Friday, February 6, 2009

Who Owns An Idea?

By Lars Trodson

As we contemplate the curious province of the hit movie "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" (a laboriously unfunny title for a comedy, by the way), let us remember the strange year of 1988, something of a milestone in American cinema.

There was a 12 month period there when Hollywood unleashed five movies -- that's right, five -- all with the exact same body/personality swap premise.

They were: “Big” (1988); “Vice Versa” (1988); “18 Again!” (1988); “Like Father, Like Son” (1988) and “Dream A Little Dream” (which was actually released in 1989, and featured Corey Feldman switching bodies with Jason Robards).

"Big", of course, we all remember, but the others are probably available only at your specialty movie store.

Now, if you have five movies in which the plot is the same, who owns the idea? It's a twisting, frustrating question, because what all this really boils down to is artistic sensibility and execution. I remember very specifically that "Big" was released late in the body-swapping cycle and people were fretting that audiences were tired of the concept. But "Big" is a beautiful movie, with touching, perceptive performances, and that was why it was such a hit and the others are not remembered.

(There will be more to come on this topic from us here.)