The winner of last week’s heated Amateur Offerings showdown finally gets its moment in the sun. But as every great tennis playing chimp knows, the sun gets awful hot without sunscreen.
Genre: Monkey Tennis
Premise: After a tragic tennis accident, a failed tennis pro seeks redemption by coaching a talented chimp and entering him in to Wimbledon disguised in a man-suit.
Why You Should Read: This is the greatest monkey tennis story ever told. It’s an ironic homage, a pastiche if you will – a spoof if you must – of the great animal-based comedies of the 90s like Beethoven, Flipper, and Dunston Checks In, each one of them an iconic work which has stood the test of time.
Writers: Chris Grezo & Rupert Knowles
Details: 110 pages
By themselves, the above words mean nothing. Invisible food-coloring, if you will.
But together? They represent one of the most powerful phrases in the English language.
Don’t believe me? Have you ever had a single passionate thought about the word “Das” before last Friday?
But look at how much controversy that same word created once combined with “chimp.” We had a fellow competitor questioning the sanity of each and every member of the Scriptshadow community when his script was defeated by Das Chimp.
Let us call a spade a spade. “Das Chimp” is the single greatest title to ever grace the pixelbytes of Scriptshadow. It is both simple, yet oh so complex.
And therein lies Das Chimp’s biggest hurdle. Could a title promise something so great, that it was impossible for the story to live up to it?
My friends, I’m ready to find out if you are.
So please, grab a beer, grab a racket, grab your favorite stuffed animal, and join me… for Das Chimp.
It’s never a good day when you kill your doubles partner. That’s what happened to John Protagonist, who lost his nerve when his tennis match got tight, accidentally hitting the chair umpire with a serve, causing a chain reaction of Center Court implosion, leading to a giant light landing on poor Hamish.
Adds a whole new meaning to the term, drop shot.
Fast forward 10 years and John faces each day with the regret of what he did to a man who didn’t deserve his demise. John heads to the zoo to share a beer with his custodian best friend, Duncan, when he sees a chimp effortlessly hitting a tennis ball against the wall.
John approaches the chimp’s handler, the excessively weird but beautiful zookeeper, Lily, and asks if he can teach the chimp (Pierre) tennis. Lily is game, but to do this, they’ll need to make sure no one realizes Pierre is gone. John comes up with an idea and puts Duncan in a monkey suit where he’ll stand in for Pierre.
Once John gets Pierre out on the court, he’s even better than he thought, so he starts entering Pierre in tournaments. The scrappy Pierre keeps winning, and actually earns a birth into Wimbledon! There’s only one problem. Monkeys aren’t allowed to play Wimbledon! Who would’ve thought?
So John gets another one of his genius ideas. He’ll dress Pierre up in a human suit. No one will know the difference. Meanwhile, John is dealing with some unexpected issues. Pierre is in love with Lily. And the reason Lily is so weird is because she was raised my meerkats. She has no clue how human interaction works.
But John’s biggest challenge comes when Britain’s #1 Doubles team is mauled by a wild boar. Britain comes to John and asks if he’ll team up with upstart Pierre to represent the country again. John is reluctant, but dons the headband once more, this time to play with a chimp… a chimp wearing a human suit.
Oh, I’m sorry. That’s not my assessment of the script.
I’m just noting that when you can include an elephant shit joke in your movie? And it’s FUNNY? By gosh you’ve already succeeded my friend.
But Das Chimp is no flash in the pan one-elephant-shit-joke wonder. Believe it or not, the majority of this script is funny. And not just funny, but well structured!
There’s an easy way to distinguish between “I don’t know how to write a screenplay” broad comedy and “I actually know what I’m doing here” broad comedy. Setups and payoffs. When I see lots of setups and payoffs in a broad comedy script, I know the writer has thought the script through, and, at the very least, completed a few rewrites. You can’t include too many payoffs without going through the script and figuring out where to set up them up.
For example, the crazed always angry Zoo owner lets out one of his wild boars at night to take care of people sneaking into the zoo after closing. 50 pages later, that same boar is responsible for sending John back into competition, after it mauls the other British doubles team.
And Lily is an entire compilation of setups. She acts beyond bizarre, to the point where you wonder if she’s retarded. Then we learn why she acts that way. She was abandoned by her parents as a kid and raised by meerkats. She would then get a job at the zoo because animals were the only world she understood.
But the best thing about Das Chimp is that Grezo and Knowles rarely make a lazy choice. Everything that happens here is either bizarre or the result of something bizarre.
I have no doubt that a less talented writer would’ve made Duncan (John’s friend) some corporate type, so as to properly contrast the friends’ lives (like the screenwriting books tell you to do). Instead, they make Duncan an animal shit-shoveler over at the zoo. And thank God they did. Duncan’s storyline – while in chimp costume, he falls in love with a real chimp, Princess – was my favorite of the script, and led to the biggest laugh.
In this scene, Duncan comes to talk to Princess. I dare you to read what happens next.
If I have a beef with the script, it’s that the setup could be sharper. Pierre’s ascent from chimp who likes to hit against the wall to rising tennis star is way too fast. I understand that we have to get to the story, but I never understand why it was so important that Pierre start playing tournaments. John’s motivation seems more tied to using Pierre as an excuse to be around Lily. He didn’t need to enter Pierre in tournaments to do that.
This may seem like nitpicking. But the script ends up taking its plot surprisingly seriously later on, retroactively sending me back to this first act, where the only reason things seem to be happening is because they need to for the script to exist.
Another area that could’ve been better is the Pierre tennis matches, which were too repetitive. A lot of Pierre running around for balls it doesn’t look like he’s going to get to… and then he gets to them! I speak from experience as I’ve written several tennis scripts myself. I’ve learned you need to limit the repetitive actions of the sport and focus instead on individualized non-playing situations.
For example, instead of writing an entire page of, “… and then Pierre runs over to get the ball, barely reaching it – BAM! – he hits it back…” you might focus on the fact that a ballboy suspects that Pierre isn’t human, and write in a series of moments where the ballboy is trying to figure it out.
Obviously, you have to include SOME points to build the drama in the match. But the strange thing about screenwriting and sports is you want to include as little actual playing of the sport as you can get away with. The exception would be if you’re focusing on something unique within the game. For example, if John’s racket cracks during a point and he doesn’t have a backup, so John needs to play a point WITHOUT A RACKET. We’re going to be more interested in that point because it’s unique. It’s not another, “…he reaches for the ball with all his might…”
Das Chimp isn’t perfect. But these two writers are DEFINITELY funny. I believe it’s a script worth perfecting. So I’d encourage anyone here that if they can think of more funny scenes for Das Chimp, to share them with the writers. The more laughs we can pack into this script, the better shot it has.
Script link: Das Chimp
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Give friends and family jobs that keep them closer to the story as opposed to further away. So you don’t want to make Duncan an architect or a stock trader. You give him a position at the zoo, where we can keep him close to the story without having to force it.