I read your screenplay Matadora and really enjoyed it so was pleased to see this one pop into my assignment box. I usually take a very subjective approach to reviews. However, I may have to go a slightly different tack with this one as this is a film that is clearly not written with me in mind. The audience for this I think would be quite young. This is not in any way meant as an insult but it’s the type of daytime Disney channel film my 12 year old sister would watch (and enjoy!).
I liked the concept. This is my kind of fantasy. Not full-out goblins and wizards but a small change to the real world, which acts a metaphor and allows for something meaningful to be said about the world we live in. This was also one of the few screenplays I’ve read with a strong theme to it. GOOD.
The dialogue is good without being great. On occasions I felt it was a bit overwritten, you have a tendency of explaining things through dialogue that don’t need to spelt out for the audience. An early example is Pg 5 - I don’t think anything is gained from going into so much detail.
The dialogue doesn’t feel particularly authentic but it is very reminiscent of the sort of dialogue you would find in Hannah Montana, High School Musical type programmes/films and I actually think it holds up quite well when placed side to side with these types of children’s fare. I’ve been wavering between average and good for dialogue but it made me smile on occasions and though not particularly authentic it was enjoyable to read so I’m going to be kind and say GOOD.
Solid structure, which follows all the rules (perhaps a bit too rigidly). Nothing particularly unique or exciting about it but I don’t see originality in this area as a necessity so GOOD.
I thought the story, though engaging, played out a little too predictably for me. This was the same for Matadora, though that story had a few unexpected twists and flourishes which helped it rise above it’s well-trodden path. This on the other hand played out more or less how I was expecting after reading the logline and was pretty cliched so I’m going to rate the story AVERAGE.
I thought Brock and Kelly were very clichéd and one dimensional.
I thought Tad was likeable but bland. I understand he’s meant to be an average sort of kid and you want the audience to be able to relate him but I think you need to give him some sort of character. At the moment he’s averagely popular, averagely intelligent, average at just about everything. He doesn’t have any big flaws and he doesn’t have any standout qualities either. I think if you’re expecting people to want to spend and hour and a half with a character you need to make them more interesting. You can still make a character likeable and relatable while at the same time making them an individual in their own right.
Tommy is the one character that I really liked. Without Tommy the screenplay would fall flat, though thankfully she’s in almost every scene. This is an example of what I was talking about with Tad. Tommy is likable and relatable while also being very much a living, breathing individual.
Apart from Tommy I thought your characters were below average but with her I think it bumps your rating here up to AVERAGE.
It’s got its faults but it was an easy and enjoyable read. It’s unoriginal but I don’t think that’s as much of a criticism when it comes to children’s films (though it’s still a criticism). I'm pretty sure my sister would enjoy it. Overall I’d rate it GOOD.
Here are a few notes I made as I went along.
Pg 27-8 –Tommy immediately believes Tad has a tail, before even seeing!? I realise this isn’t meant to be a realist drama or anything but…
Pg 29 – Dad ‘there’s nothing wrong…inside that’s important.’ You’ve just summed up the whole theme of the film in a line of dialogue! I know this is meant for kids but you don’t have to treat them like idiots. Even a six year old will have worked out by now that this is what the film is about. Same rules apply – show don’t tell.
Pg 50 – ‘the idea of creationism is questionable at best.’ This is a politicians response, it doesn’t sound like Tommy at all. Have you toned down her response for fear of trashing creationism? Having your characters make controversial statements doesn’t in turn make your screenplay controversial.
Pg 53 – you could probably get away with just having a quick shot of these two chatting secretly MOS. It’s obvious what they’d be chatting about.
Pg 58 – ‘I think all that attitude is a defence mechanism…’ – again you don’t have to spell it all out for the audience.
Pg 72 – ‘my heart…a minute.’ – this line jarred with me. Is this the sort of thing Tad would say? If he’s so shy about dancing with Tommy would he really admit to this? It’s also very corny and there’s no need for it. The actions speak for themselves.
Pg 79 – ‘he tried to compromise my daughters virtue.’ – great line.
