Genre: Buddy Cop Comedy
Premise: When a reckless cop who made his mark in the drug-fueled 80s is paired with a timid C.S.I. detective who prefers to hide behind his tools, the two must put aside their differences to take down a mysterious Scandinavian drug kingpin.
About: Colin Trevorrow has gone on record as saying this is the most fun he’s ever had writing a script. He and his writing partner on Cocked & Loaded, Derek Connolly, met as interns on SNL ten years prior, and sold the project as a pitch. While the two would each go on to their own solo careers, they continue to collaborate, most recently on the final chapter in the new Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Episode IX: The Return of Maz Kanata.
Writers: Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly
Details: 102 pages (2009 draft)
The buddy cop genre will NEVER DIE!
So stop entertaining those false-ass notions!
This is good news, script homies. Like the rom-com, the zombie flick, and the body swap comedy, there is always an opportunity for someone to come in and find an original take on these sub-genres. Mind you, this is one of the biggest things that separates seasoned writers from beginners. The beginner ALWAYS writes the same versions of these movies that we’ve already seen. The veteran knows the script has NO SHOT unless they find a fresh angle.
For example, a beginner might say, “Female-driven comedies are big right now. What if I do a buddy cop comedy where one female character is white and the other is black!”
Sorry. That’s exactly why you’re still trying to get people to respond to your logline e-mails. That’s only an eensy-teensy-bitsy more original than, say, The Heat. You have to be a lot more original if you want to stand out.
Now, there’s something that happens in this industry that makes the above advice confusing. Every once in awhile, a producer will say, “What if we paired Amy Schumer and Leslie Jones in a buddy cop movie?” And everyone at the studio is like, “Oh my god, great idea! That would be so funny.” The producer then gets a writer, spits out a buddy cop script with a white partner and black partner, recruits Amy and Leslie with offers from the studio, and by the end of the year, they’re shooting.
“I thought you said that idea wasn’t original enough, Carson! Looks like you were wrong!”
First of all, I’m never wrong. Second of all, that situation is not your situation. That situation is a producer with the power to put a movie into production. Your situation is needing to stand out amongst thousands of other screenplays. That’s why your take on an established sub-genre needs to be unique. You’re trying to stand out amongst a sea of people.
Cocked & Loaded begins in the 80s, when cops were men, dammit. 20-something John Brock is living the dream. Not only is he a cop, but he’s partnered with Nick Angelano, the Dirty Harry of 1985. The two are mowing down a bunch of casino thugs, living the cop-thug life, when all of a sudden – BLAM! – Nick Angelano’s head explodes.
Behind it… the hairless Scandinavian known as Veli Verkko. Veli laughs at a stunned Brock before disappearing into the shadows. Brock screams up into the sky, noooooooooooo!
Cut to the present and Brock is still haunted by the loss of his partner. Bitter, hate-filled, repugnant, all Brock cares about is kicking ass and drinking whiskey. Which means he hasn’t changed much.
Across town we meet Glen Choder, crime scene investigator, who’s mapping out the murder of an old woman. Glen is a new breed of cop. Dresses well. Polite as fuck. And not too good with a gun. Which is why he sticks to mapping blood splatter.
I think you know where this is going. When a wealthy lobbyist is murdered, Brock and Choder are paired up to find out who did it! The lobbyist’s murder is a strange one, as it looks like he was injured out on the town, then came back to his hotel room where he bled out.
Choder finds some horse hair on the man and runs it by a local zoologist, who reveals that the hair comes from a rare horse you can’t even find in the United States. When further clues lead our partners to a VIP sex party that our victim used to frequent, things start to get really weird.
And wouldn’t you know it, all those animals and sex lead back to one person: Veli Verkko. With revenge finally within grasp, Brock locks and loads. But he’ll need to get past one last person to avenge his old partner – his new one.
So here’s the deal.
And I want you to write this down if you plan to write a comedy. Hell, write it down regardless of what genre you write in.
Generic concepts LEAD TO generic situations LEAD TO generic jokes.
If you find yourself struggling to write original scenes (or characters or dialogue), a lot of times it has less to do with the actual scenes, and more to do with the concept itself.
You see, when you start with a generic concept, you are laying the groundwork for a bunch of empty bland situations. This happens a lot in comedy sub-genres. You pair up two opposites to play the cops, and you think that’s all you need. The rest will write itself.
But because you’re starting with a base that’s so bland, there’s no soil to generate original ideas. This is why you want to START with as original a concept as you can. The more original it is, the more original the situtions and scenarios will be. You guys have all heard the saying: “It practically wrote itself.” The scripts that do this are scripts that are born out of original ideas.
Look at a script like Das Chimp. For those who missed Amateur Offerings, here’s the logline for the comedy: 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.
Whether you like that idea or not, you can see that because the concept is so original, it can be exploited for a ton of original scenes – scenes that could only exist in Das Chimp. In the opening scene, our protagonist’s doubles’ partner is killed in a tennis accident. You can’t write that scene into your average comedy. It’s specific to Das Chimp.
For me, that’s the primary way I judge comedy. Because when I’m not laughing, I’ve found that it’s often not about the jokes. It’s that the jokes could exist anywhere. They’re not specific to this idea.
Where does that leave Cocked and Loaded?
Well, that’s a good question. The script started off in bland buddy-cop territory. The investigation felt random (a horse hair?) and we’d find ourselves in set-pieces that seemingly had nothing to do with the story (a VIP sex party).
But then the clues started coming together, and we eventually find out (I need you to take a deep breath for this – don’t say I didn’t warn you) that our lobbyist was one of a group of rich men who pay to have rare animals shipped into the United States to have sex with (our victim died of horse-penis insertion). I have to admit, I had not seen that in a script before, so I had to give these guys points for originality.
My problem was more with the lead-up. Despite the plot being original, that’s not the most important thing in a comedy. The most important thing are the characters and the laughs. And this was light on both. Both our heroes were constructed too rigidly out of the Screenwriting 101 mould. They each had these big flaws. And they were both perfect opposites.
And because I didn’t buy into them as real people, I didn’t laugh much at what they said. And if I’m not laughing a lot in a comedy, it’s kinda hard to endorse it.
Maybe I’ll be laughing more this Friday… when I review Das Chimp.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: When coming up with a comedy set piece, don’t approach it like, “Ooh, I bet I could find a lot of laughs in this scenario.” Approach it like, “What set-piece could I include that could only happen in this movie?” You’re bound to get a funnier scene out of it. Because, yeah, there are going to be laughs to be had in randomly crazy scenarios (like a sex party). But I promise the laughs will be bigger if the set-pieces are specific to your concept.