Hollywood is banking on the idea that film versions of Monopoly, Candy Land will be box-office hits.
Hollywood loves a good story, particularly if that story comes from something besides an original script. From Gone with the Wind to Harry Potter, Tinseltown spinning source material into box-office gold is a Hollywood tradition as old as younger, hotter third wives.
So in Hollywood there's an entire microeconomy of highly paid folks who race around trying to figure out what's the next hot trend to turn into a movie. And the next hot trend is ...
Yes, really. Board games. Reportedly, directors as notable as Ridley Scott and Peter Berg have respectively signed on to big-budget versions of Monopoly and Battleship, and there's even a version of Candy Land in the works. No word yet, though, on the Steven Spielberg adaptation of Chutes and Ladders.
It might seem like trying to turn board games into event movies is the height of creative laziness. Actually, Land of the Lost is the height of creative laziness. But there might be some rationality to the board game idea.
For a while now, the source material du jour has been video games. The thinking: If 18- to 29-year-old males will pay 50 bucks to interact with a game console for hours on end, surely they'll pay 12 bucks to sit and watch a movie based on the game they could be home enjoying. But that kind of logic gave us films like Doom and Hitman and Resident Evil, and a whole bunch of other stuff that's gonna go straight into the American Film Institute's vault for priceless gems.
The consensus in Hollywood wasn't that video game movies sucked, but that the source material they came from was far too complicated for the general public. So, Hollywood figured it needed to base movies on something a little less complex. Like theme-park rides. Country Bear Jamboree, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean were all theme-park attractions before they were movies. It worked. Three Pirates movies later, Hollywood came to the conclusion that the simpler the source material, the bigger the box-office success. So from theme park rides, we got downgraded to toys. Transformers, and this summer Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe. And if toys could hit it big, didn't it just figure something more simplistic would hit it even bigger?
Truth is, while everywhere else in the world familiarity breeds contempt, in Hollywood it tends to breed comfort. Execs like to go with what they know, and what they know is that name recognition makes it easier to cut through the constant white noise of advertising and help a film gain awareness. But does that guarantee a good movie? I suppose that depends on how you feel about the 1985 movie version of the board game Clue.
You do remember the 1985 movie version of the board game Clue … don't you?
John Ridley is a screenwriter, author and Emmy Award winner. His movie credits include Three Kings, which starred George Clooney. His most recent novel is What Fire Cannot Burn.