Pg 85 – okay here’s what I’m thinking, and do what you want with this advice it’s your script…all the usual caveats. For me, this is where the script should end. After END MONTAGE I would personally like to see FADE OUT. Tad’s character arc has come to an end, Tad and Tommy have become friends again and Tommy has admitted her feelings for Tad. The montage scene after is great. It’s actually got quite a transcendent feel to it. In fact it would be pretty much the perfect ending. You would end on a happy note with Tad and Tommy enjoying each others company and the suggestion that a relationship might blossom in the future and yet the fact that Tad looks like he’s going to have to move away gives it a tinge of sadness. I find the best endings are like this both happy and sad at the same time. These endings are great because you get a double whammy of conflicting emotions. On the contrary a contrived happy ending may make you smile but it doesn’t resonate in the same way and if it’s too contrived (as I think yours is) it can end up making you feel a bit hollow. I found that I didn’t really care about anything else that came afterwards. The rest just seems to be trying up loose ends and it seems contrived in the way you manipulate events so that everything turns out perfectly for Tad. Stu just felt like a deus ex machina. It all seems very convenient and it’s unengaging because
i. the story is about Tad accepting himself for who he his, not whether or not he can remain at his school nor whether Brock and Kelly get their comeuppance
ii. Tad wins, not through any actions he himself takes, but through a Deus ex machina.
Pg 90 – ‘ I for one knew he was innocent…’ - No way would the Principal ever say this. It wouldn’t make him look better, it would make him look weak and incompetent expelling a boy he knew to be innocent.
This is a good script. You’re a talented writer and your scripts will do well on this site, and deservedly so. My main advice for future projects would be to try writing something a bit more unique. You’ve got the talent; why not give it a go? There are literally hundreds of writers out there who can write a high school comedy of this quality as the rules of the genre are so clearly defined and therefore so easily learned. If you want to get yourself noticed I feel you need to find your own voice somewhat. I want to see how YOU view the world not how other film’s of the same genre view it. Try to take inspiration from sources other than just films and write something that only you could write because if you can do that and it’s good (which on the basis of the two scripts of yours I’ve read I’ve no doubt it will be) then people will sit up and take notice. Scarcity adds value. Scripts like A Boy’s Tale and Matadora aren’t scarce and, though enjoyable and technically well done, will never stand you out from the crowded pack.
Thanks for read though. I did enjoy it despite my criticisms.
Review of: A Boy's Tail
reviewed by jackjohns on 02/04/2009
Review ID: 2199553
Other Reviews by jackjohns 40
A review of GOOD WITH WORDS (REVISED)by jackjohns on 09/22/2013Good with Words is one of those Screenplays that's quite tricky to review. Usually in my reviews I focus on the parts of the script I love and the parts I hate. In this case there wasn't much of either. It was an easy and enjoyable story that never completely gripped me. The dialogue flowed well but never zinged off the page. It had some good ideas which weren't explored as... Good with Words is one of those Screenplays that's quite tricky to review. Usually in my reviews I focus on the parts of the script I love and the parts I hate. In this case there wasn't much of either. It was an easy and enjoyable story that never completely gripped me. The dialogue flowed well but never zinged off the page. It had some good ideas which weren't explored as deeply as I would have liked. I smiled on many occasions but never laughed.
I have one big criticism to do with your Act 2 but I'll get to that later. First the good;
With the exception of a dull opening shot (see notes) your script opened well. All your characters were introduced very well; we got a handle on their characters through good opening descriptions and their actions in the scene gave further insight in scenes which were engaging in their own right. I particularly liked that Gabe's disability is kept hidden to the end of the scene. Your characters are well drawn, likeable (apart from the one's who aren't meant to be) and interesting. I particularly like the character of Gabe and I liked how the script explored some of the issues that he would face, from being wheelchair bound, but that at the same time he was never defined by his disability. You could see why girls would fall for him, wheelchair or no.
