Garry Marshall is either a creative genius or lazy. At this stage of the game, I honestly can’t tell.
New Year’s Eve -- Marshall’s second Love Boat meets Cannonball Run celebrity mashup loosely structured around an annual holiday -- hits theaters Friday, and even casual viewers recognize it as Valentine’s Day in a different city (New York in place of L.A.) with some new faces, some recycled stars, and some actors we never thought we’d see on screen again. (Hello, Cary Elwes!)
So it’s a lazy retread, right? Except, Valentine’s Day was a surprise hit, earning $110.4 million, so maybe Marshall’s on to something. We’ll know more when Eve reports its box-office take, answering whether star-studded lightning can strike the same place twice.
And if it does, count on Marshall rustling up a fresh batch of bright, shiny stars and moving on to the next major holiday. Halloween has been done (thank you, John Carpenter). Thanksgiving seems too obvious a choice.
How about St. Patrick’s Day?
Hoping to stay ahead of Marshall’s holiday curve, I’m put together a pitch. Some suggestions, from a bona fide Irishman, in case Marshall wants to sprinkle “céad míle fáilte” across his next ensemble comedy. Is this a ringing endorsement for yet another holiday-themed effort by the Pretty Woman director? Not exactly. But if it has to happen, here’s what I’d love to see for St. Patty’s Day.
Los Angeles and New York are crucial to the successes of Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, respectively. And there’s only one perfect city to serve as the backdrop for a star-studded St. Patrick’s Day celebration. OK, maybe two.
Chicago and Dublin.
So I say, “Use them both!” Marshall hasn’t ventured outside of his chosen locale with one of these ensemble comedies yet. Maybe now’s the time. I even have an idea as to how he could do it.
You have a main protagonist, a Chicago fill-in-the-blank (ad executive, financial analyst, lawyer or some other generic job Hollywood loves squeezing into these formulaic storylines). He has a small group of colorful, close-knit friends. Every year, they get wasted and party around Chicago’s dyed-green river. But the routine’s getting old. This year, they’re shaking it up. This year, they’re taking the party to Ireland.
You start the movie in the Windy City, filming at recognizable landmarks to establish your setting. You factor in a “wacky” airport/airplane sequence, which allows you to make “cutting edge” jokes about the TSA and testy flight attendants (an Alec Baldwin cameo as a disgruntled game-playing passenger would be perfect right here), as well as introduce new characters. Then you conclude the film in Dublin, where a cast of hundreds can join the revelry and engage in tasteless jokes about potato famines, broke economies, and Bono’s massive ego.
We’re almost there. I can see the studio’s Kelly-green greenlight (appropriate) at the end of the tunnel. Now all we need are hordes of Irish actors, and we’ll be kissing the box office Blarney Stone of success.
So, who do we cast?
That’s a no-brainer. Make him the “Ashton Kutcher” of this new ensemble piece, the driving force and the drunken life of the party. Make room for Farrell’s In Bruges co-star (and Dublin native) Brendan Gleeson once the action shifts to Ireland. You know you want to see this imaginary movie now.
But Farrell needs friends. And since Marshall has a penchant for luring A-list talent, I’m betting he can get Matt Damon to play Farrell’s wing man. Chris Evans, also Irish, could and should tag along for the ride. And this entourage needs a dash on unpredictability. Get me Robert Downey Jr.’s agent on the line.
Now, leading ladies. This is easier than it sounds. Anne Hathaway’s Irish, and she has a connection to Marshall from their Princess Diaries days. Done and done. I’m picturing Hathaway as a maid of honor helping her best-friend bride (Zooey Deschanel) prepare for an overseas wedding. Needless to say, Deschanel’s fiancée (Dane Cook) is a real ass, and only Farrell can steal her away.
I see, now, why Marshall and screenwriter Katherine Fugate keep coming back to this formula. This crap practically writes itself.
Anyway, mix in Heather Graham as a flight attendant, Conan O’Brien as the minister conducting the wedding ceremony, Denis Leary as a pub owner, the Baldwin brothers as his loyal patrons, Diane Keaton as the mother of the bride, and George Clooney as Dublin’s mayor, and you have a hit on your hands. Oh, and Bono – heck, all of U2 – needs to show up and perform. That’s infinitely cooler than the Jon Bon Jovi-Lea Michele duet we get in New Year’s Eve.
You’re welcome, Mr. Marshall. I’ll see you at the theaters on March 17, 2013. You bring the Guinness.
(Bachelor party image via Shutterstock. St. Patrick's Day image via Liviu Toader / Shutterstock.com)