Why Evan Failed
I really like Tom Shadyac’s Evan Almighty. No one else did. Maybe I was just in a good mood when I saw it, and maybe I just like the overall message of the movie.
But wow, what terrible reviews! And the box office was off, too. Evan made only $31 million in its first weekend, compared to the $60 million of its “prequel,” Bruce Almighty‘s opening, and the Steve vs. Jim arguments began right away.
But we must ask what went wrong story-wise. Where did the filmmakers go off the tracks? Was this sequel just misguided from the start, or was there some other reason this ark was left high and dry?
I got an email from screenwriter Joe White about this. Joe, a veteran Cat!-ite who is working on a great spec comedy himself, pointed out something smart.
Why Evan came up short while its cousin Bruce Almighty succeeded is simple: It’s fun to have the powers of God, but no fun to be under God’s thumb cursed by having to build an ark.
Also there is a “Watch out for that glacier” problem as, like Deep Impact and Armageddon show, waiting for the inevitable flood – or a comet hitting the earth – means there’s a lot of time to kill until that cataclysmic ending we’re all on pins and needles hoping to see!
In short,while Evan has a Fun and Games section (all movies do), the “fun” of this particular premise isn’t very.
And in hindsight, this simple difference may have decided Evan‘s fate. Bruce is more of an “empowerment” tale, Evan more a “comeuppance” tale. And apparently in and amongst all the summer movie traffic, fun is always more fun.
Could it be that this simple story problem made all the difference?
I think so.
I have been pitched numerous scripts in the past few years that fall into this same trap. What is “fun” about this comedy? – or any movie we are working on – is something we should all ask ourselves. What is the “empowerment” of your movie notion? Why does the “promise of your premise” sound inviting and an escape, and not a chore?
At its most basic level, Joe’s argument has a lot of merit.
Our number one job, and the reason I always send writers back to do heavy work on their logline is: We must create a concept that (no matter what the stars or the budget or the studio) people want to RUN to see. It can’t just be “cute” or “okay” or “pleasant”; it must grab us by the lapels and drag us to the Cineplex.
On my current list is Ratatouille, an original concept that promises great character work, a great message, and the talents of Brad Bird (The Incredibles).
It sounds like fun.
Is your concept?
If not, don’t write it.
Blake, I have a problem with ANY rodent in the kitchen.
I think Ratatouille is doomed! Let’s see?
- Calvin TamÃ¡s
I my self have not seen “Evan Almighty” yet, but even without viewing it I agree! I am not sure why the film had 200 million dollars worth of flashy effects, animals, and hogwash. It clearly didn’t deliver! That’s what I love about “Knocked Up”. It was fun, cheap, well written and it delivered huge for the studio! Maybe the studios will learn a lesson that bigger is not necessarily better! – Calvin
I caught ratatouille yesterday, good to see a lot of old friends who worked on that film…
It’s easily the best animated film I have seen since The Incredibles, co-incidently by the same director Brad Bird. He’s moving on to direct the first live-action film for Pixar!
Doomed…I think not. Probably the best film of the
Story, character development all tops.
Paul, while Brad Bird is great, I’m not ready to annoint him the greatest yet.
It’s a rat in the kitchen. Using all of the STC techniques — it’s ironic, it’s not funny to me at all. Some irony just isn’t funny.
The post was about the failure of Evan to really nail it. I think this will suffer from some of the same issues.
Let’s see what the 2nd week @ the box office is comared to the budget.
Either way I’ll watch it for the story; but a rat in the kitchen closes restaurants and ruins lives – I don’t see this story as a marketing tool or successful receipe.
So, I just saw Ratatouille, and what I found was a great example of a film that hits all the right story beats. Pixar does an incredible job making sure to create a compelling story, and I, for one (two, if you include Paul from an earlier post), believe Blake could use this film as an example of a “Save the Cat” film. Great heart, great story, great movie. A little slow during the “fun and games” section, but this protagonist is unlike Evan at all, for although he is a pawn in the kitchen, he has free will. The rat in the kitchen didn’t bother me, and it’s actually quite funny how they show this rat to be very clean. What a great third act. Although it’s not as fun as The Incredibles, I believe this movie will have legs. Little, ugly rat legs. I won’t spoil it, but Peter O’Toole’s character is worth the price of admission.
- Elizabeth Fais
I saw Ratatouille this weekend and couldn’t help noticing the story beats as they unfolded. Great storytelling and superb animation to match. It’s a wonderful reminder of what makes a story work.
Thanks to Save the Cat! for the recipe for story success!
- Sarah Beach
I friend of mine had some comments about Evan Almighty, that I’ll paraphrase: Evan doesn’t really have the serious character flaws that needed correcting, that Bruce did in Bruce Almighty. Even the family disfunction isn’t that disfunctional. So, what is it that he really needs to learn? She also observed that there isn’t really a need for the flood, nor for the animals to be rescued. So, why the boat?
After reading her comments (I trust her reaction to the film), I don’t feel a need to see the film. I begin to suspect that it was a script concept sold only on the pitch: Some modern day doofus is told by God to build an ark. After reading my friend’s comments, it made me want to dig out my old Bill Cosby recording of his “Noah” routine. “How long can you tread water?” Now, that was (and is still) funny.
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I actually thought the movie was okay, although it got bogged down in its message of political correctness and environmentalism. Truly, it is more fun to have God’s powers and less so to be cursed with having to build an ark. But, curse movies can be loads of fun. Look at Liar, Liar. I happen to feel the problem with Evan Almighty had to do with a more basic idea. The protagonist didn’t “do” anything on his own. Sure, he built an ark. He had to. No other choice. God followed him at every corner and sent animals after him, only to tell them it wasn’t time yet when Evan agreed to build an ark. When he had trouble building, he turned to his ark book, had all the wood and tools delivered by God, and even had the animals help him. When his wife was mad at him, God showed up at the diner and taught her the lesson. In Bruce Almighty, God let Bruce go, forcing him to learn the lessons on his own. Here, the only choices he makes are whether to wear his robe or not, and even then, he has no free will because God just simply switches them when he’s not looking. See what I mean? No free will makes for a boring protagonist.
For God’s sake (pun intended), God even changes the course of the ark to make sure it ends up on the steps of the Capitol building.
Having said that, it’s also a boring task to build an ark. Being forced to be Santa Clause, fun. Forced to build a boat, no fun.
I just want to let the Cat community know I have a movie coming out July 27 called “Who’s Your Caddy?”
Go see it. Honor thy fellow Cat lovers.