Your third act had some really good moments as well but I'll say more about that in my notes.
pg 1 - Might be an idea to start with an Ext. shot to establish location and/or a striking image that relates to your theme.
pg 2 - I'm already hooked. Great job!
pg 17 - I like the awkward interview with Garland.
pg 25 - 'While it is possible…impression on me.' Right, I say this knowing that you're probably going to roll your eyes and think I'm some dumb bloke who doesn't know what he's talking about but… Gabe's advice here is terrible. I know the first one is meant to be a joke about what you shouldn't say but 'Hi, I'm Evan…hundreds of contenders' is so much better than Gabe's serious suggestion. Now, I'm not saying it's perfect or that I would use it myself but it shows confidence, it shows humour, it's quick and to the point. Gabe's real suggestion is long winded and shows complete lack of confidence - 'it is possible I've left no impression on you.' It's bland, it's safe, it's boring. Okay, so the 'I don't know much…find out more' is okay but better to say something specific about Daria's personality or something she said that night that intrigued him. I also think dinner is a terrible idea for a first date, though maybe that last one is more of a personal preference.
pg 33 - Sanjeep's profile is very funny. Particularly the first line.
pg 37 - 'Last night…in your eyes.' That's pretty lame...
..as is the next bit.
Although, Evan's request for 'twenty percent less cheesy' is funny.
I did wonder at this point whether Gabe was intentionally giving bad advice because of his attraction to Daria, though from reading the rest of the screenplay this clearly isn't meant to be the case.
pg 48 - Sorry if I'm sounding like a broken record but most girls would run a mile if a bloke sent them this after what? 2 dates? After a few months of dating fine…but 2 dates!?
pg 49 - having said that I do like the conceit here.
pg 50 - 'You know…another person.' That's brutally harsh from Gabe.
pg 58 - funny with Gabe getting stuck during his dramatic exit.
pg 65 - I like the fleshing out of Gabe's character here.
pg 77 - I was about to comment that the 'I love you man[s]' were a bit sappy but you saved it with the very funny awkward hug/fist bump.
pg 81 - I was expecting fireworks at the revelations but it's turned out to be more of a damp sparkler.
pg 87 - this is a great scene. I like how Evan helps him in the most un P.C. and confrontational manner and Gabe's outburst felt earned and powerful.
pg 88 - I have to admit I was siding with Gabe over Richard in the argument over happy endings but I like how you've used this to show Gabe's change of worldview from bleak to optimistic.
pg 91-2 - I'd end this scene earlier, probably after Richard's 'This is my agent…want it pretty bad.' We understand at this point that it was always about Gabe's worldview rather than the commercial merits of different endings so there's no need to spell this out for us at the end. I was worried that you were shoehorning your own opinions on the merits of happy endings over sad so I'm glad that this twist made it clear that this wasn't the case.
pg 94 - I really like the character of Sanjeep. I think you should try to integrate him more into the plot somehow, rather than just having him as a funny skit that pops up now and again but feels detached from the rest of the story.
I'm not sure Gabe endorsing Evan's crackpot ideas at the end is a particularly good character development. It seems you're saying that it's a positive thing to lie and say something nice to please a person in the short term even if it will end up damaging them in the long run.
What if it's Evan's character who develops here. Maybe Gabe does dismiss his yoghurt idea again but by this point Evan has grown in self confidence and self belief and is willing to act on an idea because he believes in it's value rather than relying on Gabe's validation all the time. Gabe's been a crutch for Evan, with Evan living his life through Gabe's suggestions, throughout the story, so it would be nice to see Evan finally take control and responsibility for his own life and decisions. Gabe's already just completed one arc. Share the love and give poor Evan one too.
pg 98-9 - I like Gabe's speech about independence but it's a bit contrived and corny to then have J.J. do an amazing jump. Remember the Rocky rule. Why not have J.J. run amok; knocking food out of the spectators hands, grabbing the M.C.'s clip board and ditching it in the water etc. The have Gabe and Daria get together while J.J. causes havoc in the background. This will counteract the slight corniness of the ending and would also be a nice visual moment showing how much the two of them are in love - even with so much carnage going on around them they only have eyes for each other.
