We all know James Franco has a long history of artful oddness, and his new AOL web series Making A Scene is no exception. For the series, Franco and some friends spin a wheel of classic movie scenes two times then write and perform whichever two scenes the wheel picked (assuming no creative editing was used to assist the reality). They’ve already mashed up Reservoir Dogs and Dirty Dancing, played The Shining as a rom-com, and did a scene from Taxi Driver as a silent film. Now they’ve taken some liberties in mashing up the “Joker pencil” scene from The Dark Knight with the “Banana Boat” dinner table scene from Beetlejuice.
You can watch the resulting mashup above, and it’s… well… I’m trying to be fair here. If someone sent a similar mashup to our tip line, one without anyone famous in it, we might give it a pass because the jokes are too obvious. The production values are fantastic, everyone seems to be taking it seriously, and making a mashup of two so dissimilar scenes is difficult (Did this have anything to do with the “Joker pencil” scene the wheel landed on? And could that scene even work in this context?). But there seems to be a lack of input from a stand-up comedian, someone who could tell them not to use the first joke that comes to mind, the one everyone’s thinking. You go the second level deep, then the third level, and just keep deconstructing a part of the culture until you get to a joke that isn’t played out. Oh, Robin as a gay stereotype? Two Winona Ryder shoplifting jokes thirteen years after her arrest? If you’re going to spend this much money on production, go at least a few jokes deep in the writing process, or you end up with something too similar to all the other parodies out there.
On the other hand, having Beetlejuice declare, “Michael Keaton was the best Batman” followed by Franco-Batman yelling, “F*ck Michael Keaton, and f*ck Batfleck” redeems the whole damn thing.