Genre: Comedy
Premise: A girl finds out that her brother is marrying the bee-atch who made her life a living hell in high school.
About: “You Again” sold to Disney last month, will star Kristin Bell and be directed by Andy Fickman (Race To Witch Mountain).
Writers: Moe Jelline, revisions by Dave Johnson, further revisions by Moe Jelline


It’s been awhile since I’ve read a script that started off so promising then fell apart so quickly. This could’ve been a younger hipper version of Meet The Parents, but instead becomes a formless farce of prat falls and spit takes.

Marni is a former high school dweeb who spent her entire teenage existence getting tortured by super-popular Nazi-bitch-from-hell, JJ. But once she enters the real world, Marni’s determination helps her land a public relations job at one of the top PR firms in New York, and after eight years, high school is nothing but a memory. So when Marni goes home for her brother’s unexpected wedding, imagine her surprise when she finds out he’s marrying super-popular Nazi-Bitch-From-Hell JJ (now Joanna). Marni, who’s not only terrified of being pushed back into the “nerd” role, must also decide whether to tell her brother the truth about who Joanna was (and probably still is).

I enjoyed this early scene, where Marni and Joanna meet for the first time since high school.
[scrippet]
INT. KITCHEN – DAY

Gail stands at the kitchen island watching JOANNA GOLDMAN (25), aka JJ Freeman, dicing a tomato with the knife.

She’s a vision of perfection. A refined woman oozing with self confidence.

JOANNA
Then you simply finish it like this.

She’s carved the tomato into a DECORATIVE FLOWER DESIGN.

GAIL
How beautiful, Joanna.

JOANNA
It’s nothing compared to this beautiful spread. I can’t believe you made all this food. You’re amazing.

REVEAL ten impressive platters of food on the counter.

GAIL
Well, I didn’t know what kind of food your aunt liked, so I just made a little of everything. It was nothing.

Just then, Wade enters with Marni in tow…

WADE
Look who I found…

Joanna and Marni make eye contact. After a long beat…

JOANNA
(emotional)
Marni.
(then)
Marni. Marni. Marni.

Are those tears in Joanna’s eyes?

JOANNA (CONT’D)
Oh, Marni. I’ve waited so long for this moment and finally it’s here.

MARNI
You waited so long?

JOANNA
There’s just so much to say.

MARNI
I know. Believe me, I know.

JOANNA
But first, let me say…

Could this be it? The big apology?

JOANNA (CONT’D)
…how…

Wait for it… Wait for it…

JOANNA (CONT’D)
…nice it is to finally meet you.

Marni’s JAW DROPS. Say what?

MARNI
Excuse me?

JOANNA
Wade’s told me so much about you, but now here you are. In the flesh.

MARNI
But–

JOANNA
I can’t wait to spend the next four days learning all about my new sister.

Joanna EMBRACES Marni, who is too stunned to hug back.
[/scrippet]
Not a bad little twist if I do say so myself. Instead of the fireworks happening right away, we get a little mystery. Does Joanna really not remember Marni? Or is she lying to protect her wedding? Of course we think she’s lying. Of course Marni thinks she’s lying. But there’s just enough doubt to keep us wondering, and the mystery inspires a bunch of wonderful subtext-heavy scenes between the two . Up til this point in the script, I was prepared to declare this the de facto standard for how to execute a high concept idea.

And then You Again goes off and becomes The Three Stooges. I honestly can’t remember a script changing on a dime this fast. We go from an intriguing thoughtful comedy to an 8 minute slapstick dance scene that has nothing to do with the story and everything to do with someone who’s watched too many episodes of Dancing With The Stars. We then move to Marni getting drenched in a sprinkler scene as she halfway tries to protect Joanna’s dress, to Marni’s mom accidentally dropping Joanna’s Aunt’s expensive ring down the sink. Yes, we actually get a ring down the kitchen sink scene. It’s a radical change in tone that pretty much lasts the rest of the script.

But the biggest mistake You Again makes is creating an entire sub-plot that involves Marni’s mom dueling with Joanna’s aunt (the two also went to high school together) that’s not nearly as funny or interesting as the main plot, and can be argued takes up just as much screen time. Marni and JJ are the draw here. Every second we’re away from them feels like stalling.

If you’re interested in this premise, you should check out Brad Cutter Ruined My Life Again in my Top 25 list. It’s about a former high-school nerd turned company star who finds out that the most popular guy from high school has just been hired into the company. I don’t think I’ve ever read a script that delivers more on the promise of the premise than that one. It’s a great read.

To sum up, I feel like two voices are fighting for direction of the script here and as a result, it feels off. You gotta go all one way or all the other. I’d go with the thoughtful comedy. Leave the wacky hijinx for Scary Movie 8.