The main thing I think you need to look at in your next draft is your Act 2. You set everything up nicely in Act 1 but in Act 2 the story kind of stalled. It heads down the same tack for far too long and this causes it to drag a little. We can see that Gabe's affection for Daria and the deceit in his writing on behalf of Evan is going to come to a head at the beginning of Act 2 and I'd like to see it get to that place sooner so that we can move somewhere new. Gabe wrote that first message to Daria on pg 25 and we find out immediately that Daria is the girl whom Gabe met earlier and took a liking to but it's not until pg 73 that we finally get to the inevitable confrontations and fallout from this. I've never been one to be pedantic about story beats but 48 pages is far too long between turning points. Consider getting to this point half way through Act 2 rather than waiting till the end. Having this as an Act 2 mid point/turning point would really help to keep the story moving.
Having taken so long to get to the inevitable moment where Gabe's secret attraction for Daria and Gabe and Evan's deceit is uncovered, I was disappointed how quickly everyone forgives each other. I wanted the shit to hit the fan more.
However, I did like the turn of events on pg 83 with Gabe's fear of commitment/lack of self worth causing him to turn Daria down. If you had the double turning point, mentioned in the previous two paragraphs, as the centrepiece of Act 2 then you could spend the second half of Act 2 giving us a greater, more satisfying fallout from these revelations and build up to the point, where Evan forgives Gabe and where Daria is persuaded that Gabe's intentions were good and his writing sincere, in a way that feels earned and believable. Then have the second turning point of Gabe turning Daria down at the end of Act 2/beginning of Act 3.
I'll finish by reiterating that there was a lot to like in this screenplay, I enjoyed spending time with these characters and with another draft or two I suspect it will end up being very good indeed. Any questions/clarifications/counterarguments you have about anything I've said, feel free to drop me a message.
Best of luck with it,
A review of Critics' Choiceby jackjohns on 09/21/2013This was a very entertaining screenplay which held my interest throughout and had an excellent twist at the end. It's almost great but at the moment there are a few flaws which hold it back. Nothing particularly serious though and with another draft I think this script will be ready. Here are notes I made as I was reading. Among other things, I thought it would be useful to... This was a very entertaining screenplay which held my interest throughout and had an excellent twist at the end. It's almost great but at the moment there are a few flaws which hold it back. Nothing particularly serious though and with another draft I think this script will be ready.
Here are notes I made as I was reading. Among other things, I thought it would be useful to note down my guesses as to your characters intentions and twists later on in the plot so that you get an idea of which parts I saw coming and which were a surprise. I will add that I enjoyed playing detective and it's a credit to your script that I was engaged enough to be so active as a reader.
pg 1 - I like bold scene headings. I started doing that, for a while, ages ago. I should take up the habit again.
pg 1 - I would advise against giving actors names in your screenplay. If an actor other than the one you've listed reads the script then it's going to put them off. You don't want them thinking their second choice (at best). I like Victor's description otherwise though.
pg 5 - I like the bit with the scrabble letters. Not sure what it means but it intrigues me.
pg 6 - We already know how Jarrod feels about the film here so I can't help feeling that rather than having him being so needlessly blunt there's an opportunity for some subtler, subtext infused dialogue. Maybe he tries to avoid the subject completely and it just sits there, a big elephant in the room, while they engage in awkward small talk. Or perhaps he uses subtext to rib Victor in subtler ways.
pg 7 - this conversation is packed with exposition. Your dialogue sounds natural and is enjoyable to read but in this scene you're laying everything out so plainly for the audience. There's nothing for us to work out for ourselves and there's no ebb and flow. There's no arc to the scene. They start off with the blunt accusations and continue on the same level throughout. Perhaps it would be better to begin with attempts at faux politeness and small talk and then gradually build the tension up until it reaches boiling point. Individual scenes need an arc to them. You start at one place and end at another.
pg 7 - is that a second titanic metaphor from Jarrod? That's at least one too many if it is, though I wasn't entirely sure with the first on pg 6 'you're sinking faster than one ship her maiden voyage' as you seemed to have missed out a word or two.
