Man, is there a here-we-go-again feeling conveyed by Lorenza Munoz‘s prosecutorial L.A. Times article about monster cost overruns on Universal’s Evan Almighty or what?
This Steve Carell–Morgan Freeman mega-laugher about “a Noah-like congressman commanded by God to hoard hundreds of animals into an ark the size of a cruise ship”, Munoz says, will “probably become the most expensive comedy ever” because of a total tab (including marketing) of $250 million . The title of the article sounds rote: “Budget Overruns of Biblical Proportions.” If you ask me, the title in people’s minds reading this piece all over town is much better: Choppy Seas for Waterworld: The Comic Sequel.
Articles of this sort are like the starting gun at an Olympic swimming meet. On your mark, get set…crack! Into the water and beat this sucker down for being too expensive! Pound it in pre-release pieces like bombers strafing a Japanese-held island during World War II…softening up the defenses, preparing for the Big Assault. Pay close attention to research screenings and play up the numbers if they’re at all negative, and when the legit reviews start to show up on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes everybody needs to always mention the budget, the budget, the budget.
I’m cynical about this process, having taken part in similar assault campaigns for the last 24 years or so. (One of my first big stories in this business was a piece about why Sydney Pollack‘s Tootsie had cost a shockingly expensive $21 million.) On the other hand I’m kind of against Evan Almighty from the get-go because money isn’t funny.
The bigger and more costly a film is, the less witty and nimble-footed it tends to be. All the best comedies are smallish, human-scaled, character-driven. When’s the last time you laughed at something epic-scaled with tens of millions of CG propping it up? Remember Wild Wild West?
On top of which I half-dislike slick-ass directors like Tom Shadyac on general principle. He’s a pro-level studio guy and you know the movie will look like and sound terrific, and his last God movie, Bruce Almighty, had its moments. And you have to tipyour hat to the guy who directed Ace Ventura Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor and Liar Liar, which were all very big adn pretty funny at times. But keep in mind also that Shadyac directed Patch Adams, which I hated.
My idea of a just-right, quirky-hip, first-rate comedy is Little Miss Sunshine, and I don’t think Shadyac could have directed that film and made it come out right with a gun at his head.