[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: I think we as writers get a little too wrapped up in what we think the studios want us to do. In a light-hearted movie like this, we assume that the story *has* to end with a wedding. And we write everything around that. But in doing so, we restrict ourselves from exploring much more interesting choices. In You Again, there was never any doubt that Wade and Joanna would end up together. For that reason, they always had to write Joanna really safe because if she was *too much of a bitch* we wouldn’t buy Marni sticking up for in the end. But had you opened yourself up to an ending where Wade and Joanna didn’t end up together, you could’ve made Joanna the secret bitch from hell, playing the devil to Marni and the angel to Wade. I think that direction held a lot more comedic potential. Whether you agree with me or not, it’s always good to leave yourself open to every story idea, even if it goes against the ending or character or scene or line that you originally conceived. Never set anything in stone. It could open up a whole new avenue of ideas for you.

  • Anonymous

    Forgetting Kristin Bell. Oops, I already did.

  • alex

    Her name at least. You did forget that, apparently.

    I love Kristen, but she should stop with the disney rom – coms… it’s just lame.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05595720400137644628 Trina0623

    Carson I agree with your take. Maybe the point where it turned on a dime is where the other writer stepped in for the rewrite?

  • Anonymous

    How many disney rom-coms has she actually been in? 1?

  • http://jonnyatlasinc.com JonnyAtlas

    That’s disappointing. It really upsets me when a great setup is flushed down the toilet. This seems like the type of comedy that would read great if it followed a different genre structure.

    The premise is essentially a thriller premise at its core. If the antagonist’s goal was to destroy everything in the protag’s life (making her fully evil, as you were suggesting, Carson), there would be a real threat. Follow the L.A. Confidential/Reservoir Dogs structure (only one person knows the bad guy is bad and must prove it before the bad guy silences them forever – through marriage!), but make it a comedy, and I think you’d have one hell of a script.

    Sometimes it takes recognizing the genre of your story in order to really pull it off. You can easily follow the beats of one genre while writing a totally different genre, especially in the realm of comedy. It would give the audience a familiar structure they weren’t used to in this format (same but different), thereby making it all the more interesting.

    I think Meet the Parents did a pretty good job of this (even though I’m not a huge fan of the film). It stinks the ball has been dropped with this one so far. Hopefully another rewrite will bring it around.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08439555051697115476 Carson Reeves

    It’s hard to tell where one writer finished and another one stepped in, but this script does seem schizophrenic and I can hear a producer saying “We like the setup, but we don’t like everything afterwards” and then a second writer came in, gave a wackier take, which is the draft I read. But it’s all just a guess. — For those don’t know, I like high (or mildly high) concept comedies, which is why I wanted to read this.

  • Anonymous

    My guess is that it seems like the writer wrote what they thought the studio wanted…because the studio told them what to write.

    If you have three writers on a project (which we’ll say for our purposes even though the original writer came back), they’re doing studio notes. I don’t know if the original version of the script is out there, but that’s the only version that you can read to know what the writer’s first intent was.

    People will bash writers for a finished or working product just because their name is in the credits…even if they KNOW the script went through ten different uncredited rewrites because the studio got too many cooks in the kitchen. And as there are three writers on this, this is now a studio script, so they have to take the hit for whatever draft you read.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08439555051697115476 Carson Reeves

    Anon, good point.

    I’m hoping as my sources get better, I’ll be able to give people this information. Because the truth is, I don’t blame the writer. I’m not sure it was the writer’s fault.

    So if someone associated with the project is out there and wants to clear this up, my e-mail’s up and to the right.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06872780969179149381 martinb

    They lost me at the grandma fart joke. I had to ask myself — who is the intended audience: 10-year-olds or teenagers? It varied unevenly from decent high school revenge comedy to kiddie gross out slapstick.

    What saves it is it is genuinely funny in parts. I didn’t have a problem with the mom/aunt duel, but again, should it be sophisticated or slapstick? That intended audience thing again. Hot guy Charlie could perhaps have played a bigger part — Marni using Wade to sabotage Joanna, and Joanna using Charlie to sabotage Marni.

    Also, what Marni did at the rehearsal with the video was too mean. It kind of spoiled the fun atmosphere of the movie. She should have been made to suffer more for it.

    I quite liked it, with reservations. It would be interesting to know how they plan to market it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06872780969179149381 martinb

    Niggles: Africans use spears, not swords. Plates are smashed by Greeks, not Germans.

  • Anonymous

    Little late to comment, but…

    Explain the logical flaw of how JJ could be a year older than Marni, Marni was a senior when Wade was a freshman…

    and all three of them were at the high school football game where Marni got knocked down??? Is this a five year high school??

    Kristin Bell deserves better, but she only has herself to blame. “When in Rome” script sucked too.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry…just re-read it, he was a senior when she was a freshman. So that makes sense.

    But whey does the mom have an 11 year old son and a 28 year old son?? Maybe that will be explained after page 13.

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