Since making their feature debut in 2009 with the animated adventure Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been slowly establishing themselves as two of the top tier comedic filmmakers in Hollywood, and with the release of both The LEGO Movie and 22 Jump Street this year that fact has been firmly established. Each feature they’ve made has not only been able to earn heaps of critical praise, but also box office success. Those are the two magic pieces you need to write your own ticket in Hollywood, so there remains one big question: what the hell are they going to do next?
Ever since 22 Jump Street managed to trounce How To Train Your Dragon 2 in theaters this past weekend, I have been racking my brain thinking about the directions I would love to see Lord and Miller go. Considering their sensibilities, style, taste and even a few quotes from the past, I’ve come up with five different future feature projects that the directing duo would be perfect for. What are they? Read on to find out!
The Next Muppets Movie
Phil Lord and Chris Miller have garnered reputations for making amazing movies based on properties that everyone thought couldn’t be properly translated to the big screen, but obviously The don’t really fit into that category. After all, Jim Henson’s most famous creations have not only been part of many successful features over the years, but have also been doing quite well in recent years with James Bobin’s The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted. It’s not a franchise that needs saving and not even one that’s really in any trouble – but that doesn’t mean that Lord and Miller wouldn’t be the perfect directors to make the next installment in the series.
While the two directors don’t have any extensive puppetry experience as far as I know, it’s not hard to see how their particular style and comedy would mesh perfectly with Kermit and his gang. Both certainly have shown the same deep appreciation for meta humor – regularly both slyly and overtly referencing the filmmaking process within their productions – and there certainly exists a shared certain appreciation for madcap weirdness. And while Lord and Miller obviously aren’t experienced working with Muppets, they have spent their entire careers flipping back and forth between live action and animation – a fact that they have the ability to adapt to the format of whatever they’re making. With James Bobin now focusing all of his attention on the Alice In Wonderland sequel Through The Looking Glass, the director’s chair is presumably open for a potential new Muppet film. Hopefully Lord and Miller would be up for taking over that seat.
Being the comic book fan that I am, when I spoke with Phil Lord and Chris Miller back before the release of The LEGO Movie I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask if they would ever be up for making a live-action superhero movie. While they were rather non-committal at the time, they were also open to the idea, Miller jokingly saying, "We really only like to do things that we don’t know how to do." Hopefully that interest is legitimate, because there’s a DC Comics property coming down the pike that they would be absolutely perfect for: Shazam.
While the film hasn’t actually been confirmed by Warner Bros. just yet, rumor has it that a Shazam movie is getting prepped for a July 2016 release, and while Lord and Miller would perhaps be seen as unconventional choices by many, they could also be perfect. The duo got to cut their teeth in the action genre with some pretty damn cool sequences in both 21 and 22 Jump Street, and their input could also go a long way in balancing out the tones of the growing "DC Cinematic Universe", as they could bring a touch of lightness and levity to what Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel suggests is a very dark world. Going with a more comedic approach for a film about a young boy who can turn into an ultra-powerful adult superhero is not only at least a tad bit natural, but it would also stop people from complaining that Shazam is too similar to Superman. The time crunch may make this one an impossibility, but that’s not keeping me from having my fingers crossed.
Before you guys all leap down to the comments section to tell me what an idiot I am, let me say right up front that I know Phil Lord and Chris Miller already walked away from the Ghostbusters 3 negotiating table. They have cited the fact that they are simply too worn out for the gig, having both made two movies this year and started work on a new television series, The Last Man On Earth with Will Forte. Understandable as Lord and Miller’s exhaustion is, however, I still hold out hope that they will reconsider – because they are the perfect directors to take the reins of the long in-development sequel.
This is where Lord and Miller’s specialty really comes into play. We’ve been hearing about Ghostbusters 3 for years and years, and thanks to the disappointing Ghostbusters 2 and Bill Murray’s refusal to be a part of the project, the movie doesn’t exactly have a high profile. As the directing partners explained to us on the set of 22 Jump Street, they have a tendency to excel thanks to lowered expectations and taking on projects that outwardly sound like terrible ideas, and in its current state Ghostbusters 3 seems like both of those things (that said, the optimism that would be created by Lord and Miller signing on to make the movie would also potentially makes this a moot point). After the success of the Jump Street films it’s not hard to imagine that Sony is keen on the idea of keeping the directors in-house, and while Ghostbusters 3 is targeting a start of production date at beginning of next year, I wonder if the studio might be willing to push those plans back to accommodate some breathing room.
Clone High: The Movie
The whole reason we're inspired to wishlist Lord-Miller's next project is because Phil Lord and Chris Miller have clout unlike any they’ve seen in their careers before, and at this point can probably write their own ticket. Even though we are now more than a month and a half into the blockbuster summer season, The LEGO Movie remains the highest domestic grossing movie of 2014 – having pulled in a total of $256 million – and just this past weekend 22 Jump Street performed magnificently to the tune of $57.1 million (more than enough to take down rival opener How To Train Your Dragon 2). So why not take all of that new influence and use it to try and reinvigorate the project that first got them their big break in the industry: the animated television series Clone High?
For those of you unfamiliar with the animated series that ran for one season back in 2002-2003, Clone High was a show co-created by Lord, Miller and Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence and set at a high school where the student body is entirely made up of clones of some of the world’s greatest historical figures. While the show dealt with its fair share of controversy (India took serious issue with the portrayal of Gandhi as an ADD-afflicted party machine), the reality is that the series was hysterical, smart, and under-appreciated in its time. Now could be the perfect moment to bring it back and create a conclusion for the massive cliffhanger it ended on. It doesn’t even have to be a theatrical release – we just want more Clone High!
Something Completely Original
Funny, and smart as Phil Lord and Chris Miller have proven themselves to be, there’s a very real possibility that we have yet to see the full extent of what they can actually do in film. Every movie that they have taken on thus far in their careers has been some kind of adaptation, be it bringing the book Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs to life or forming a feature length plot around the great toy franchise that is LEGO. The two filmmakers clearly have a knack for working within the studio system (an important quality due to the fact that so many titles these days are based on pre-existing properties), but now that they are sitting closer to the top of the food chain now may be the perfect time for them to unleash something that is completely and entirely from their collective minds.
Unlike all of the other projects on this list, it’s obviously impossible for me to discuss any kinds of specifics, but how could you not trust Lord and Miller’s vision at this point to create something unique and awesome? They’ve already worked hard to expose and prove that smart comedy will be appreciated by mass audiences, and if they could ride that wave to get a studio to make something truly original, what’s to complain about? It’s likely that they probably wouldn’t be able to get too much of a budget for it, as Hollywood still values proven brands far more than proven talent, but if done on the right scale and while working the right angles I trust that they could come up with something spectacular.
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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