'The Little Mermaid' and 'Avatar' Both Return
Children of the world, if you're looking for a job I'd start working on that voice of yours. As an example I'd like to point out exhibit A, Despicable Me out this weekend. As Thomas Leupp has already rightfully noted, it's delightful. But that's not the focus of this particular musing, nope, I want you to scroll down the cast list and note who "Jerry the Minion" is being voiced by, a fellow by the name of Jemaine Clement. A couple of things you should know about this casting choice:
1. Jemaine Clement is one-half of The Flight of the Conchords band, of HBO show fame, and a world-class New Zealand humorist. Admittedly, Jemaine Clement is a very funny human, worthy of any role offered to him.
2. The Minions are completely unintelligible in Despicable Me. You can't understand a word they are saying. Here, watch this:
So what conclusions can we draw when they have a hilarious Kiwi voice a creature that doesn't speak a lick of English? I'll tell you what conclusion to draw: they are handing out money for voice work. I don't know how much he made on this project, and you don't either, but I guarantee it's more than either of us made this year (unless C. Robert Cargill is reading this ... that guy is fully loaded). Clearly, the choice to cast Jemaine was crazy overkill, because they could have gotten the interns to speak gibberish into a microphone and called it a day. Hey, don't get me wrong, I'm appreciative of the effort, and the Minions are really funny throughout, I just want people in a down economy to having something to shoot for. Also providing a voice in this movie? Jason Segel, only you can't tell that it's him because he purposefully puts on an accent. That's right, they paid Segel NOT to sound like Segel! These guys had some budget to burn. Starting this weekend I'm working on not sounding anything like myself. It could be my key to financial freedom!
The Little Mermaid was released all the way back in 1989; Splash came out three years prior. So the stage is definitely set for director Joe Wright to bring us some compelling live-action Mermaid-related content. No, Popeye didn't work. True, The Flinstones was a disaster. And Wright's last project, The Soloist was visually compelling but lacked anything nearing a coherent story. So this could turn into an epic disaster, a Waterworld level punchline.
Which is precisely why I'm betting on it.
Our expectations couldn't be lower because mermaids usually look fake (the tail portion usually foils the shot) and the transition from cartoon to live-action generally ends in disaster. So why not? We've got nowhere to go but up with this project, though I do wish he was simply remaking the Disney version and not going all the way back to the Hans Christian Andersen source material.
Wright directed Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, two brilliantly paced films. He's visually gifted. This could work, I'm officially talking myself into it and I'm hoping they tap me to direct the viral campaign (Hint: it would involve multiple trips to the Red Lobster seafood buffet).
One final piece of advice: consider casting Amy Adams or Emma Stone. Don't leave Ariel to chance, cast a pro.
Are people really going to buy another $15 IMAX ticket to see eight additional minutes of Avatar? The film was over 150 minutes already, how does another five percent of running time merit another trip to the multiplex? Or are there still folks out there who haven't seen it in theaters or watched the DVD?
I don't quite get this move because they'll still have to market it, send out prints, and compete against films no one has seen yet. Yeah, they'll probably be able to come up with another $50m or so in box-office revenue, adding to the prodigious $2.7 billion the film already earned, but it seems like a ton of effort for very little gain. Not to mention the mistake of fleecing the same sheep all over again. Avatar was a massive movie, a cultural touchstone, but it doesn't need another theatrical run for eight lousy minutes. I mean, c'mon fellas. Let's all act like professionals around here, eh?
On that note, I hope you all have a great weekend, full of first-run films!
Laremy is the lead critic and senior producer for a website named Film.com. He's also available on Twitter.