Thursday, April 18, 2013

Refreshingly Derivative

Last week’s Entertainment Weekly featured an article about a huge showdown coming this Memorial Day. 
Fans of the impressive muscles and distinct gravelly growl of Vin Diesel—try not to faint. There WILL be a sixth Fast & Furious movie coming to a multiplex near you! And, the very same weekend, you can also see the third Hangover movie. Which one will moviegoers pick? This is so exciting. It’s on!

The plot of F&F is going to involve high-octane car chases. Some very attractive people will drive impossibly fast and at some point they will yell at each other. There will also be guns. I didn’t read an advance review or anything—I’m just that good at predicting things.

The plot of the original movie was wafer-thin: a boyishly handsome undercover cop tries to bust some street racers. Possibly I should be impressed that the minds behind this series have managed somehow to spin that premise into SIX films. Confession time: I’ve seen most of these. I skipped the one that had to do with sliding the cars sideways, I think in Japan.  I don’t think that one even had the original cast in it. I rather like Vin Diesel—there’s a reassuring continuity about his performances. And Paul Walker is very cute and an also an adorably bad actor, sort of like a blond, less confused-looking Keanu Reeves. The fifth fast/furious movie made it onto my Netflix cue, but I didn’t make it past the half hour mark. I’m not sure they were working from an actual script, containing, you know, plot elements. It all just seemed like a jumble of testosterone and motor oil.

And yet. Six movies, a bajillion dollars...something about that formula works. As for its release-date competitor, the first iteration of The Hangover was damn funny. It wasn’t War and Peace, but not everything has to be (thank God). I saw the second one, and my own humble opinion: I’m calling played-out on this series. But who knows—it’s really all about the story.
I'm dying at how perfect this tagline is.
Memorial Day is a big weekend, and I’m sure a lot’s at stake. So the studios are going for the known quantity. I also read in the same EW about a lot of VFX studios closing. Times are tough. And they wouldn’t make this stuff if lots of someones didn’t buy it.

Formulas that work are all the rage—and probably not going anywhere. The trick may be to put a slightly new spin on something that a lot of people already like. I heard somewhere that film studios these days all want to get there second. The next—new—big thing is also a big risk. But if you can get in with a creatively knocked-off second hit, before the trend is played out, it’s all puppies and rainbows and lots and lots of money.

For the rest of us who’ll be skipping the lines for this Memorial Day’s refreshingly derivative options, at least there’s the beach. And Netflix, if it rains. 

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