Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Action Comedy Chase Movie

Okay I'm going to do it for real this time. I've tried and failed and given up many times before, but this time, seriously, I'm going to do it.


It's an action comedy, a chase movie kind of like Thelma and Louise meets Three Days of the Condor but funny. This time I refuse to give up until I've got a script I like because the idea is solid and will stand up to scrutiny as long as I can pull it off.

Every time I've tried to write comedy before I end up killing people and making them sad, and I'm no good with straight up jokes. I can do funny situations, but actual comedic lines elude me. I tried to write a My Name is Earl spec back when I was still attempting television, but after five pages I realized I only had one real joke, and that was something I overheard someone say on the beach once. I abandoned it. Good thing, as it turned out, because two months later they did an episode a lot like my spec.

But this new story idea just begs to be funny. It's one of those stories that is either hilarious or ridiculously sad - there's no in between. People are always telling me to write comedy so I'm going to go for hilarious.

I'm super excited about this idea because aside from being a truly commercial project that my manager likes and could sell if people start buying again, it's also killing two of my greatest desires: write a good comedy script, and write a script where the protagonist is not really a fighter but is thrust into a fighting situation, a la Three Days of the Condor which is one of my very favorite films.

I've gotten so much out of doing this treatment for the producers that I decided to always do a treatment from now on, so at the moment I'm plotting the story for this new chase thing that has no title. I'm thinking about tone, but I can't really think of movies that have the tone I'm going for. Lethal Weapon is close in tone but a little too violent; I'm looking for something heavy on the running away and bickering. My protagonists don't really know anything about guns and they're really annoyed with each other but they have to run together from the bad guys the whole film.

Help me, comedy people. Know any stories like that, either films or screenplays? All I can think of off the top of my head is straight action with a little comedy, not a true action comedy chase movie.


  1. "Rush Hour" and "Rush Hour 2," I guess?

    here is one of my favourite quotes when it comes to comedy:

    "dying is easy, but comedy is hard." -an unknown dying actor on his deathbed

  2. Pineapple Express. I didn't like it, but most people did. Of course, it's also a stoner movie.

    The Long Kiss Goodnight has a lot of bickering, and one of the characters is sort of not a pro ... not quite what you're looking for, but still.

    I'm out. Good luck.

  3. I owe you a read at some point and this is *right* up my alley. So if you get to the point where you're looking for notes, I'd be happy to read this script for you.

    As to movies...there are a couple of movies I can think of right now that might fit the bill.

    - The '80s buddy cop light actioner Running Scared with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.

    - Pineapple Express.

    - I Love You Beth Cooper. That's more of a standard teen comedy but it has a strong element of chase to it. Then again, I never saw the film but read the book it was based on which was originally going to be a spec script.

    - Some Like it Hot. Again, it's a couple of genres mashed together, but it's definitely a chase film. And one of the ten funniest films ever, so it's always worth a rewatch.

  4. Anonymous9:04 AM

    Midnight Run, Bird on a Wire, and, errr, Gigli.

  5. Good suggestions. I forgot about a lot of these movies. Bird on a Wire is perfect.

  6. Very interesting... Three Days of the Condor, excellent movie, first watched it on AMC a few years back when I had a paper due five hours later, memorable all-nighter.

    I just had a thought of what would happen if you took 'Three Days of the Condor' story/plot, and just switching in comedic characters, with cheesy/goofy humor. It would probably turn more into a Pink Panther type movie, but still a very fun idea.

    Bird on a Wire is an excellent example. Chase and humor, some seriousness at stake.

  7. Midnight Run
    All Night Long

    how about them apples?

  8. Beverly Hills Cop.

    One thing to think about is that you don't want to try for inspiration when you're writing funny dialog. That's hellish. The way to write a joke is with lists on a scratch pad.

    You ID a place where you want a funny line and you make a list of every word or story element in play. Anything have a double meaning? Anything that can be reincorporated from a previous scene? Sarcasm?

    A lot of stand ups work this way: when inspiration falls short, you make lists until you hit on something you can work with.

    I should mention that I've written a bunch of (not terribly successful) comedy, even though it's not what I do now.

  9. Thanks Harry. I'll use that technique.

  10. I'd like to throw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang into the mix, but otherwise fully support the suggestion of Beverly Hills Cop.

    Out of Sight is not really the kind of thing you're looking for, but I want to mention it anyway because I believe the world would be a better place if more movies were like Out of Sight than Rush Hour (no offense, Deaf).

    For some reason, I think Jane Espenson's latest post is also sort of about this:

  11. My taste in comedies is...quirky, so not sure how much help these are: Buckaroo Banzai has lots of funny in it.
    Bubba Ho-Tep has action elements.
    One of my all time favorite comedies is Big Trouble in Little China.
    Smokey and the Bandit (which I loved as a kid, but suspect would make me cringe now)
    The Last Starfigher
    Drunken Master
    Tank Girl (coulda been better but still fun)
    and, perhaps the funniest action comedies (tho maybe not useful as inspiration as it's parody) is Hot Fuzz and Tropic Thunder

  12. Oh and thanks, RA. I'll take you up on that read when the time comes.

  13. Anonymous9:32 PM

    Just gotta give my props to a fellow CONDOR fan. That baby is "thriller as art," plain and simple.

    As for movies along the lines of what you're looking for: MIDNIGHT RUN comes to mind. As does SOME LIKE IT HOT. In both cases, it's strong characterizations that do the trick.

  14. A lot of votes for Midnight Run. I've never seen that so I'll stick it in my queue.

    Thanks for all these suggestions.

  15. Emily, you haven't seen MIDNIGHT RUN? You've just knocked me over with a feather. I wasn't even going to comment in this thread because it seemed so obvious. Don't wait to Netflix. Drive over to Amoeba and get a used copy of MIDNIGHT RUN now.

    Since eighties movies are being mentioned, maybe STAKEOUT and 48 HRS. would work as well. But just see MIDNIGHT RUN immediately.

  16. I third or fourth Midnight Run. It's one of the most underrated movies of the eighties. The (sorta) remake with Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler looked like pure ass compared to the original.

  17. In my defense, Mr. Peel, I was 10.

  18. MIDNIGHT RUN was good, I once saw it on AMC. Definitely a good recommendation1

  19. burn notice, the TV show, is a rock solid action comedy show.

  20. Yes it is. The two leads need to eat more sandwiches, but it's a great show.


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