People love to take shots at Hollywood. “There are no good ideas,” they say. “The only way they can make money is to put a muscle dude in tights and film him beating up a green screen,” they say. Well, the knocks might be well-earned. If Hollywood drags poor Batman out one more time, he’ll be suing Gotham for negligence when his walker skids on some wet pavement and he busts a hip.
But the dirtiest of the dirty little secrets about Hollywood mojo has yet to come out. And it has nothing to do with Jennifer Lawrence naked. How does Hollywood make money? Hint: it’s not new ideas and bold innovation.
Here it is…
No, you’re not. Just take a deep breath…
Okay, then. Here’s how Hollywood rakes in the cash.
By putting Steve Carell in a van and having him drive around.
I don’t mean like in real life. I have no idea what Steve Carell drives. It might be a van. Or maybe it’s a Prius. Or a horse-drawn chariot or some sort of sled powered by alien slug creature pedal power as in the little watched Hanna-Barbera cartoon “The Flintstones Eat Cave Mushrooms and Hallucinate About Space.” Real life Steve can drive whatever he wants.
But movie Steve Carell, that dude needs to ride in a van. Whatever else is going on in a film, putting Steve Carell in a van in a movie works really well. Little Miss Sunshine – about a family road trip in a Volkswagen van – came out in 2006, cost $8 million to make and grossed over $100 million.
Carell’s new movie is Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. It’s been out for a month as of this writing, cost $28 million to make and has so far grossed $78 million. No road trip in this one, but lots of driving around in a minivan while family hijinks ensue.
The similarities between these films don’t end there… (Since Alexander is relatively new, I’ll try not to be hugely spoilery about it. Still, mind your step…)
1. In Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day (Phew. Let’s just call it ALEXANDER), there is a defined “destination”: Mom, Dad, brother, sister, and Alexander all have stuff that’s got to get done and places everyone needs to be before Alexander’s birthday party. In Little Miss Sunshine (LMS), the family has to get from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach, CA by 3:00 Sunday so Olive can dance in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant.
2. In ALEXANDER the minivan…well, it sustains some suburban battle scars. In LMS, the van loses its clutch, horn and side door.
3. In ALEXANDER, Carell’s character is, literally, a rocket scientist. But now he’s unemployed, trying to stay upbeat for his family. In LMS, Carell is the “#1 Proust scholar in the country”‘ but now he’s unemployed…and suicidal, but he does say lots of inspiring and funny things.
4. In ALEXANDER, the family watches in horror from the audience as one of their own makes a fool of themselves on stage. In LMS, The family watches in horror from the audience as Olive busts a move to “Super Freak” on stage.
5. ALEXANDER features an inappropriate dance routine by a trio of male strippers – The Thunder Down Under. LMS? See Superfreak.
6. In ALEXANDER, the Mom blows a big assignment at work. Dad flubs a big job interview. In LMS, Richard Hoover loses a book deal for his 9 step motivational program.
7. In ALEXANDER, the sister gets loopy on cough syrup. In LMS, Grandpa snorts heroin.
8. In ALEXANDER, Carell is beaten by a kangaroo, nearly eaten by a crocodile, and set on fire. In LMS, he’s suicidal.
9. In ALEXANDER, the brother is primed to drive his date – the “hottest girl in school” – to prom as the high point of his life, but loses the tux and flunks his driving test. In LMS, the brother, Dwayne, has one goal in life – to fly jets – only to discover he’s color blind, meaning he can’t fly.
10. In ALEXANDER, the family comes together in the end and realize that’s all that matters. In LMS, well you know…
Eerie, huh? They’re kind of the same movie. Throw in Iron Man and you’d have quintessential Hollywood as we know it.
Drive on, Steve Carell, you magnificent bastard. Drive on.