Man, it's a good day to be Rodney Rothman.
I wrote this morning about his upcoming directorial debut, a still-untitled science-fiction/horror comedy that he wrote as well, and now comes news that Sony is pleased with his script for the also-untitled 23 Jump Street/Men In Black crossover, so pleased that the studio is evidently close to hiring James Bobin to direct so they can get things started.
James Bobin did lovely work on The Muppets, his bigscreen debut, but the reason I remain excited about what choices he makes as a filmmaker is because of his work on Flight Of The Conchords. That was a very tricky tone to master, and I think whimsy can be horrifying in the wrong hands, but Bobin has this very sweet and silly nature that comes through in his work. I wish I could be excited about his next film, Alice Through The Looking Glass, but I hated the first film in that series and the trailer does not give me hope this will be different at all.
He seems like a more interesting fit for a film that's going to be as straight-up weird as a Jump Street/MIB collision. It feels like, based on the way Variety is reporting this so far, this is more of a sequel to Jump Street than a full-blown crossover. If they were bringing back Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, then it would feel like both franchises were bringing the same weight to the table.
Instead, Sony is wisely using this as the moment to pass the torch, to introduce brand-new Agents who can then (hopefully) carry things forward on their own. That's the task they gave Rothman as a writer, and with the studio now confident that they've cracked this thing, they're aiming for a 2017 release. That's why Chris Miller and Phil Lord, who made the first two Jump Street films, aren't going to be back to make this super-sized sequel. They'll be off directing whoever they've picked as Young Han Solo at that point.
It's going to be interesting to see who Sony tries as agents for Men In Black. If they're moving forward with Men In Black 4 as it existed at the end of 2014, then they're looking for Agent Em and Agent H. She's the film's main character, an alien-obsessed little girl who grew up to become a member of the MIB forces. H is a partner assigned to her when she is sent to Roswell for her first major assignment in the MIB. He's described as “a nebbish in a regulation black suit that looks three sizes too big.” Maybe they'll go a different direction entirely and just dump the MIB4 script they've developed, but I think it's more likely they worked with Rothman and with the original MIB4 screenwriter, Oren Uziel, to make sure that everyone was working on the same thing. The MIB4 I read was a clean break from the old series, a brand-new start, and it was fine. I didn't flip out for it, but it seemed to build smartly off of ideas presented in the Barry Sonnenfeld films. It's an origin for Em and H as a team, though, so it might not work if we're going to meet the new characters in this Jump Street film first.
Whatever the case, it's clear that Sony's getting aggressive about their brands, and I'll be curious to see who they tap as the inheritors of one of the biggest franchises they own. It's a big decision, and a great chance to redefine something that always felt like untapped potential to me.
No word yet on when you'll see 23 Jump Street/Men In Black in theaters.