As I say, the dialogue sounds good just cut the fat. There's so much of these two just repeating the same things. E.g. The fact that Scott gives Victor bad review(s) is mentioned;
pg 1 - 'One shit review…only Scott's.'
pg 2 - 'Mr Gottstein…Scott's review in today's Times?'
pg 2 - 'Scott's never given my films the credit they deserve.'
pg 3 - 'Scott seems intent on destroying anything we make.'
pg 6 - 'Your premiere--unfortunate…'
pg 6 - 'Yet still can't make a good film.'
pg 7 - 'That's why you sink my films.'
pg 7 - 'Your films are like…Iceberg.'
pg 7 - 'You're saying your reviews…'
pg 8 - '(condescending) ah what cinematic masterpieces.'
pg 8 - 'You've panned every film I've ever made --not one good review.'
Okay, I'm going to stop there because I've just realised how many more quotes I'm going to have to type out just in the next two pages i.e. even more than the last couple.
You could do the same exercise with dialogue that informs us that Victor's movies haven't been making money (and you'd probably get about the same). Cut it down.
pg 8 - I'm pretty certain with the way Victor talks that he's going to murder Jarrod. This suddenly all feels very similar to 'The Player.' And you're quotes at the start don't help with this similarity.
pg 11 - having said that you have set up an interesting plot here with the bet, and Victor's (possibly) murderous intent. I'm hooked.
pg 14 - I was wondering how you pronounced Tesse. Glad she explained it for me.
pg 24 - I like that Jarrod's suspicious. I hope something comes out of these.
pg 25 - I'm not sure a newspaper would make themselves impossible to contact, especially for a high profile critic. Surely they'd want to leave themselves open for people to be able to phone in with stories.
pg 25 - Ah, I've a feeling Jarrod's plot is going to echo your plot. Very meta. And now I'm thinking perhaps Victor is going to be framed for murder by Jarrod. Maybe poor Tesse gets it? Intriguing…
pg 29 - I'm not clear on who Dan is? He's not an investor as they've already got the budget and he's not lead actor. Maybe director?
pg 32 - I'm detecting a bit of House of Cards in this script. With Victor as the Frank character and Tesse as the Zoe...
pg 33 - Cut 'Well, when you're determined enough.' We know Tesse's determined (probably ruthless). You don't need her effectively turning to the audience and saying, 'in case those of you in the back row don't get it, this is what I'm about.' This goes for rest of the script too. Plenty of similar lines by Victor commenting on his own ruthless nature. You need to trust that the audience/reader is going to be smart enough to pick up on subtler hints and work things out for themselves.
pg 46 - another scene of Jarrod and Victor which goes on too long. Why not end the scene with Jarrod's line 'Answer me this: Who's more important, the man who builds the piano or the man who plays it.' Jarrod wins the argument here and it's a great line but you then feel the need to carry on the scene to spell out the exact meaning of the phrase (trust me we can work it out for ourselves) and to drag out the argument way past it's sell by date.
pg 48 - I can't work out what Victor's plan is here. Why is he trying to get the lead actors embroiled in controversy? I can only think of two consequences;
i. They have to get new actors for the film (can't see how that helps his aim).
ii. The film gets a lot of free press (this visibility would surely help with an academy award).
Another thing is that these are actors, not politicians. Hamilton's affair is obviously going to affect his private life but not sure, in this day an age, it would harm his career and it would probably help the film. And while it might be embarrassing to be caught sniffing coke it's hardly that damaging when you're an actor.
pg 49 - I'm from England so you probably know better than me but is the US really this homophobic still!? I find it quite hard to believe that blokes would feel insecure about watching a film with a gay actor but I know that it is still very religious over there so maybe this is the case.
