Inspired by the news of the Oscar nominations I picked up the phone.
Mort, my irascible agent, however, has stopped taking my calls. "You just don't understand Hollywood," he bellowed between bites or a pastrami sandwich. "You need a hit. No more of this formulaic dreck."
I'm not discouraged at his rebuff. After spending years trying to break into the Hollywood ranks by penning rom-coms, thrillers, and a sci-fi flick or two, I have finally come up with a formula that spells B-L-O-C-K-B-U-S-T-E-R -- an action flick called Scrabble: the movie.
I tried to explain the concept to Mort. Hollywood has found a simple though expensive formula for success: turn tried and true kids toys and games into rock 'em-sock'em action films.
Transformers I and II were huge hits and certainly more sequels from this franchise are on their way. GI Joe, released this past summer, was a huge money-maker and there is talk of a sequel going into production. Paramount is developing the Mattel toy Max Steel into an action franchise and Universal Pictures is turning the old favorite Battleship into a live action movie. Scripts are being written based on the games Monopoly, Clue, Candyland and Ouija. The list goes on and on.
All great ideas. But these are very expensive projects as they rely on high-tech computer animation and high-priced stars.
The plot for the Scrabble movie goes something like this: a group of evil European bond traders try to destabilize the U.S. economy by replacing English with Esperanto. As part of their plan to spread Esperanto, they have designs to buy American newspapers, magazines and TV stations that will start using the "international language."
But in order to first gain acceptance for this strange language, the bond traders hire and train a team of University of Michigan linguists to participate in an international on-line Scrabble tournament. The tournament, however, is rigged as the bond traders have paid off some Farsi-speaking judges to rule in favor of the Esperanto team. In addition to acknowledging Esperanto words, these rogue judges also give full credit to the linguists for using the word "Qwerty." How can any team compete against such perfidy?
The nefarious plot is uncovered by some gifted Yorba Linda second graders with special training in neologism. The kids are able to challenge the evildoers by developing their own game theory based on combining hard consonants with soft vowels. After drawing some Ks and hard-to-find Js, the youngsters take a quick lead.
All is going great for the team of second graders until the linguists sneak a Fluffernutter into the lunch bag of Brianna, the team's captain who has a severe peanut allergy. Armed with a quick shot, she avoids what could be a fatal reaction and turns the potential tragedy into a game winner by pulling the letters allowing her to spell e-p-i-n-e-p-h-r-i-n-e on a triple-point square while clearing her rack for a 50-point bonus.
In a stunning denouement, the kids thwart the plot, stabilize the world markets and cause the linguists to lose tenure. All of this is done in time for the youngsters to go to their afternoon play dates.
Grumpy Mort (he really needs more fiber in his diet) isn't so sure this is a winner. The script is already causing a stir among all two dozen Esperanto speakers who have promised to boycott the film.
Recognizing that a little controversy can be good for ticket sales I think Mort may be coming around. I've also tried to explain to him the extraordinary -- and innovative -- product-placement opportunities. What company wouldn't want to promote itself by having some adorable brainiacs pull the letters that spell the name of its product? UPS, GM and BP have already expressed interest. (AIG may not be appropriate given the expected G rating.)
I'm so excited I've already started working on the sequel. It involves a bunch of Belgian arbitrage traders who hire the disgraced linguists to challenge the second graders to a rematch, hoping to create chaos in international chocolate markets by spreading Tussentaal throughout the EU. The name? "Scrabble II, the blemish of the Flemish."
Lawrence Shulruff is an attorney and screenwriter.