I’ve never actually sat in on a Hollywood film studio meeting — where executives decide which projects to fund and which to bury — but I imagine a typical conversation goes like this:
Producer Bill: We need another movie. What made money last year?
Producer Ted: “Hotel Transylvania 2.”
Producer Bill: What say we make it a trilogy?
Producer Ted: It worked with “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3—Viva La Fiesta.”
Producer Bill: Great. See if Adam Sandler is still available.
Producer Ted: Are you kidding? If we made a sequel to the tax code, Sandler would do it.
Yes, we all know that film studios take what works and duplicate it ad nauseum. I can think of no other explanation for the announcement from Lionsgate this past summer of “Monopoly — The Movie,” coming soon to a $1 Redbox near you. Since “The Lego Movie” grossed more than $468 million in 2014, film-goers should brace themselves for an onslaught of board game superheroes on the silver screen.
Created 80 years ago, Monopoly is of course an American icon. Based on an even older free-enterprise game, the Parker Brothers favorite was the ultimate fantasy during the Great Depression. With a handful of fake money and a lucky roll of the dice, even folks in the bread lines could pretend to be John D. Rockefeller, trading properties, collecting rent and living the high life in a red plastic hotel on Park Place.
Monopoly taught generations of kids how to save, to invest and to oppress their fellow players with high rents and fees. It was a game best played by children wearing three-piece suits and smoking Havana cigars. I even have a picture of myself as a land baron circa 1984, moving a little silver top hat down Baltic Avenue, with my eight property deeds neatly lined in a row.
But Monopoly may be too complicated for today’s kids. In 2005, Hasbro replaced the paper money with an electronic banking system that accepted credit, assuming that children no longer knew how to count cash. Next they introduced a “speed-dice” edition, since kids no longer had sufficient attention spans for a full game. In 2008, the latest version of Monopoly hit the shelves, multiplying all figures in the game by 10,000, so that players now receive $2 million just for passing “Go.” Surely this was done to impress today’s overpaid children, who won’t make up their beds for less than five dollars and a fudge cookie.
Now, I seriously doubt kids will even play the board game much longer.
Johnny: Hey, you wanna play Monopoly?
Billy: No, thanks — I saw the movie.
Even worse, this trend can only bode poorly for the near future at the box office, as one board game after the next will become a summer blockbuster. Fortunately, some of them have already been done: Candyland (aka “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”), Risk (“Viva Las Vegas”) and Trivial Pursuit (“The Man Who Knew Too Much”). We’ve even had feature films named “Clue,” “Life,” “Battleship” and “Twister.”
But that leaves an awful lot of potential board game movies. Paramount is now filming one that tells the haunting story of a former “Happy Days” character who moves to Italy to get away from the tabloid photographers, only to befriend one over a game of dice. The working title is “Gratzi: Potsie Plays Yahtzee with the Paparazzi.”
And even worse — think of the decades of board-game-movie sequels: Pictionary 2, Boggle Strikes Back, Another Outburst, Still Sorry, Connect Five, Even Hungrier Hippos, Uno Dos and Operation 3: The Search for a Gall Bladder.
Terrible as all that may sound, it’s got to be better than watching Iron Man and friends get old and have back trouble while they defend the retirement home in “Avengers 10: The Age of Ultram.”