Review of: A Boy's Tail 

reviewed by jackjohns on 02/04/2009
Credited Review
jackjohns
Monkey Boy Credited Review
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!).

Concept

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.

Dialogue

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.

Structure

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.

Story

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.



Characters

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.

OVERALL

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.

Jack

Other Reviews by jackjohns 40

  • A review of Critics' Choice
    by jackjohns on 09/21/2013
    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... read
  • A review of Abraca-Bastard
    by 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... read
  • A review of Tower of the Mage
    by jackjohns on 09/14/2013
    The Tower of Mage was an interesting story and one that has the potential to be a very good screenplay. The framework is there as it has a good concept, a good story and structure with lots of good ideas and plenty of turning points which kept the story moving along nicely. However, it does need a lot of work particularly in the character and dialogue departments. The concept... read
+ more reviews