I think that Travolta/Cruise gay joke is getting a bit tired by now.
pg 52 - 'Actually, it's a story I'm writing.' Wow this is getting meta. A story within a film within a film.' I like it!
pg 72 - I very much like the fact that we don't know Tesse's intentions. She's clearly planning something and I'm guessing she will come out victorious but as to what she's planning I'm not sure. if I had to guess at this point I'd say she murders one of them and frames the other…though to what end I'm not sure.
pg 84 - Okay, so Victor kills Jarrod. I'm not entirely sure whether this was always his intention or not. Victor has implied on a number of occasions previously that he was intending to kill Jarrod but then what was the plan with the lead actors and hateful director about? Maybe Victor only decided to kill Jarrod once Jarrod threatened him. The problem with this is that it makes all of Victor's plans earlier (which I still don't completely understand) seemingly irrelevant. I'm going to hold off judgement for now as it may all come together in the final 15 pages but at the moment I'm thinking I would rather have seen the result of Victor's original plan rather than simply have him kill Jarrod off.
I also think that this is an incredibly risky move from Victor. I would expect Victor to be cleverer than this. He has been talking to Tesse, a girl he's known for a very short time and knows very little about, in a way that suggests he hates Jarrod so much he would be willing to kill him. In fact pretty much everyone knows that Victor hates Jarrod and presumably they're mostly aware of how ruthless and uncompromising Victor is. The whole ruse about Jarrod committing suicide over being accused of plagiarism (especially considering the accuser has absolutely no evidence whatsoever) I really can't see fooling anyone. Even without the added spanner of Tesse, there's no way Victor could possibly hope to get away with this.
pg 87 - Aha, so that's the deal with the scrabble letters. Very good. I like something ambiguous which is paid off later on. Tesse not even working there was one twist I definitely did not see coming.
pg 93 - So did Tesse infiltrate the studio with the intention of setting Victor up? This doesn't quite add up considering Victor seemingly picked her at random to be his spy. Maybe it should have been Tesse who offers to help Victor in the first place.
pg 92 - My guess is that Tesse is Victor's love child.
pg 95 - Yup, I was right. Great twist. Guessed it a few pages early but didn't even occur to me as a possibility before that. It's particularly good as it explains a question I posed earlier i.e. what are Tesse's motivations. This explains them in a way that's completely satisfying.
pg 95-97 - I think technically these should be (V.O.) as (O.S.) is used for when someone is speaking in the scene but they just happen to away from where the camera is looking or on the other side of the telephone. I also think you should cut down on these lines. A few of them are good but you've got 28 lines here echoing lines that have been said before and that is overdoing it somewhat.
I like the ending where we get to see events from Tesse's point of view.
The concept's a good one and, as I say, had me hooked from page 10.
I've read so many scripts where the protagonist is a bland, 'whiter than white' character. It's so refreshing to read a script with a protagonist who's a complete, ruthless bastard (I'm talking about Victor here, though I guess there's an argument to be made that Tesse's your real protag). I liked that every character had their own agenda and that Tesse's motivations were kept hidden until the end. I think the characters of Pete and Darby need better introductions and perhaps could do with being fleshed out a bit more. I forgot who both were and had to go back and read their opening scenes again. I never really got a handle on their characters in the same way that I did with Victor, Jarrod and Tesse. Maybe make them a bit more quirky and draw them with broader brushstrokes then you would with your three main players just so they stick in the mind a bit clearer.
You've got a great story here but there are a few problems which you need to iron out. As I say in my notes once we know the twist it seems like too much of a random coincidence that Victor chooses Tesse in the beginning and also too much of a coincidence that Victor just happened to have placed this bet with Jarrod and have such murderous intent. What were Tesse's intentions when she infiltrates the studio? As far as I could tell once inside the studio the only thing that Tesse orchestrated was buying and placing the cameras. Everything else was Victor's doing. I wonder if it wouldn't make more sense for Tessa to murder Jarrod and frame Victor for it. Of course if you did go this route you'd have to disguise the fact that it was Tesse who killed Jarrod and make us think that it was Victor.
Wait a second….I've just realised that it was Tesse who put the note on Victor's door and therefore she did actively play a large part in convincing Victor that he needed to kill Jarrod. Okay, that does makes more sense. The problems in the previous paragraph aren't nearly so big now that I think about it. I still think though that Tesse should be the one who offers up her service to Victor initially.
