This is a hodgepodge one. You probably won’t know all of the films I use, but skim the whole post, there should be one buried in there that you do know. Odd couple screwball comedy adventures are such a stable of film that there are lots to choose from, from all different eras.
I’m just gonna start with the classic one, Bringing Up Baby. This is a movie I never really “got”, until I saw it at the classic movie house on the big screen. It works SO MUCH better with an audience that is all getting caught up in the ridiculousness than it does watching it alone on a DVD.
If you haven’t seen the film, this plot won’t really make sense to you, but I will try my best to describe it:
Cary Grant is a shy spectacled paleontologist. He is engaged to his assistant who rebuffs any attempt at romance, and keeps him strictly focused on business. He bumps into daffy socialite Katherine Hepburn in a series of misunderstandings. She decides she is in love with him (I mean, it’s Cary Grant in glasses, who wouldn’t be?). The next day, her explorer brother sends her a tame tiger named “Baby”, and she uses that as an excuse to call Cary up and beg him to come help her. He rushes over, and gets caught in her insanity again when she asks his help taking Baby to her country house. He keeps trying to get away, and she keeps bringing him back in, for instance, sending his clothes to be cleaned while he is in the shower. That night her older rich aunt arrives and Cary learns her aunt is the woman they have been trying to convince to give an endowment to the museum and so sticks around through a dinner party where things become completely surreal thanks to brilliant character actors Charles Ruggles (as an adventurer friend of the aunt) and May Robson (as the aunt). Finally, it all comes to a head when Baby escapes, and gets mixed up with a vicious wild tiger that escaped from captivity, and the whole dinner party ends up arrested. Cary finds the strength to rescue them all, working with Katherine, and the next day she comes to find him at his job to say that her aunt gave her the money, and she is going to give it to Cary’s museum. And Cary admits that he doesn’t care, he loves her and she makes him feel alive.
So, who shall we cast in our remake?
Shy spectacled flustered but ultimately brave scientist who heroine loves at first sight: Shahrukh. I’m sorry, he is just so perfect as a flustered glasses wearer. (or maybe Akshay?)
Daffy socialite: Juhi Chawla! She can definitely do daffy, especially opposite Shahrukh. (or maybe Kajol? Or Karisma?)
Slightly daffy older Aunt: Helen!
Slightly bonkers adventurer: Anupam Kher!
Cameo as repressed boring fiancee: Bipasha Basu! An inside joke to have her play the repressed non-sexual one.
Plot as altered:
Not much to change. Shahrukh is a boring scientist, Juhi is a South Bombay style socialite who lives with her doting and unaware elderly father (Paresh Rawal in old age make-up). She bumps into Shahrukh at an awards ceremony where he is supposed to be giving a speech, he accidentally tears her sari, she accidentally gets her shopping list mixed with his speech notes, he gets flustered and frustrated, she falls in love and fantasizes about him in bed that night.
Next day, her kooky cousin the environmental activist has hidden a tiger he is trying to save in her apartment. She finds it, uses it as an excuse to call Shahrukh, Shahrukh shows up because he thinks she is in danger, hilarity ensues. Tiger has to be hidden in a car, car driven to her farmhouse, stop in a small village for lunch where they get drunk on bhang and tiger gets free, song, chase tiger, catch tiger, back on the road. And so on and so forth. Finally, second half of the film is after they arrive at the farmhouse to find the intrepid hunter and crazy aunt already there. Shahrukh is trapped because Juhi has pulled a bunch of schemes, including encouraging a band of gypsies to camp on her property thereby blocking the road (gypsy song!).
Bips shows up and Juhi accidentally drugs her, she does an item song and then passes out. Shahrukh is furious and about to leave when the tiger escapes and he gets sucked back in. Finally they are all arrested by a humorous small town cop (Paresh Rawal again, not in make-up). Shahrukh finds his inner bravery when the tiger wanders into the jail and he realizes it is a real wild tiger, not the tame one, and Juhi is in danger. The next day, Shahrukh is at work and Bips wonders in looking rough, says she doesn’t know what happened the night before but the engagement is over. Then Juhi shows up, apologizes, gives him the check for the endowment, and Shahrukh dramatically tears it up! He doesn’t even care any more, he just wants to be as alive as he felt yesterday for the rest of his life, will she marry him! Juhi leaps into his arms, he falls backward onto his display of the life of man, and slowly each statue topples like a domino in the background as they kiss.
Leaping into another genre, Annie Get Your Gun! The classic real life story turned musical turned movie. Again, I will try to summarize in case you haven’t seen it.
