Premise: During a bachelorette party, a group of women accidentally kill a male stripper, and in a misguided attempt to protect their future, decide to get rid of the body.
About: So I’m REALLY happy to have gotten my hands on this script. As those of you who read yesterday’s post remember, an inspiration for my first 2016 review being a comedy was Broad City rediscovering my funny bone. That series was so freaking hilarious that I was devastated when my binge ended (although I hear new eps are coming in February). This script comes from Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s key collaborators, Paul Downs and Lucia Aniello. These two wrote one of my favorite episodes, when Abbi must pick up a package on an unknown New York island in a warehouse overseen by a 95 year-old woman eating a 1 pound jar of yogurt. When Downs and Aniello put the script out there, it resulted in a huge bidding war, which Sony eventually won. The project has since snatched up Scarlett Johansson to star. It also finished on the 2015 Black List.
Writers: Paul Downs and Lucia Aniello
Details: 106 pages
This script was clearly written for Broad City stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, but now it looks like Scarlett Johansson is attached?? I hope she’s not playing one of the leads. You guys know I hate this quirk in the system – the one that forces projects to take the wrong actor for a movie because it’s the only way to get the film funded. But I’ll pray that Johansson has accepted secondary status in this because these girls need their own movie. They – especially Ilana Glazer – are ready to become huge stars.
Okay, now on to the script. There’s a reason bachelor and bachelorette scripts are so popular. The movie formula loves disparate personalities placed in high-stress high-conflict situations. And there’s no situation that achieves this better than a bachelor/bachelorette party.
You have people who aren’t necessarily friends, who haven’t seen in each other in awhile, who have changed since they last met, who are eager to establish their place in the friendship hierarchy. You put those people in the worst situation possible and you’re going to get a ton of drama or comedy (whatever you’re looking for).
The downside of the bachelor/ette idea is that there are too many of them. This leads to “been there done that” syndrome unless you have a truly original voice or you can come up with a fresh angle. A perfect example is the difference between Bridesmaids and Bachelorette. Both covered a bachelorette party, but Bridemaids was plucky and over-the-top. Bachelorette was dark and, at times, downright cruel. It was able to differentiate itself through its voice.
I’m not sure Move That Body achieves this. It feels very “Bridesmaids-y” to me, and while I suppose the body thing adds a twist to the formula, I don’t know if it’s enough.
29 year-old Jess is about to get married to the perfect man AND win a political race to become councilwoman in her city. Things are going well indeed. Too bad her best friend, Alice, thinks she’s turned boring and has DEMANDED that for one weekend down in Miami, Jess lose all her inhibitions and become Retro-Jess.
The two head down to the coast where they meet up with the rest of the bachelorette crew, uptight Blaire, hippy Frankie, and Jess’s secret Skype pal from Australia, Pippa (who obnoxious Alice promptly nicknames, “Kiwi”).
Everything’s going great until the stripper shows up. Jess tries to escape what’s coming next but through a combination of peer pressure and physical force, she’s lap-dance violated. Alice, eager to get her turn, charges the stripper and tries some cool stripper leap onto him, accidently knocking him down, where his head hits the corner of the stone fireplace, and he fucking dies.
Naturally, their first inclination is to call the police, but when they realize they’re going to be on Orange is the New Black if caught, they start looking into other options. Eventually they decide to jet-ski the body out into the ocean and leave it there. But when it washes back up a few hours later (hey, it’s the first time they’ve done this!) they realize this isn’t going to be as easy as they thought.
As the authorities catch wind that something shady has happened at the party, the group will have to figure out how to hide this body forever, or see their hopes and dreams crumble into nothing and their futures ruined.
My biggest problem with Move That Body is that it’s not creative enough. I mean these are the writers who put Abbi (from Broad City) on a boat with three sets of twins going out to a fictional New York island to ask an old woman with Parkinson’s named “Garol,” eating a pound of yogurt, if a package of hers was accidentally sent here.
There’s nothing that weird here. It all feels very studio-friendly, very Jay Leno. Even the drug use feels tame. Again, in an episode of Broad City, Abbi, recovering from a root canal, is accidentally given double the dosage of painkillers by her friends, and she becomes so loopy, the pokeman-like stuffed animal lying next to her becomes 9 feet tall and starts encouraging her to do bad things.
She follows the 9 foot tall pokemon into the city and leaves a trail of destruction in her wake. I know that sounds “out there” but it was very well set up and the point is, it was DIFFERENT. There’s nothing different here! There are very few chances taken. And you can’t write comedy unless you take chances. If you’re sitting there worried about if this is too far or that’s too weird and dial everything back into the Jay Leno zone, well, you’re going to get a safe comedy.
I’ll give you another example from the show. There’s a scene where Abbi and Ilana stand outside the park basketball court and try to see the outlines of men’s penises through their gym shorts (until one of the guys comes up and asks them to please leave because they’re “making some of the men uncomfortable”). It’s a funny scene because it’s ironic. It’s usually men who gawk at women in those scenarios. But more importantly, whether you think it’s funny or not, it’s risky and it’s different. Again, we don’t get that here in Move That Body.
Another problem is that our girls never feel like they’re in any legitimate danger of being found out. Later, some detectives show up, which is the closest things get to “Oh shit, what are they going to do now?” But other than that, they’re in their own little safe-bubble where they’re free to come up with ideas and try them out. If they fail (like when the body washes back up on shore), they can simply try again. It’s like they’re playing Pac-Man on cheat mode. Infinite lives. There’s no fear or suspense.
This is a common problem with good TV and sketch comedy writers. They know how to create funny characters and write jokes. But they don’t know how to plot. If you want to show that someone’s in trouble, they need to be bombarded on all sides, the stakes need to be very high, and there needs to be urgency.
Like The Hangover. There’s urgency in that time is ticking down until the wedding and they still haven’t found the groom. Where is time ticking down here? Things don’t feel hurried or dangerous enough. And they MUST in a dead-body situation.
Despite that, Move that Body is a good example of being hot at the right place at the right time. You’re involved in a new popular female-driven show, studios are desperate for female-driven material. The stars could not have aligned better for these writers on the timing of going out with this.
And you know what? They’re still looking for these movies. So if you like female comedy, you should be writing them.
As for me, I didn’t love this but maybe a few rewrites and seeing Ilana and Abbi in the roles will change my mind. I hope so! Cause I love those two. Like I legitimately want to marry both of them and have a polyamphrous relationship with them and it’s perfectly okay if they put me on the bottom of the totem pole. I would do that for them.
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Ilana and Abbi’s success can be broken down into four categories.
1) Hard Work
2) Not Giving Up
3) Being self-starters.
4) Not being afraid to ask.
If you can achieve these four things, you will be successful: Number 1, these two have been practicing and honing their craft relentlessly for years. Number 2, they started all the way back in 2006. That’s 8 years before they got their own show. People less serious would’ve given up in that time. Number 3, instead of waiting to get the perfect role or depending on others for their success, they put together a series of Youtube Web videos titled “Broad City.” While their following was small, being able to see the voice and tone of the show was essential to Comedy Central saying yes. Number 4, Despite not knowing Amy Poehler personally (they knew her through a friend of a friend of a friend), they took a chance and asked her to be on the Season 2 finale of their webisode series of Broad City. Amy’s popularity brought a lot more eyes to the show, helping it launch into something bigger. The two were certain Amy was going to say no and almost didn’t ask. But they did, and it happened Amy had seen the series and liked it. You never know if you don’t ask, kids.