Few industries enjoy taking really, really long extended holiday vacations quite like Hollywood, and when we get to this time of the year, there’s rarely much in the realm of “movie development news” to discuss. With that in mind, last week we looked back at 12 of the year’s top “Fresh Development” stories, presented to you in monthly chronology. The year-in-review continues this week with the “Rotten Ideas” of the year.
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Hollywood is always looking for popular IPs (“intellectual properties”) that can be easily adapted into movies, and that includes toys and games. Not all toys are necessarily great fits for movies, however, especially if they do not inherently have a narrative concept. G.I. Joe or Transformers, for example (regardless of how good the movies we’ve gotten actually are), at least start with potential because they’re about characters and stories. On the other side of the spectrum, there are toys like Magic 8 Ball, Uno, and View-Master, which aren’t narrative-based at all, and yet, all three are currently in active development. The year 2021 began with the news that another such toy, the 1980s puzzle phenomenon Rubik’s Cube, was being adapted as a feature film. The producers, which include Hyde Park Entertainment Group (Blue Valentine, Machete) and Endeavor Content (Hamilton, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood) appeared in their initial press release to be inspired by the success of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, which is also based on a non-narrative game (chess), as an element of a story about people who play chess. That does suggest the Rubik’s Cube movie might resemble something like Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness (Fresh at 67%), fingers crossed.
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Although it was not a box office success, one of the year’s last major critical hits was Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story (Certified Fresh at 93%). Although there are obviously remakes that are well received (like this year’s Dune, Certified Fresh at 83%), many people perceive them as accidents waiting to happen, and that may be especially true when the original is a cherished classic like 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Certified Fresh at 89%). Yet, that’s exactly what Paramount Pictures appeared to start working towards in February, when the news broke that the studio was in the midst of a legal battle with the estate of the original book’s author, Truman Capote. That legal tussle became an outright lawsuit in April as Capote’s estate brought a $20 million suit against Paramount over the remake’s screenplay reportedly circulating “internally” at the studio.
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Hollywood has been regularly adapting old TV shows into movies since the 1980s (Dragnet was an early example). The results haven’t always been great, though, as evidenced by the 2005 movie Bewitched (Rotten at 24%), which starred Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman, based on the popular 1960s show about a witch and her non-magical husband. What’s less common is for a studio to make a second attempt at adapting a show after the first movie has disappointing returns, but that is exactly what Sony Pictures is doing with Bewitched. Sony Pictures hired TV showrunners Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett (MacGyver, 12 Monkeys) to work on a new Bewitched feature film screenplay, which appears to be intended to be a fresh reboot without either Will Ferrell or Nicole Kidman. Rather than the “meta” approach of that movie, this Bewitched is expected to be a closer adaptation of the original show’s premise of a witch who settles into suburban domesticity after falling in love with an advertising executive.
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This is the first of two stories in the Yearly Ketchup this year that somehow involves either marshmallows (the other was in August) or at least the idea of marshmallowy sweetness, which might be a sign of exactly what sort of year 2021 was. The bird-shaped marshmallow candy brand Peeps is still quite popular, if we’re to believe the claim that Peeps Incorporated sells over 700 million Peeps each year (which, if we’re being honest here, is a lot less than the over 2 billion Peeps they reportedly produce). So it is that Peeps is now in development as an animated movie. A representative for Just Born, the company behind Peeps, had this to say, “Peeps Chicks and Bunnies have been ingrained in American pop culture for nearly seven decades due to their instantly recognizable shapes and fan-favorite marshmallow taste, making them the perfect characters to bring to life on the big screen.”
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It’s easy to forget that there was a time when fans were basically challenged to believe whatever they were told by a filmmaker. In the early 1980s, as the home video market was taking off, many horror fans discovered a title called Faces of Death (and its sequels), which claimed to depict real footage of various gruesome deaths (most of which was actually faked). Well, a new Faces of Death reboot is now in active development at Legendary Entertainment, the studio behind big-budget movies like this year’s Godzilla vs Kong and Dune. Rather than a “documentary”-style format, the new Faces of Death will reportedly revolve around “a female moderator of a YouTube-like website whose job is to weed out offensive and violent content and who herself is recovering from a serious trauma, who stumbles across a group that is re-creating the murders from the original film.”
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We are now in-between Halloween Kills (Rotten at 41%) and next year’s trilogy closer, Halloween Ends ( 10/14/2022), which might be a good time to remember that 10 years ago, the Halloween franchise went through a previous set of reboots from rock star-turned-film director Rob Zombie, who, to this day, has never achieved higher than the Rotten 58% he earned for 2019’s 3 from Hell. Bearing that in mind, Zombie has set his sights on a live-action adaptation of The Munsters, the “kooky family of monsters” that directly competed with The Addams Family on TV in the 1960s (they even debuted on TV within 8 days of each other) but has never received the same big-screen treatment. Since the news first broke in June, Rob Zombie has posted a few image updates to prove that the movie is actually happening, including this set photo with the logo, a cast photo including his wife Sheri Moon Zombie as Lily Munster, and this one of former Doctor Who star Sylvester McCoy as Igor, the Munsters’ trusted manservant. Universal Pictures is expected to release Rob Zombie’s The Munsters sometime in late 2022.
