An excerpt from my script review for A Kid Like Jake which will be available 06/04/18:
2.) Plot Stability
Part of me grows tired of these lazily written projects that think because they’re tackling a liberal social issue it’s enough to phone it in on the entertainment or drama…
“The First World Problems of New York City Parents”…OR…
“Why Millennials Shouldn’t Raise Children”
As 3way texted me about other things, I complained to him about this script. Not knowing much about it, he searched for the logline and then thanked me for “falling on the sword.”
It was bad, and where the above titles suggest some sort of satire, which apparently this story was supposed to contain, we never receive it.
And if you think I’m just being ignorant, I beg you to reconsider.
A Brooklyn couple has always known that their four-year-old son is more interested in fairy tale princesses than toy cars. But when his preschool director points out that his gender-nonconforming play may be more than a phase, the couple is forced to rethink their roles as parents and spouses.
That’s the overly flushed out logline (correctly labeled “summary” on IMDB) of the project.
Reading that I think, “Okay, this might tackle some decent issues, forcing us to really mentally digest them.” Not a horrible goal for a movie.
But instead, we get 108 pages of whiny parents who never really deal with their son’s “gender nonconformity” and instead just ignore it for most of the script until we’re treated to a giant blow up at the end where they each blame the other for Jake being who/how he is.
And then suddenly, everyone’s better for the journey by fade out because…therapy?
C’mon now…you don’t get a pass just because your little boy wears a dress or because your director is transgender!
You still have to put forth the effort.
Do I care that Jake wears a dress? Nope.
Do I care if it’s more than a phase and a little boy might actually be transgender and want to make the change down the road? Negative.
Do I think Jake needs a smack on the ass at a few points in the story? Absolutely.
Some of you might find that little fact abhorrent, but the one thing I urge all parents to adhere to when disciplining their children is consistency.
And that’s really what this story became for me, two parents who were trying to be their child’s friend and not the adults responsible for getting him from point A to point B.
Your little boy can wear a dress, or your daughter a full cowboy getup for all I care, but still be a functioning, although still maturing, member of society.
Throw a tantrum every time you don’t get your way? Sorry pal, not going to have it.
Chuck a Cinderella doll at grandma’s head? Not if you want any sort of play time for the next week or more.
And before you rush to judge, yes, I’ve smacked my kids on the bottom a few times. Once when my son pushed his sister down the stairs, it was quite a few times in a row, but this “capital punishment” of sorts is generally a last resort.
My kids get a warning first, sent to their room second for a determined period of time, and on the rare occasion there is a third strike, smacked on the ass and sent to their room for the rest of the evening. (Usually the loss of electronics is also administered to this last one.)
This is an unspoken set of punishments my children know they’ll receive and varies by the severity of the misconduct.
We’ve laid it out, and they understand they’ll be held responsible.
The result? The wife and I have raised three kids who are respectful young people. They may not always be right, because they’re kids, but they’re good.
(And I don’t say that as a boast, our children are constantly complimented for being “respectful” which baffles me because it’s more “common sense” to us than any sort of exquisite parenting.)
In contrast to that take a real life example we had to deal with, where a group of my daughter’s friends were throwing pinecones…which then escalated to throwing rocks. One was thrown at my son by someone who isn’t my daughter, and he swears he still has a shallow spot on his skull where it hit him.
The “punishment”? “Oh, c’mon
A fucking rock thrown at his head! After which she was still throwing rocks, my son was just smart enough to move away.
So maybe it isn’t just millennials.
But anyway, my apologies we sidetracked from screenwriting…
Pre-Special Edition, everyone told George Lucas how creative it was that we never fully see the Wampa in Empire Strikes Back.
Similar to that, we never get a clear view of Jake until the very end, which I believe is a similar creativity the production folks were going for here.
Now, I understand that the title to the story has Jake’s name in it, and is really about his parents, but there’s no true reason not to show us Jake.
If there’s some sort of payoff you’re building up to, then this technique would work, but Jake’s completely normal looking and is a little boy who enjoys Disney princesses.
Oh my! How scandalous!
Not only was I getting pissed off the more Jake wasn’t shown, having absolutely no payoff when we finally do “see” him at the end was maddening.
Don’t upset your audience like this.
If you’re building up to something, you sure as shit better deliver.
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