I still don't understand though what Victor's intention was with smearing the lead actors and director before the films even been made? These actions were confusing and also had no impact on the story whatsoever because Jarrod gets killed before the result of Victor's plan is realised.
Mostly very good. Your story rattled along, gathering pace as it went. It set up questions early on which had satisfying answers later. The structure of the script as a whole was excellent but I think your individual scene structure could do with some work. You do have the habit of letting scenes drag on far longer than is necessary. The maxim of 'get in at the last possible moment and get out at the first' would be a good one to keep in mind when you do another draft. I mentioned one instance in my notes but there were loads of examples where if you could improve a scene hugely by simply chopping off the last few lines and finishing the scene earlier.
Your dialogue is both one of the best things about this script and one of it's biggest flaws. You've clear got a good ear for dialogue, it flowed off the page and was enjoyable to read …but there was too much repetition. I do think a script like this can get away with being more dialogue heavy than most as part of the fun of a story like this is the clever banter and power games that back and forth between the characters. You just need to make sure that we're not being bludgeoned by variations on the same statements being said over and over again in different ways.
Anyway, all in all a very good Screenplay which, with one more draft to tighten things up, could end up being an excellent one.
Good luck with it,
A review of Abraca-Bastardby jackjohns on 09/18/2013'Abraca-Bastard' was a fantastically enjoyable and very funny Screenplay. It's easily the best comedy script I've read on this site. It's very rare that I read a spec comedy that makes me laugh even once but this had me laughing consistently throughout, not least with your title which is hilarious. I still think it could do with another draft just to tighten things up a bit... 'Abraca-Bastard' was a fantastically enjoyable and very funny Screenplay. It's easily the best comedy script I've read on this site. It's very rare that I read a spec comedy that makes me laugh even once but this had me laughing consistently throughout, not least with your title which is hilarious. I still think it could do with another draft just to tighten things up a bit but the issues I'll mention are relatively minor compared to the all stuff that this script got right.
Dane was by far your best character. His introduction was perfect. The guerrilla magic at the wedding was very funny and we understand exactly what this character is about without any need for forced exposition. Every time he's on screen the laughs just flow. I sort of wondered whether he should have been your protagonist. Maybe that's partly because I'm British and we love to root for a bastard but he is also the most interesting, and for most of the script the most active, character given that Annie likes Chuck from the start and it's Dane that has to be active and creative in getting her back.
Which brings me to Chuck. In your logline you describe Chuck as simply 'an average Joe.' This was a big red flag to me and were it not for your fantastic title and more promising synopsis I may very well have ditched this assignment based on that description alone. I'd definitely recommend changing it. Describe him as an introvert perhaps. Anything but 'average joe.' It's the most common flaw I see in spec scripts, having a bland, 'average' protagonist. Actually Chuck wasn't quite a vanilla as I was expecting but I still think you could work on giving him some more interesting characteristics and some flaws as well. One of the other reasons I thought it might be good to at least experiment with switching protag and antag was that it might free you up from worrying about making Chuck unlikeable in any way and give you free rein to create in Chuck a character as fully developed and hilarious as Dane.
I think perhaps you could flesh out the character of Annie a bit as well, although in this case the character does need to be a beacon of desire so it's not necessary to create any obvious flaws and wasn't such a big issue.
Your dialogue is flawless and was not only the main reason why this script is as funny as it is but also helped paper over the slight blandness of Chuck and Annie's personalities. The dialogue made them both more quirky and engaging than you would think possible, were you to simply write out their personality traits on a sheet of paper. I'm awarding you my first ever excellent rating in the dialogue category. Well done, sir.
The supporting characters of Dr Timothy and Chuck's grandfather were both very funny and colourful and added a lot of humorous moments. Perhaps, though, you could try to work Chuck's grandfather into the plot a bit more. There was one scene at the funeral where Frank and Dane appear together but otherwise Chuck's visits to Frank felt a bit detached from the rest of the story.