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The 1973 horror film The Exorcist (Certified Fresh at 83%) became an instant pop culture phenomenon as both a critical and box office hit (it was the #1 film of 1973), but it was also nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won two (Adapted Screenplay and Sound). There has been talk over the last several years about some new version of The Exorcist being developed, including a remake (the news of which inspired this reaction from original director William Friedkin), and in June, Universal and Blumhouse finally addressed all the speculation with the confirmation that a new trilogy of Excorcist sequels is now being developed for director David Gordon Green (the current Halloween trilogy). Ellen Burstyn will reprise her role as Chris MacNeil in the new film, and she will also be joined by Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton, One Night in Miami). The first of the new Exorcist sequels will be released theatrically on October 13, 2023, and at least one of the films might debut on Universal’s streaming service Peacock.
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Some fads are the result of simply being the right idea at the right time. Consider, for example, the case of the Squishmallows, an expansive line (1,000+) of character-themed huggable stuffed animals that first launched in 2017 as sort of a cross between pillows, anime influences, and the Beanie Baby craze of the 1990s. Squishmallows may have eventually become popular in any case, but their expansion was arguably aided by the COVID-19 pandemic, as people sought soft, adorable things to hug while stuck at home for months. Jazwares, the company behind Squishmallows, is seeking to build upon their newfound success by seeking partners for various adaptations, including film, TV, video games, publishing, and live touring. In other words, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a Squishmallows movie project in development just yet, but the idea is being put out there for any willing production companies to snatch up.
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First introduced for the Christmas season of 1985, Teddy Ruxpin was a talking “teddy bear” that quickly became a best-selling toy. When “Chucky” starred in the original Child’s Play horror film in 1988, he didn’t look anything like Teddy Ruxpin, but an argument can be made that the latter was an inspiration (and horror fans have since written similar Teddy Ruxpin stories online). Teddy Ruxpin himself, however, never got a movie (and his TV show only ran for one season). Nostalgia is a strong incentive for the movies, however, so DJ2 Entertainment, the production company behind video game adaptations like Sonic the Hedgehog and Tomb Raider, acquired the film and TV rights to Teddy Ruxpin. DJ2 Entertainment is reportedly talking to potential writers with the goal of a Sonic the Hedgehog-style live-action/animation movie that would then lead into an animated TV series.
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Pop culture is cluttered with characters who share similar themes, something we’ve seen even in the newspaper comic strips of decades past. For example, Garfield might be the most famous orange cat in the comic strips, but there was also Heathcliff, who was actually introduced in 1973, three years before Garfield. Legendary Entertainment, the production company who also made it onto this list for its Faces of Death reboot in May, acquired the film and TV rights to Heathcliff in October. The Heathcliff strip is now written and drawn by the nephew of the creator, and he will also act as producer alongside Steve Waterman, whose credits as producer include Stuart Little (Fresh at 67%) and the various Alvin and the Chipmunks movies.
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Just one month after the new Heathcliff movie began development, the other famous orange cartoon cat also got back into the movie business. In September, Chris Pratt made the news for becoming the voice of Mario in the upcoming Super Mario Bros (12/21/2022) animated movie. In November, however, he also took over for Bill Murray as the voice of Garfield, the lasagna-loving lazy cat, in a new computer-animated film from Sony Pictures and Alcon Entertainment. Unlike Garfield: The Movie (Rotten at 15%) and its sequel, this new Garfield is expected to be entirely animated. Former Disney director Mark Dindal (Chicken Little, The Emperor’s New Groove) will direct the new Garfield from a screenplay by David Reynolds (co-writer of Finding Nemo, Fantasia 2000), who also worked with Dindal on The Emperor’s New Groove.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
Hollywood has spent much of the last 20 years remaking (or rebooting) big chunks of 1980s cinema, but the decade appears to be slowly giving way to the 1990s. New Line Cinema recently wrapped filming of the remake of the 1990 comedy House Party (Fresh at 93%), and now that film’s director is attached to another classic from the decade. The mononymous director Calmatic was signed by 20th Century Studios a few weeks ago to direct their reboot of the 1992 basketball comedy White Men Can’t Jump (Certified Fresh at 77%). Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson starred in the original as two competing basketball street hustlers (which will likely also be the premise of the reboot), and it’s not yet known if they will appear in any capacity in the reboot.