If you ever wondered how Diablo Cody’s script for Juno got discovered, one of the main sources for exposure was the annual Black List compiled by Overbrook Entertainment’s Franklin Leonard. The Black List features several of the “most-liked” unproduced screenplays of a calendar year, ostensibly giving a preview of what very well might be the critical darlings of the film world in the not so distant future. As far as comedy on the Black List is concerned, the highest ranked scripts (over 300 professional script readers vote) include a fascinating look at the Star Wars franchise through the eyes of Peter Mayhew, the man who played Chewbecca; the movie is called Chewie. And there’s also an up-to-the-moment version of the classic father daughter heist comedy Paper Moon called Father Daughter Time: A Tale of Armed Robbery and Eskimo Kisses.
Chewie, which finished 3rd in votes, certainly might be one of those indie comedic hits, but Father Daughter and it’s deriving from a proven comedic formula (i.e. father and daughter bonding over illegal activity) reveals an entire trend of “rehashing” throughout the comedies listed.
He’s Fucking Perfect, in which a hapless girl lies about herself in order to nab the guy of her dreams via social networking, isn’t any new territory untapped by too many romantic comedies where someone lies to their love interest about who they are (See Mrs. Doubtfire, Tootsie). Watch Roger Do His Thing, though further down the list in votes, also delves into the successful comedic vein about a hitman trying to get out of the business (see Grosse Pointe Blank). There’s even a project called Before I Fall that can be easily described as Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls where a popular high school girl has to relive the same day after dying in a car crash until she changes her callous ways.
There isn’t anything wrong with screenplays borrowing, consciously or unconsciously, their structure, themes or ideas from other successful movies of the past. In fact, Bad Words, another movie about spelling, gives a fresh angle on the sub-genre by having an adult, through a loophole in the rules, enter a spelling contest. It happens all the time and many such films end up being pretty good. Matchstick Men in 2003 with Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, and Alison Lohman, like Father Daughter, also takes its cues from Paper Moon. Also, it isn’t the goal of the Black List to highlight the most original scripts and consequently the most original and innovative comedies, but it’s certainly intriguing there aren’t a bigger number of comedies that have the freshness of Juno.
Comedy nerds are going to be delighted at this news: Parks and Recreation‘s very own Jean-Ralphio and Ben Schwartz have two scripts, one of which is about performing with comedy legend Bob Hope, on this list. Comedians Ali Waller and Morgan Murphy and their script, Leaving Pete, also made it somewhere in the middle of the pack below Tarantino’s latest script Django Unchained. Along with those, some of the more fascinating comedies include Flarsky that has a political journalist courting the Secretary of State who happens to be their old babysitter; The Museum of Broken Relationships which follows a curator gathering items for her last relationship into a blog that goes viral, and The Flamingo Thief that has a man stealing plastic flamingos off of people’s lawns while in grief over his wife leaving him.