostalgia, and starts playing with it, starting with the one of the classic patterns included in the box: the clown. When Billy finishes creating the pegboard clown and turns on the Lite-Brite, not only does the clown pattern light up on the toy – it projects a holographic beam into the air and the nanofactory inside the toy creates a real clown! Terrified, Billy yanks the plug and the clown disappears. Soon, however, Billy realizes that he can use the Lite-Brite and his own artistic talent to create anything he wants. He makes a bike, balloons, a giant chocolate bar, a car – anything he wants to satisfy his adolescent urges. But it’s not long before sinister men in black stop by Billy’s home, and they seem to be looking for something…can Billy use his Lite-Brite powers to stop the bad guys and find his missing father?

Barbie Cue
In this lighthearted romantic comedy, a bubbly blonde teen named Barbara Millicent Roberts – or “Barbie,” for short – can’t decide on a career. Her boring but dependable platonic boyfriend Ken Carson struggles to keep up as Barbie switches from job to job: beautician, equestrian, superheroine, astronaut, pro tennis player, surgeon, NASCAR driver and so on. Romantic tension simmers when macho adventurer Big Jim catches Barbie’s attention. When Wedding Barbie takes her cue to walk up the aisle, who will meet her at the altar?

It walks down stairs, alone or in pairs! A meteor crashes to Earth and splits open, spilling out Slinky, a loveable but silent alien who slithers and slinks his way into the hearts of a wholesome small town. But then the government shows up to take custody of Slinky, thinking the strange creature is some kind of alien invader! Can the simple folk of this charming American Anytown defend their new friend from the army? Can Slinky slink his way out of this one? And who’s that cute pink plastic Slinky? One thing’s for sure – this film, like this toy, is fun for a girl or a boy!

Meet the Weebles
The Weebles aren’t your average, ordinary family – they’re shaped like eggs and have hard shells! Life hasn’t been easy for the Weebles, who face prejudice at every turn. Now they’re piling into their special yellow microbus and heading for the Big City for a day at the waterslides! Even jaded New Yorkers haven’t seen anything like this, and when a hostage situation breaks out at the water park, the Weebles may get their one big chance to prove that Weebles may wobble, but they don’t fall down!

Game of Bruce Lee Game
Neophyte martial artists struggle to advance in their chosen artforms while battling street thugs, fending off attacks on their dojos, participating in tournatments and eventually fighting their way into the Labyrinth to face the evil Grand Master. It’s a grueling kung-fu katastrophe, with each star sent to the hospital multiple times throughout the course of the film. In fact, in the very first scene our star, the very green Green Fighter, gets sent to the hospital when he accidentally picks a street fight with Bruce Lee himself.

Paddle Ball
The studio’s Oscar-bait movie for the year features a bookish but handsome graduate student who becomes obsessed with the underlying existential angst revealed by the paddle ball toy he played with as a kid. Our hero’s relationship with his demanding, ambitious girlfriend is put under strain when the paddle ball’s bouncing, rhythmic beat consumes the unnamed protagonist, who also narrates the film. Ian McKellen plays the narrator’s grad school advisor, the only man who realizes that the hero is on the verge of making a philosophical breakthrough that could change man’s destiny forever.

Alcoholic hypochondriac Cavity Sam (Jack Black) is in big trouble. He’s been kidnapped by a rogue band of mad scientists, each of whom has a different surgical specialty, each of whom believes that they can perfect the human form through extraordinary surgical intervention. Now, strapped to an operating table with a half-dozen scalpel-wielding lunatics, Cavity Sam has to hold as still as possible as his bones and organs are replaced by bizarre objects like a rubber band, a pencil, a wrench, a bread basket and more. One slip and Cavity Sam’s big red nose will go dim…forever!

There, some ready-made tentpole franchises for the big studios. Next time, I’ll come up with some TV series based on professions other than fireman, police officer, lawyer or doctor.


Leslie said...

Hi Earl,

I would totally want to see the Lite-Brite movie and the Weebles movie!!! : )

I think your pitches are WAY better than most of what's playing in theatres right now. In fact, there's probably some Hollywood producer jealously reading your blog right now. Just remember, intellectual property is not nine-tenths of the law.

Earl J. Woods said...

Thanks, Leslie! Maybe I should get an agent. And the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay goes to...

Anonymous said...

"Dark Star" was a movie about a space ship that went around blowing up rocks in space. I think there was a UFO or alien in it.

Well, actually, the rocks were planets, and I think they only blew up one... only. But Earl knew that already, probably has the DVD.

Anonymous said...

Not bad! If Transformers can become a movie sequel - anything can happen.

Earl J. Woods said...

Strangely enough, I do not own a copy of Dark Star.

AllanX said...

You just know Michael Bay would end up with the Lite-Bright property. Later the Criterion Collection would release a special two-disc DVD as part of their ongoing "important movies" releases.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the Weebles movie won't get the Criterion treatment, even though Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello are re-united with Andie MacDowell in the cast. Instead, Weebles ends up cello-wrapped in a 2-for-1 with "Hudson Hawk" and dumped to the bottom of the seventh hell of Wal-Mart DVD bargain bins.

That would be a total shame, since I already have a Hudson Hawk, and I don't need another copy. Or waitaminnit, maybe I do...

Earl J. Woods said...

We talked about Hudson Hawk at work today. Another great (?) film I don't have on DVD.

Fracture said...

Snakes and Ladders on a Plane?

How about some product tie-ins?

Widescreen iMax Etch-a-sketch, anyone?

Earl J. Woods said...

Just noting for the record that Warner Brothers eventually released a Barbie movie in 2023. Alas, Big Jim was not featured.