Thursday, March 11, 2010

Brat Pack revisited

Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times wonders if Ed Helms is the new Steve Carell. It's an interesting question. Helms was one of the main stars of last year's blockbuster comedy, The Hangover.
Helms' career is looking a lot like Steve Carell's these days. It's not just that each got their break on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," evince a geeky likability, practice a similar brand of deadpan humor and currently star on the same hit television show "The Office (though that's part of it).

It's that both are seeing their dance cards fill up remarkably quickly -- and with not dissimilar projects.

Helms will anchor his first major feature when he shoots "Central Intelligence," a Walter Mitty comedy about an accountant (Helms) who inadvertently gets involved in an espionage plot. Sources now say the movie is to shoot this summer, with Universal, which is making the movie, currently looking for a director.

("Central Intelligence," incidentally, bears a similar premise to Carell's "Get Smart:" Dorky guy bumbles his way through unlikely high-stakes world, though Helms' trademark persona is dorkier, while Carell's is more deluded. And there's another Helms-Carell connection: the man who made Michael Scott famous is producing the untitled Civil War project in which several re-enactors get transported back to the land of Ulysses S. Grant; Helms plays one of the re-enactors and also helped write the script. That one, at least, is just in development, as is another project, the bromantic makeover movie "A Whole New Hugh" from the Judd Apatow incubator. So Helms will at least have time to breathe before he gets mixed up in those.)

There is, however, "The Hangover 2," which will shoot next fall during another "Office" hiatus, and in which Helms reprises his uptight, henpecked Stu Price character. All this comes after Helms finished shooting the Alexander Payne traveling-salesman dramedy "Cedar Rapids" last fall. And there's another, smallish movie on the way. That's a pretty hectic work pace for a guy with a network show.

Indeed, it's scheduling that's the big bugaboo for Helms, since, like Carell, the actor can only shoot during his hiatuses from "The Office." The schedule for the NBC hit was reportedly juggled so Carell could shoot "Dinner for Schmucks" at the end of 2009, which also enabled Helms to shoot "Cedar Rapids." But there's only so much juggling one can do without joining the circus.
In other news, USA Today revisited John Hughes and the Brat Pack. Susannah Gora wrote the recently published book, You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation, on the stars of the 1980 movies.
It wasn't to last. Many, including Gora, say a 1985 cover story in New York magazine dubbing them "The Brat Pack" was the beginning of the end.

"Many believe they could have gone on to more serious roles if not for that article," Gora says. "They were talented. But they had professional difficulties, personal difficulties after that."

It also didn't help that the Brat Pack was aging, unable to convincingly play teenagers anymore. "In the '80s, ensemble acting was big, too," Gora says. "And that died in the grungy '90s."

But kids still watch these movies today. "The themes that these films explore — longing, belonging, the adolescent struggle for self-discovery — are all timeless elements of the teen experience," Gora says.

Hughes influenced more than kids — he influenced other filmmakers. Judd Apatow (Superbad) has called Hughes' film characters "big inspirations."

"Although Apatow is the most high-profile example, it can probably be said every filmmaker making young adult films since the mid-eighties has been influenced Hughes," Gora writes.

Her favorite Brat Pack movie? The Breakfast Club, in which five students reveal their true selves during a day of detention together.

"Here was a movie that was all about issues I was concerned with at the time in my life," says Gora, who first saw the movie when she was 12 or 13. "Someone had actually taken the time to make a movie about things important to me."

Another bonus: the happy endings in Hughes' films.

"At the end they often found love, long-lasting friendships," Gora says. "These movies left you feeling good about yourself, your future. Not easy for a teenager."
James Franco talks about a possible sequel to Pineapple Express.

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