The docudrama was once the exclusive property of the small screen. It was TNT, TBS and Lifetimes that could be depended upon to rip stories from the headlines and dramatize them in longform.
With “United 93” and “The Pursuit of Happyness,” however, the major film studios are once again seeing critical favor and even commercial potential in reality-based features. In fact, Daily Variety has learned that several top screenwriters, enjoying the first flush of pre-Oscar buzz, are engaged in bringing some of 2006’s events to the bigscreen — although their approaches might sound more than a little familiar.
Script exposes the shocking trade in celebrities adopting Third World babies. A race across the African continent is run between Brangelina and their lawyers, Madonna and her lawyers, and an African man who hid his kid years ago in a tree stump. All teams converge on the site at once, only to be told by host Phil Keoghan that Mia Farrow got there first. The African man is adopted by Brangelina, while Madonna signs up for Netflix and receives a perfectly good child fully returnable in a postpaid envelope.
‘The Last Queen of Florida’
Nicholas, a young medical school graduate on a job search, receives a series of email messages from the screen name “FoliAminDada.” At the interview, he learns that the emailer is a Great Leader who requires the services of a personal physician, and over time the young doctor enjoys the perks of power. Then, during his annual physical, the Leader suggests that this time it be Nicholas who undresses down to his skivvies. Realizing that the Leader would rather play doctor than employ one, Nicholas makes his escape down a drainpipe and tells his story to ABC News. An outraged populace revolts, the Leader is deposed, and the Democrats retake Congress.
‘The Angel Wears Nada’
In the tradition of “United 93” and “Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Story,” the principals will be sought to portray themselves in this trendy tale of trashy wenches skanking their way up the celeb glamour ladder. Britney, Lindsay, Paris and Nicole all vie for the attentions of imperious ice queen Madonna, but Britney’s coterie of gay men gives her the edge in her makeover. Madonna anoints Britney as her successor in a lip-lock at the Video Music Awards, but then comes the downward spiral, complete with no-account husband and fashion faux -pas. Title refers to the climactic moment when she alights from a limo and reveals her unconventional lingerie choice.
‘Letters From Corpus Christi’
Sometimes the fiercest battles are best understood from the viewpoint of the other side. As the Americans prowl the countryside, rifles in their hands and blood in their hearts, Japanese observers describe the tumultuous events to relatives back home. “Dearest Plum Blossom,” writes one onlooker, a groundskeeper, “the gentle wind rustles through the forest, but the birds sing no more. I think that fat f*** Cheney just shot his friend’s face off.” In Japanese with subtitles, the wails of the wounded in pure uncensored English.
‘Cars II: Fully Audited’
This year’s dreamiest celeb romance as only Pixar can tell it. Returning from the set of “Days of Thunder,” Tom decides he’d like to become a two-seater. He hooks up with a couple of old jalopies, but is unsatisfied. While speeding through the desert town of Scientopolis, the cocky Tom is pulled over and sentenced to community service at the local garage. There he meets Kat, a hot new model who hasn’t been around the block yet. Nine months later they unveil a new vehicle, a Suri with the fringe on top. When he goes on TV and bounces around to test out his springs, the garage owner is furious and fires him, but Tom builds his own parking structure and tools around in a victory lap.
A scraggly improv comic, Mikhail scores the supporting role of Kramer in a TV sitcom and garners three Emmy Awards over a nine-year run, after which opportunities dry up with a string of failed pilots and series and lackluster feature films. Seeking a standup career, he does a gig at the Laff Factory in Astana, Kazakhstan, where he’s introduced as “Kramer,” which happens to be Kazakh for “your nation smells.” Unaware why the audience is hissing and booing, Mikhail goes off on a tirade in which he makes fun of the national trousers style: “Knickers! You’re all wearing knickers! Knickers!” In a happy ending, he’s banned from the country but books a national commercial for Old Navy.
‘Rummier Than Fiction’
While brushing his teeth one morning, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hears a female voice saying, “Rummy brushed his teeth, the wrong way as usual.” For days afterward the voice narrates and criticizes everything he does, unnerving him into making a series of ever more erratic and ill-conceived decisions. In the course of channel surfing, Rumsfeld pauses on C-SPAN’s “Book Notes” and recognizes the voice of his tormentor. Sprinting across town, he bursts into the office of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who admits she’s been driving him crazy in order to get rid of him. She agrees to knock off the treatment if he will resign, which he promptly does. “Mission accomplished!” crows Dowd, who begins narrating the life of Bill O’Reilly.