Off Limits

Burn, baby, burn

What's So Funny?

By Adam Cayton-Holland

In an episode from the third season of The Simpsons titled "Dog of Death," local news anchor Kent Brockman wins the Springfield Lottery. Sitting on his couch with losing lottery ticket in hand, bitter and dejected, Homer utters, "He might have all the money in the world, but there's one thing he can't buy." "What's that?" Bart asks. Homer thinks for a minute. "A dinosaur."

Like Brockman, conservative Colorado tycoon Philip Anschutz might have all the money in the world -- Forbes last estimated his fortune at $4.9 billion -- but that doesn't mean he can buy everything. He may own Qwest and the San Francisco Examiner, pipelines and railroads, sports teams and stadiums, golden unicorns and the rights to Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt™ books, but one thing has eluded the reclusive mogul: cinematic success.

The Anschutz-owned Walden Media, a company "committed to producing entertainment that makes a real impact on young audiences, inspiring them to explore the world around them" -- that means guns, right? -- may have its foot in Hollywood's door but, as Matt LeBlanc will be able to tell you after Joey's glorious six-episode run, that don't mean a goddamned thing. In the dog-eat-dog world of film and television, it's results that matter, and Walden's numbers look about as good as Melo's Team USA stats.

The company's recent remake of Around the World in 80 Days, a feature that cost $110,000,000 and to date has brought in $23,519,011, is on the verge of making the creators of Waterworld look downright savvy. How could Walden have gone so wrong with Jackie Chan, an actor who would literally eat glass if he thought it would get an audience response? And what does the company have on deck? Because of Winn Dixie, the story of a lonely young girl who adopts an orphaned dog and how their bond helps bring together the townspeople and mends the girl's relationship with her troubled father. Oh, dear Lord. Phil, baby, it's sweet that you're looking out for the kiddies and all (and who better to do that than a former Amendment 2 backer?), but let's get real. You're dying out there.

The recent signing of "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau to pen a Walden script was a smart move, and picking up the rights to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was definitely a step in the right direction, but it's obvious that you're still in need of a little guidance. Fortunately, if there is one thing we here at What's So Funny? know, it's what the people want. Some tips for turning Walden into another appallingly successful Anschutz venture:

Saved by the Bell: The Reunion. Back in town for Screech's funeral after he overdoses on crystal meth, Zack accidentally knocks up Kelly in a drunken one-night stand. Only problem is, she's A.C. Slater's wife! Join Lisa, Jessie, Mr. Belding and the whole gang for one more unforgettable weekend in Bayside.

• Between United Artists Theatre Company, Regal Cinemas and Edwards Theatres, you own roughly one-fifth of the nation's movie screens. That's not even close to a monopoly. Man up, Phil: It takes money to make money.

• Four words: Matthew Perry, Bruce Willis. You can't fake that kind of chemistry.

• Go with what you know: If Trump can make it with The Apprentice, your public will buy Managing Corporate Assets, the movie.

• Screenplay treatment: Overprotective father babies only son, much to son's chagrin. On first day of school, son gets captured and imprisoned in tank halfway across the world. Father embarks on hilarious, cross-ocean journey, filled with peril, life lessons and encounters with colorful sharks and sea turtles, and eventually reunites with son. Both learn about love, growing up and letting go. Oh, and they're both fish. These things just come to us; we don't know how.

Apathy of the Christ: Three-and-a-half-hour feature in which Jesus just lies around bitching and eating grapes.

• Gimmicks! With a ticket stub from an Anschutz film, fans receive a discount to see one of your Major League Soccer games! Everybody loves MLS. C'mon -- Freddy Adu? He's adorable.

• Fellate Harvey Weinstein.

• We don't want to drop names or anything, but we hear that Adam Cayton-Holland is sitting on a few scripts. You know you can just call him at Westword, right? Hey, you didn't hear it from us.

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