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Dortmunder, Move Over!

Overall Recommendation:
5 stars
 
Premise:
5 stars
 
Story structure:
5 stars
 
Character:
4 stars
 
Dialogue:
5 stars
 
Emotion:
4 stars
 
May 19, 2011
It’s LOL hysterical in places. I love your 1st act. I really like the semi-serious opening. And then our brutally funny introduction to Groucho. I think this is in great shape, just needs a polish. Here are my notes.

Page 2: It’s “shudders,” not “shutters”. (Same mistake twice).

I would eliminate all your use of “cut to.” It’s unnecessary.

“The chili burrito I had for dinner has given me a case of the RUNS.” Harpo and Chico freeze and just stare at Groucho. That kills me.

I love the Hummer going over the race car and through the aluminum garage door and through the aluminum wall. Great use of a Hummer!

Page 15: “When do you want to do this?” “Tomorrow.” This seems really unprofessional? Later in the screenplay (page 34) Harpo says he’s “been practicing all week.” I would substitute “Saturday” for “tomorrow”. It might seem odd but that one word totally took me out of the story. I was like, no way. I know it’s a comedy but you have to make us believe in the robbery, and that these guys would do it.

“Call me Margaret.” Dumont! I love it.

“I planned for his tardiness.” That cracks me up. I had an actor, I used to plan for his tardiness. It’s just a funny thing to say.

The characters started to blur together a bit for me. I love your dialog, it’s amazing, but you might think about making the differences between Groucho and Harpo and Chico a bit more dramatic.

I like the farts in the truck.

The first scene I disliked was when the cop pulls the U-Haul over. It’s not funny. Either remove the scene or tweak it. Make the cop suspicious, maybe. They’re all dressed in black, right? He should ask them why.

“Why are you dressed in black?”
The crew looks at each other.
Groucho: “Uh…we’re in a band.”
“You’re in a band?”
Harpo: “Yeah. Our instruments are in the back.”
Zeppo: “We dress in black. That’s our thing.”
Chico: “That’s totally our thing.”
“What kind of music do you play?
Groucho: “Ska.”
Chico: “Country.”
“Ska and country?”
Chico: “Yes sir.”
Zeppo: “We’re the Men in Black.”

And then he tells them about the busted tail light. (Or the Yoo Hoo on the bumper). Right now busted tail light is totally anticlimactic. And the dialog in the U-Haul pages 31-32 isn’t funny. It’s just filler. I would shorten this scene and keep them in the car as they talk with the cop.

Page 32 and 33, I thought the scene description was way too specific and way too long. We’re making a movie, we’re not actually planning a robbery. Just let the production designer know what the set looks like. Broad strokes, and short. Cut this down a lot.

Page 36: Radio gag is funny. “I’m sitting right next to him.” That kills me.

Scene with Groucho and the guard. Grouching accidentally drugging himself is a great visual gag but you have to set it up. “Groucho sniffs and notices the strong aroma from the chloroform that has soaked into the glove that is on his hand holding the phone.” I don’t think that’s going to work visually. You’re telling us what has happened but we can’t see it on the screen so people will miss the joke. I much prefer page 41. “Groucho immediately sets down the receiver, lifts the pizza box, and grabs the rag. He sniffs it.” That’s when he accidentally drugs himself, right there. Move that line a bit earlier and the joke works, I think.

“What the hell are you doing?” It would be funny if Groucho tried to answer that question. “It was for the coffee. I just wanted to hug you. For the coffee. Thanks. For the coffee. It was great.” And then the guard attacks him.

None of the chapstick gags are working for me at all. It’s dead air. Remove chapstick.

“Why are (not “is”) your pants all wet?”
“No reason.” I love this. Great set-up for whatever escapade Chico has gotten into.

The toilet humor (non-toilet humor?) totally works. Funny.

I love the idea of showing the robbery from different angles, flashing backwards in time, giving us more information. It’s really cool. Rashomon! You have to be careful with repetition, though. Make sure we’re getting new information. When it’s stuff we already know, it’s boring to sit through it twice. Get out of the scene quicker when it starts to repeat. For instance, page 57, you can cut out right after Chico starts to run toward the front parking lot. We don’t need to hear the whole conversation. Likewise, I don’t think we need the scene with Chico behind the door. But stuff like Chico switching the headsets, that’s new information, so keep that. And of course some repetition works fine because it’s new information. “Do you smell something?” That’s repetition but it totally works. The first time you’re setting-up the joke, and the second time it’s pay-off.

I would cut out the brief scene when Chico goes into the security room and steals the VHS tapes (page 59). It’s really awkward as it feels like a transition to Zeppo’s story. But instead of Zeppo we go to Harpo. I feel like that scene in that place damages your story flow a lot. Now in the back of our head we’re worried about Zeppo dying in flames or something. So there’s both a transition problem and a tonal problem.

More repetition on 61-62. We go through the whole routine? I think that’s going to be annoying.

I love it when Harpo falls through the ceiling. I’m just giggling all through this thing. And the fuse boxes? Hysterical. What makes this really work is how you set up this gag earlier, with the lights clicking on and off. Brilliant. So funny.

I like the last bit, the destruction of the paintings. Funny.

The ending is too abrupt. I think we need a few scenes with Margaret. One of two scenes with Groucho flirting with Margaret, maybe. Set it up so that when Margaret abandons Zeppo for Groucho, we believe it. You could subtitle this chronology “Margaret.” I would take out the exposition from the Zeppo scenes and stick them in a couple new Margaret scenes. After all, she's the mastermind.

I really like this. Good work.
 

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