The other slight criticism I have is to do with the hypnosis tapes. I was surprised, given your synopsis, how small a role they actually played in the story. I also felt that the reveal that the tapes were bogus and Chuck's conclusion that it was Annie who gave him the confidence was unsatisfying. It didn't ring true. What's the difference between Chuck's first attempt to ask her out and his second? Not Annie - she's present both times. The only difference is that he listened to the tapes the night before so at the very least they must have had a placebo effect. But then how much was due to the placebo affect and how much was down to Annie. It all starts to get a bit murky and, as I say, unsatisfying.
Just a thought but what if Chuck's arc is that, after initial success with the tapes he starts acting more and more confident which gradually turns into arrogance to the point where he's just as bad as Dane. You then have two complete douchebags out douchebagging each other in competition for Annie's affections only for their douchebaggery to eventually turn Annie against the both of them. Chuck could then go full circle realising that the reason Annie liked him in the first place was his self-deprecation, kindness and humility, throw his tapes in the bin and win her back (perhaps keeping just a little bit of the self confidence he's acquired).
I'm aware that readers are generally good a identifying problems in a script but bad at suggesting solutions so obviously feel free to discard that above idea if it doesn't fit with your vision. It's your script and I'm just spitballing an idea rather than trying to write your screenplay for you. I just think that the above example (or a variation on it) would help address the problems of; i) Chuck being too bland, passive and whiter than white and ii) the whole confidence/hypnosis tape plot-line petering out into insignificance.
I also think the scene near the end in which Chuck finally gets the best of Dane could do with being a little more inventive. The whole masked magician ruse seemed to come out of nowhere and felt a bit like it was you the screenwriter adding this extra detail into Dane's career in order to help Chuck out rather than Chuck solving the problem with his own ingenuity based on a flaw in Dane that's been integral throughout. Compare that to Dane's victory over Chuck in Annie's cookery showcase which I thought worked much better. Here Dane uses something that is integral to Chuck's character, his suggestibility, to make him look foolish in a way that's far more amusing.
Some extra notes;
pg 26 - I'm not sure adding 'would that be okay with you' fits with Chuck's new confident persona (unless of course you're trying to show that he does still hold some insecurities). Another thought I had was what if, once again, there's an cold mug of coffee beside him so…
…what matters is…
Chuck hesitates, notices a cold cup of coffee on the table, reaches for it…
…but resists the urge, shakes off his fears and turns back to Annie.
I'd like to take you out sometime.
I think it would be better if we see that the hypnosis (or Annie) gives him the strength to overcome his insecurities rather than simply changing him into a different person, with no insecurities whatsoever.
pg 32 - Larry King's a bit dated. You don't want a Producer reading this and assuming it's been lying around for a few years. Producer's like hot, new scripts.
'…but I think…I am.' Cut this. It milks the (otherwise very good) joke too far.
pg 56 - can't help feeling it would be better if Annie did kiss Dane here. She needs to be attracted to Dane, even if she also thinks he's a bit of a dick, for us to feel that Dane is really a threat to Chuck. She's only been on one date with Chuck at this point and so has no commitment or moral obligation to be faithful to him.
pg 57 - Or perhaps she only kisses him when H.C. jr appears - that was a pretty smooth move from Dane.
pg 61 - very funny with Dane opening the door again just to add 'because you're a loser.'
The needle scratch silence is a bit hackneyed though.
pg 82 - This is very funny. I love that Dr Timothy is convicted of 'pet-regicide' but don't spoil the joke by explaining what that is. Also, not sure about 'second degree jaywalking.' Pet-regicide works because it's both ridiculous and yet sort of believable. Second degree jaywalking is just nonsense. How about 'fishing without a licence' instead - though actually I'd keep just plain 'jaywalking' as well
Before I finish I must just comment on your action lines. They're top notch - concise and yet packed with personality and humour. Along with the cracking dialogue your action lines made reading this script a complete pleasure. Despite a few minor issues you've managed that rarest of things; a very funny comedy script.
Good luck with it,
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