Review of: One Night at the Oscars 

reviewed by wopdom on 06/30/2011
Credited Review
Premise Needs Nurturing Credited Review
ONE NIGHT AT THE OSCARS is difficult to judge because it sounds very high concept but isn’t in execution. The plot of this story lends itself to an almost manic caper with clear protagonists and anti-heroes, but the results are much more complicated than that – for better and worse.

The opening scene is enthralling and gets the movie off to a great start. However, this scene is closely followed by the true beginning (in terms of time) of the story. This opening is an introductory series of shots and a five page scene (from page 5-10) that repeats the same dynamic to the audience over and over again.

Page 21 – near the bottom of the page there is a bit of forced exposition when Rita states, “ever since I was a kid, all I ever wanted was one night at the Oscars.” It would be one thing if you were trying to get this knowledge out to the audience as fast as possible, but at more than 20 minutes into the movie, you’ve already had enough time to establish Todd and Rita’s eccentric tendencies.

By page 32 – there is an interesting trend. It’s not that this screenplay is devoid of conflict. In fact, conflict is present on every page – as it should be, but it is still somehow mostly uninteresting. Perhaps it is not varied enough? The reader feels like he is witnessing repeated, boring bickering.

Page 37 – it seems like the film shoot is doing one take a day. The lack of a real schedule here adds to its unreal feel. Brad does mention needing to maintain a schedule, but it then turns out that he was only joking. Wouldn’t that really be the case? This leads to a larger point about consequences in general that will be brought up later.

Page 47 – why does Brad prank Jack when he is the one who got pushed and was doing his job?

Page 50 – how did Todd know that they’d drive themselves and would need gas right where they do? If this is left as a coincidence, it will look like a large plot hole.

Page 76 – when Brad and Carol repeat the scene from the film, it comes off as a little cheesy. We don’t really know the characters well enough for them to pull that off smoothly.

Page 77 – “Oh, so you made that dress!” is unnecessary based on the rest of the scene.

Page 82 – the reader can’t help but feel that both acceptance speeches were missed opportunities for huge moments. Todd and Rita have the world and the reader as a captive audience. Shouldn’t what they say be important? Or at least hilarious? Or both?

Page 91 – “It’s what you said that got me” is another example of a bit of stiff dialogue that is unnecessary because you’ve already done the work needed in the scene.

Page 98 – What happened to Todd and Rita?

Page 99 – “You had me at hello” is over the cheesy line. In general, a lot of the star cameos are a bit over the top and really would only make sense if they weren’t real but were shaded to look that way from Todd and Rita’s twisted perspectives of who they expect the stars to be. However, if this were to go to production, things would easily be rewritten and ad-libbed for available stars, so this is not a real issue.

Page 86 – 113 – structurally this is a very weird portion of the film. After Todd and Rita “say goodbye to Hollywood,” they disappear for nearly 30 pages. For a comedy (where a final draft’s running time should be closer to 90 pages), this leaves Todd and Rita out of about one-third of the film. Naturally, as everything gets cut down, this section will as well, but it is something worth noting.

Todd and Rita reappear for the ending, which wraps up about as neatly as it possibly could. Perhaps too neatly – even for a comedy. This is part of the larger problem mentioned earlier. Things happen too easily, even in the short-term, for all of the characters. Things like kidnapping and sneaking into the Oscars are not easy, but they happen without much trouble, and the writers rob themselves of much of the drama that is inherent in these circumstances – opting instead for repeated fighting and bickering between couples.

The last note involves the tone of the film. Comedy is difficult. And though the film is listed as a comedy, there aren’t too many laughs over the 120 pages. A few slapstick bits result in a chuckle, but even these are repeated too much and can only result in so much mileage.

The premise here is a great one, and another pass at it with an eye for tighter comedic moments and more varied conflict could result in a great script.

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