Original Hancock Script Approximately 9 Billion Times Worse than Hacky Studio Rewrite

     July 6, 2008

Written By Matthew Wilder

Anyone who’s seen HANCOCK might reasonably expect that, having heard the brouhaha around Vincent Ngo’s TONIGHT HE COMES script for a good long while, there might be some chance that the original script is a masterpiece from which the hundred-million-plus picture is a sad falling-away. For sure, HANCOCK has a tantalizing premise (superhero who gets drunk and breaks shit) and even an interesting wrinkle (superhero meets PR guy who plans to “rebrand” him as a clean-cut nice guy). Considering where HANCOCK goes–which is to say, straight to cheeseville–it’s not crazy to imagine that somewhere in the germinal idea was something different, “subversive,” ballsy, great.

I am here to say–and I want to put this in as few words as possible–that the original TONIGHT HE COMES script might be judged as great…if it were the product of Play With Crayolas day at a local Down Syndrome holding pen. As I flipped through page after page, all I could think was…how did this get out of development hell? How did something this amateurish pass through the many 23-year-old illiterate gatekeepers and make it up to the Valhalla of Sony Pictures and Will Smith’s Own Lap? In TONIGHT, there is the germ of a HANCOCK–it, too, features a slovenly, distasteful superhero. But there the resemblance ends.

In the published script of BOOGIE NIGHTS, Paul Thomas Anderson laments a certain kind of screenwriting in which a character walks onscreen and is commemorated thusly (and here I paraphrase): “Suzie walks through the door of the bakery and has a look of brokenness, like her father can’t really reach her, yet exudes an aura of unstoppable sexuality, because, in fact, she’s hot, and I mean woowoo hot, like the Noxzema girl.” TONIGHT HE COMES could be considered a veritable smorgasbord of Noxzema. Like: “Class is in session, captained by ravishing MS. MILLIS (28). Lips, legs, lungs–the stuff prepubescent wet dreams are made of.”

To wit: 28? Not 25? not 30? But 28? And: lungs? Really, lungs? And: prepubescent wet dreams? Can a dream be wet if it arrives before puberty? And how about this: “Mary moves through the street, embracing a grocery bag. She continues on her way, purpose in every step. No window shopping bullshit for this woman–Mary’s strong, beautiful.” Are you getting how incredibly mature and wise the vision of adult femininity is here?

I won’t delve further except to say that Ngo’s TONIGHT HE COMES plays a bit like the first draft of BEING JOHN MALKOVICH–remember, the one where John Cusack opens a paperback book and reads the words “Die die die die die die,” on page one? The only difference is that Charlie Kaufman’s bizarre, unproducible version of MALKOVICH was clearly the work of a genius besotted with absurdist theatre, and TONIGHT HE COMES seems to be the product of a hyperactive yet subliterate kid who can’t decide whether to beat off over jpg’s of Yasmine Bleeth or eat a bunch of Big League Chew and go to sleep. I’m glad Peter Berg and company turned this schlock into fragrant, still-schlocky but much improved mincemeat.

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