Annie Oakley is a dirt poor farm girl who learned how to shoot perfectly so she could hunt animals for food for her family. The Wild Bill Hickock show comes to town and discovers her and hires her to be their big new act, the female sharpshooter. This threatens Frank Butler, the current headliner, in a number of ways. First, he is supposed to be the star sharpshooter. Second, he is a ladies man and sophisticated and wordy and charming. And Annie is the opposite, brash and confident and crude and untutored. Oh, and also a woman who shoots better than him, she was originally hired because she beat him in a shooting contest. Annie meanwhile fell in love with him the moment she saw him. Frank eventually falls for her as they travel together in the show because she is so sincere and sweet and different from any other woman he has met. Until she is tricked into doing a new part of the show that shows him up, he feels it was a purposeful insult to hurt him, and leaves. They are reunited when their two shows (Frank is now part of a rival show) merge and they plan to marry as they still love each other. However, there is another misunderstanding when Frank realizes Annie is now richer than he is. The final solution is another shooting match. Only this time, Annie deliberately loses/they both deliberately lose (depending on which version you watch), because their love is now more important than their rivalry.
Annie Oakley: Anushka Shetty (or Rani Mukherjee or Anushka Sharma or Sonakshi Sinha or Dips)
Frank Butler: Prabhas (Or Rana or Abhishek or Ranveer)
Wild Bill Hickock/Owner of the show: Sathyaraj (or Amitabh)
Adorable younger siblings of Annie Oakley: Adorable small children
Now, plot changes!
Let’s go ahead and do arrows instead of guns. Because really this is just playing into the Bahubali addiction the country is laboring under. But otherwise we can keep it the same. There is a big carnival type thing traveling through the country putting on huge tent shows of riding, shooting, wrestling, etc. And Prabhas is their headliner, former Olympic athlete archer who is all college educated and stuff. They come to a mid-sized town in Andhra Pradesh and the owner of the hotel where they are staying makes a bet with Sathyaraj that Prabhas can’t win against their local champion. Who is, of course, Anushka. Oldest of a large family, no father, she taught herself to shoot in order to scare the birds away from their field. Anushka falls for Prabhas at first sight, but thinks he will love her back if she wins the match, doesn’t realize it will make him competitive instead.
Anushka is hired to travel with the show and insists on bringing her siblings with her. Over time, Prabhas falls for her when he sees her being sweet to her siblings and other children, being brave when the show is attacked by gundas who are trying to get protection money from them, and even enjoys it when she shows up his old friend who visits and makes fun of a girl thinking she can shoot better than a man.
But, just as he is about to admit her feelings, Anushka’s jealous rival (Trisha?) tricks her into doing a new act. Anushka doesn’t know that this act is the same thing Prabhas was planning, now he thinks she is making fun of him, putting her professional success above their relationship. He sadly leaves.
Anushka is heartbroken, but has to keep working for the good of the show, and her multiple cute younger siblings. The show now goes on an international tour (sad international song), Anushka wins all kinds of prizes on TV shows and stuff to publicize them, but the show itself has started to lose money. They return to India to find a rival group has taken over their old act, and Prabhas is now working for them. However, they are also struggling, and are open to a merger. Prabhas and Anushka meet again at a big fancy celebration party, their eyes meet, their hands meet, it is as if they were never apart, all is forgotten. Until it comes out that this merger will be funded by all the prize money Anushka won, she is now a rich woman and is giving it all to the shows so Prabhas can have a job. His pride hurt, he quietly leaves the room without saying good-bye, then leaves a note for Anushka in her room saying that he can see she doesn’t need him and they would all be better off without him, he is leaving, don’t try to find him. Luckily, Adorable Children find the note before Anushka, and take it to Sathyaraj. Who uses his old connections in the police (he is a retired hero cop) to have Prabhas stopped and arrested. They bring him, in handcuffs, to the shooting range and tell him their orders are to release him if he can win the shooting contest. Otherwise, he will be in jail indefinitely. And on the other side of the room he sees Anushka brought in, also in handcuffs. He visibly flinches in anger at the sight and asks why she was arrested. And is told that she was rounded up in a raid, claimed she just got lost looking for her little brother but is clearly a hardened prostitute based on how she fought like a jungle cat against being arrested. Prabhas snaps that just because a woman is strong doesn’t make her not a lady (resolution to his earlier issues with her!). But before he can say more, they drag him to the shooting line and tell him if he misses, he will be in jail forever. Anushka clearly overhears and shoots him an anguished glance. Anushka shoots first, and misses. Prabhas shoots next, and seemingly missing, until they notice that he somehow managed to hit Anushka’s target, making her the winner, and freeing her and dooming him to jail. At which point the drag him away back to his cell, he keeps looking back to see she is freed, and doesn’t notice until he is locked in that there is a priest and a nuptial fire in his jail cell. A moment later, Anushka arrives, all demure and dressed up. And Sathyaraj is there to laugh and explain they aren’t risking him running away from the wedding again, once they managed to make him realize how much he loved Anushka and was willing to give up everything for her happiness, they wanted to get them married right away. Anushka gives him a wink, obviously in on it the whole time, and Prabhas smiles and then they are married. And the Adorable Children do a song.
