WITH BOX-OFFICE attendance off by 3.5 percent this year, it's fair to say Hollywood's not getting any fatter.
But that doesn't mean it doesn't need to make some New Year's resolutions. Here are five ideas to get the industry rolling again.
1. More comedies, please. Audiences have spoken. We will flock to your comedies, no matter how bad they are (Yes, I'm talking about you, "What Happens in Vegas"). This is a year when "Fool's Gold" and "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" spent something like six weeks at the top of the box office. "Yes Man" (as of this writing) is the most popular movie in America, following on the heels of "Four Christmases" and "Madagascar 2." I'd rather have a sinus infection than see "Mamma Mia," but I get why others loved it.
These are lousy times, and we don't want to go to the movies to feel lousier. In "Stardust Memories," aliens put it to Woody Allen this way: "You want to do mankind a real service, tell funnier jokes."
Allen took his own advice. He stopped making movies about treacherous Brits killing each other, and made a movie about gorgeous people making love and drinking sangria in sunny Spain. "Vicki Christina Barcelona" was his best movie in ages.
In this environment, no wonder Judd Apatow is a hot ticket. There's great advance buzz for Apatow regular Paul Rudd and his new comedy, "I Love You, Man" due out early next year.
2. Stop making so many depressing movies. Enough already with the end of the world. "The Day the Earth Stood Still (also known as the Day Keanu Reeves' Face Stood Still"), "City of Ember," "Hellboy II," or "The Happening." M. Night Shyamalan's "Happening" was picked in a Moviephone poll as the year's worst, which is harsh. I saw movies that were far more awful, but I sympathize with voters who want more from a summer movie than a contagion of mass suicide.
Shyamalan is going the action-adventure route with a screen adaptation of "The Last Airbender," and I say hooray for that.
3. Stop hiring Paul Haggis to write James Bond movies. Who's idea was this? Who looked at the Bond franchise and said, "We need more of that 'Crash,' vibe, that 'In the Valley of Elah' thing that Haggis does so well."
Girls, martinis, one-liners. Is that so hard? Are you really telling us that Bond's most meaningful opposite-sex relationship is with Judi Dench?
We don't need Bond to expose the corruption of major intelligence services while somebody follows him around with a hand-held camera. We've got Jason Bourne for that.
4. Stop with the sadism. The action movie and the horror movie are nearly dead, destroyed by writers and directors who think that action and horror are torture and mutilation. Five is enough "Saw" movies. And let's give up on "The Punisher." It didn't work with Dolph Lundgren, it didn't work with Thomas Jane, and it didn't work with Ray Stevenson. Three strikes and you're out.
I saw one pretty good horror movie last year, a Scandinavian vampire story called "Let the Right One In." It's about a vulnerable, bullied boy who's seduced by a monster he mistakes for a protective child. That's what makes it horrifying, not the blood that goes with it. Hollywood's already at work on a U.S. remake; let's hope they get it right.
5. $20 million worth of special effects is not the same as an ending. What a disappointment to see that the best Spielberg and Lucas could come up for grand finale of "Indy 4" was a trite CGI image of a spaceship, or whatever the hell it was was, coming out of the ground.