Since you guys are re-making, re-booting, and re-imagining everything, I assume you’re going to have a go at MASH sooner or later. And you should. And sooner would be better than later. Whoever owns the rights to the show is an idiot.
I subscribe to Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, and I can’t watch MASH on any of them! I guess they want me to buy the boxed set, but… no. I like MASH and all, but I want to watch two or three episodes from different eras of the show, not the entire ten-season run. And I don’t want to pay a hundred freaking dollars for that.
Keep in mind that I’m what’s left of the core audience for MASH. Everyone else is basically dead. (Give or take a decade.) So if I’m not going to buy the disks for a show I remember fondly, you can bet your ass that millenials aren’t going to put down money for a physical copy of a show they’ve never seen. Yeah, some of them caught the show on TV Land or whatever, but most of them just watch stuff online, and that’s where the future is.
Sooner or later my generation will die, and that will be the end of MASH fandom. So you need to reboot this thing while I’m still young enough to make it to the theater on my own. Just find whoever owns the rights to this show and explain how stupid rich they will be after a reboot.
MASH is such an ideal property to reboot that I can’t believe this hasn’t happened yet. It’s a story about war, yet is anti-war. That’s a good setup for having your cake and eating it too. You can have your fun action scenes that make audiences happy while still hitting all those “war is hell” themes that critics like so much. It’s set in a war, so you have an excuse when you need danger or blowing things up, but it’s also a comedy about the boredom that comes from waiting around for war to happen, so you don’t need wall-to-wall action set-pieces. You can squeeze in some trailer friendly action scenes but spend 80% of the movie cracking jokes, which is really cheap to film.
Convinced? No? Willing to listen? Okay then. Let’s do this…
You’re going to need to reboot the setting. You can’t make this about the Korean War. Yeah, I know the Koreas are in the news again and it seems like a Korean conflict would be topical, but look: We are as far from the Korean war as the original MASH movie was from the Edwardian Era. Just to save you a confusing read: It was a long friggin’ time ago. You probably don’t want to attempt to make a war movie AND a comedy AND a reboot AND a period piece. You’re probably going to screw this up anyway, but that’s no reason to make this harder than it needs to be. If you set it in modern day you can have modern music, technology, pop-culture references, costumes, haircuts, and other stuff that makes it easier to make a comedy for general audiences under fifty.
We start with casting first, because who cares about a script these days, right? Just get a committee of no-talent bootlicks to re-work a couple of the most popular episodes into a full-length movie script. It will be senseless and miss the nuance of the show and I will hate it, but I’m used to that by now. I wish you cared more about scripts, but we have to make do with the Hollywood we have, not the Hollywood we want. I’ll just cross my fingers and hope we get one of those rare accidental gems and masterpieces that slip through from time to time.
So here is the cast.
Edgar Wright to Direct
No, do not call Sean Anders or one of those guys. We are not making a slapstick teen comedy. This is not American Pie or Hot Tub Time Machine. This is more like Shaun of the Dead, Kick Ass, or Fargo. We’re hanging out somewhere between “slightly dark comedy” and “pitch black comedy”. “Grimly playful” is how I would describe it. Wright can do that.
Will Ferrell as Frank Burns
See, I know your first instinct is to put Ferrell in the lead role, but that’s dumb. Ferrell is best when he’s playing a comical weasel and / or a dumbass. Frank Burns is both.
Alternative: Instead of Burns, have Sir Ben Kingsley as WinchesterFor you young people: Winchester replaced Burns in the latter seasons of the show.. I think that’s actually a better bet, comedy-wise. Kingsley is brilliant, and lots of people overlook his comic talent because he usually goes for dramatic roles. But Ferrell is probably the bigger box office draw, and burns is the more iconic character.
So I guess the question is, do you want to make a better movie, or do you want something more profitable and easier to market? Sorry. That question is so stupid I’m ashamed to have typed it. Ferrell it is then.
Johnny Knoxville as Maxwell Q. Klinger
Yeah. This character is going to need some work. Klinger is the character who dressed in women’s clothes to prove he was crazy. Today nearly everyone is going to fall into two broad categories:
- People who hate the joke because it’s offensive.
- People who don’t laugh at the joke because it isn’t funny.
Having a guy in a dress was daring and transgressive in 1972. But in the 40 years since then the joke went from edgy, to common, to tame, to lame. It’s now on the same comedic level as a pie-in-the-face gag. Moreover, culture has changed, and when people see a guy running around in a dress, they aren’t going to assume he’s “crazy”. Klinger’s antics as a guy trying to get a section 8 would not make any sense in the world of 2015.
This is not to say you can’t have a crazy character. But you’re going to need a different kind of crazy. Knoxville is pretty good at the kind of generic batshit-insane characters Hollywood loves to make.
Jane Lynch as Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan
Listen, I know you idiots are going to see a female name on the list and immediately want to cast some young hottie. Yes, I know her nickname is “Hot Lips”, but this is not a role for Megan Fox. (You assholes.) You need someone who can play the tough and cynical Houlihan. Her entire character will fall apart if you cast for looks alone.
Look, I know you need your young tits in the trailers. (You juvenile hacks.) Just hire a stupid magazine model to play Lt. Kealani Kellye or whatever. You can have your tits. Just don’t torpedo one of the central characters by turning her into fanservice.
Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Potter
A wise, tough, outwardly abrasive leader with a heart of gold? Jones has been playing this role for 20 years. He wouldn’t even need to memorize his lines. He can just wander on set one day and repeat shit he’s said in other movies and it will probably work out.
Jonah Hill as Walter Eugene “Radar” O'Reilly
Okay, you’re probably just going to screw this up and give the part to Michael Cera because he’s everyone’s go-to guy for “generically nice”. But he’s too much of a mope.
Morgan Freeman as Father Mulcahy
The priest is the voice of morality on the show. You need some gravitas without severity. You need a voice of gentle wisdom. That’s Morgan Freeman. Okay, I concede that he’s too old for the role. But look, you were going to cast some barely-legal bimbo as Houlihan a minute ago, so don’t pretend that you care about age all of a sudden.
Fine. Liam Neeson is probably a better fit for an Irish Catholic priest anyway. But he’s also going to be really expensive. At least call Freeman first, okay?
Owen Wilson as McIntyre / Hunnicutt
Pierce’s sidekick is an interesting character. Er, pair of charactersPart way through the show, Hunnicutt replaced McIntyre, but both characters operated the same basic space in the show.. He’s less of a clown than Pierce, but sometimes also a clown himself, but also sometimes his foil in an “Odd Couple” kind of deal, with Hunnicutt acting as the voice of reason when Pierce goes too far. You need someone who can shift from clown to empathetic straight man, sometimes mid-scene. That’s Wilson. Yeah, he’s super-annoying sometimes, but he’s perfect if you want a guy who can be funny but isn’t going to steal the show from our main character.
Robert Downey Jr. as “Hawkeye” Pierce
He’s a big name. Huge draw. He’s famous these days for playing guys who are dysfunctional, womanizing, irresponsible, but also brilliant and empathetic. If Downey won’t do it, I’d scrap the whole project.
So there you are, Hollywood. Make it happen and try not to screw it up. And while you’re at it, see if you can get the TV show to appear on Netflix or something.
 For you young people: Winchester replaced Burns in the latter seasons of the show.
 Part way through the show, Hunnicutt replaced McIntyre, but both characters operated the same basic space in the show.
Even allegedly smart people can make life-changing blunders that seem very, very obvious in retrospect.
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