Final option! From slightly more modern film. The In-Laws! The good one, from the 70s, not the stupid remake. And this is the only one that I am going to say you really should watch if you haven’t seen it before. Bringing Up Baby may not be worth it if you aren’t in a theater, or in a Howard Hawksian mood. Annie Get Your Gun is really best for theater geeks. But The In-Laws is just an all around good time. Summary if you haven’t seen it:
Alan Arkin is a middle-aged dentist whose daughter is planning to get married. At the family dinner to meet his potential in-laws, he talks an immediate dislike to Peter Falk, the groom’s father, who keeps telling wild stories and implying crazy secrets about his job. Later, Alan’s daughter and wife talk him round and try to convince him he is just overreacting out of protectiveness for his daughter, since he can’t find anything wrong with the groom, he is looking for flaws in the father. He agrees to met Peter for lunch the next day and try again. Lunch turns into Peter asking him to pick something up from his office for him, which turns into a chase, and a fight scene, and finally Peter says that he is with the CIA and he needs Alan’s help. He has stolen from the US government in order to prevent something something (doesn’t really matter). Oh, and he also left some evidence hidden in Alan’s house at dinner the night before. Alan’s wife finds the evidence, innocently calls the cops, and Alan arrives home to see police cars everywhere, and leaves immediately, calling Peter and begging for help. Peter tells him to meet at an airport, they will fly to Pennsylvania and clear this all up. Only once they are on the plane, Alan realizes it is taking them to south American instead. The two of them continue a crazy adventure with gunfire and madmen and so on. Interspersed with Peter trying to reassure Alan and tell him he really likes him and it will all be okay, and Alan alternating between hating and distrusting Peter and coming to like him. They manage to survive it all and return home, just in time for the wedding, now bonded for life. And with 5 million dollars stolen from a corrupt south American general, enabling them to give their children a million dollar wedding present and earn their respect.
(it doesn’t sound as funny as it is written out like that. Believe me, it’s great. Assuming you are fluent in English, not sure if it would work with just subtitles. But probably even then)
Alan Arkin nebbish nervous dentist: Saif Ali Khan (or Prakash Raj)
Peter Falk odd but strangely charismatic spy: Akshay Kumar (or Anil Kapoor)
Alan Arkin’s wife: Kareena (also playing older, but heck, her stepdaughter is old enough to be married, it’s believable)
Peter Falk’s wife: Twinkle! Why not! I know she hates acting, but it’s like one scene and two lines, and it would be such a kick to see the two couples together!
Bride: Alia! Over the top and needy and demanding for like one scene. And then stops being so bratty and rude at the end when her father who she doesn’t think she needs any more gives her all that money. (or Sonam as an in joke)
Groom: Siddharth! Shy good boy over-shadowed by his much more outgoing father.
Not much needed! It was a college romance, the two families are modern and accept that the kids are in love and the families meeting is just a formality. But it does burn a little that they don’t even seem to care what their parents think, not even a little bit. That’s part of the stress of that first meeting over dinner.
Alia throws a big spoiled fit after dinner insisting that her father make nice with the other family, so he goes over the next day and Akshay agrees to let bygones be bygones if he does one simple favor, call it a dowry. Just go to Akshay’s office and get something from his safe. And then Saif is interrupted in the middle of getting the thing by armed men, runs away, Akshay rescues him in a fight scene, and then tells him that he is a RAW agent and the file he took from the safe contains the Kohinoor diamond, which Akshay stole in a secret mission so he can deliver it to a crazed dictator hiding out in the mountains and learn his secrets before stealing it back again. And RAW may not entirely know about this plan. But they can just fly to Delhi now and explain it. Saif refuses, but then goes home to see the police at his house (because Kareena called them when she found the plans for the Kohinoor location that Akshay had hidden in their house the day before) and decides he has no choice.
Only of course they don’t fly to Delhi, they fly to the remote fastness where the crazed dictator is hiding out. Item song! Dictator hide out sexy cave item song! Saif finally manages to use his cell phone to get through to RAW headquarters where he is told Akshay is a madman who no longer works for them. Saif is ready to make a run for it when he notices that Akshay is in the middle of a drunken brawl with the henchgoons. He can’t bring himself to leave him alone, and so gets sucked back in. At the end, they hand over the diamond and get 20 million dollars in return. And then are told they will never be able to leave with the money, they are about to be shot. At the absolute last minute, Akshaye Khanna arrives with a team of commandos, Akshay really was doing all of this with government authority just like he said and now that the hide out is identified, everything is fine. Akshay hands over 10 million dollars and the Kohinoor to Akshaye and says that is all they got. Saif is about to speak up, but stops. And then they return home to tell the kids that the wedding budget just got A LOT bigger. And to hand them a check for a million dollars and keys to a new flat, which finally gets Alia to say “Daddy!” and hug Saif, and Siddharth to touch Akshay’s feet. And Big Wedding Song, with the two men as a centerpiece.
So, what do you think? Which one would you make if you could only make one? Any casting changes? Would you prefer my second or third cast choices instead of first for any of these?
And, just curious, how many of you know all 3 of these? And if you only knew one or two, which ones?