To: Michael Eisner, Walt Disney Studios
cc: Joe Roth, Roger Birnbaum
From: Jim Emerson, Jeeem's CinePad
Re: Re-make of "Life Is Beautiful"
As requested, I have examined the themes, plot, and character elements that have made Roberto Benigni's Italian Holocaust comedy "Life Is Beautiful" such a popular and critical success worldwide. The picture has received more Oscar nominations than any foreign film in history. I think we can do better. Here's the scenario for an almost scene-for-scene American/Disney remake:
"Life Is Wonderful"
It's Birmingham, Alabama, in the late 1950s. There's this goofy, wacky African-American fellow named Eddie (Eddie Murphy) for whom life is just a great big juicy hilarious laff-riot fairy tale. He's always laughing and falling down and making with the jokes and laughing and falling down because life is enchanting and beautiful and wonderful. In the first part of the movie, all is romantic comedy and slapstick as Eddie courts and marries his fairy princess, winning her away from her White Supremacist fiancÚ by simply treating her as if life were a game and she were a small child. She loves it! She doesn't think Eddie is a stalker and a moron and a psychopath; she finds him charming and delightful and captivating -- so the audience does, too! A few years later, there's a dissolve and they have a son named Joshua.
Eddie is not a practicing African-American. No, he is not one of those "pushy blacks" who does things to remind people that he is black. Indeed, if he weren't black, you'd never know it, so he decides Joshua doesn't need to know what it means that he and his family are black, either. Wise father that he is, Eddie realizes that if Joshua were to discover The Truth -- that some people might dislike him, and even try to injure him, just because he is black -- well, that might hurt his feelings. Meanwhile, racism is slowly spreading like wildfire in Birmingham, and elsewhere in America. It's really pretty bad, really, but to protect the boy's innocence -- and maybe even save his life! -- Eddie makes it all into a big, fun game in which there are never any serious consequences! And the winner gets a big yellow school bus!
Hey, Joshua: You get two points every time you go to the back of the bus and don't say anything! Isn't it neat that there are special drinking fountains just for us? Oh, your little girl friends got blown up in the church on Sunday -- too bad, they lost ten points! Good thing you stayed at home locked in the linen closet; now we get to keep all your little friends' points for ourselves! Remember: If you see some men hanging from a tree, they're just playing the silly "strange fruit" game -- so don't disturb them! Pretend not to notice them, or you'll get demerits! Eddie explains the rule that Joshua must never go with the all the other children when they march downtown with Dr. Martin Luther King -- only children who like to forfeit many points and get yelled at by meanies and sprayed with fire hoses and bitten by big, mean German shepherds do that!
One day Joshua's mom is put in jail after she hears about Rosa Parks and chooses to ride in the front of a bus. But the boy doesn't miss her -- or his blown-up friends, or his favorite Uncle who plays the "strange fruit" game and then mysteriously never comes home ever again and nobody ever mentions him again, either -- because, well, you know: "Out of sight, out of mind!" No sir, wee Joshua never cries or complains or seriously questions a single thing his daddy tells him because he's such a good, good boy. Joshua has no need to know that he could be seriously hurt or even killed if he loses patience with the game or doesn't play by the rules. Luckily (as the screenplay would have it), that's never a problem because he never, ever gets sick of playing the wonderful game, 24-7-365! What a li'l sport -- isn't that just the way good kids are?!?!?
Upon one occasion, Eddie gets a gig as the waiter at a birthday party (he's also the birthday clown -- in white-face, of course! -- hilarious!) for the twins of some Ku Klux Klan members and Joshua is mistaken for one of the invitees. Somebody almost notices that nobody at the party knows Joshua and that he's also a Negro -- but Eddie leads everybody in a joyous singalong of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and everybody just gets so happy and distracted and happy that they forget about Joshua because they are so happy. And happy.
And then Joshua gets bussed to another school -- but Governor Wallace stands in the door and blocks his way, so Eddie tells him to go and hide in the linen closet again (with all the white sheets) and not come out until everything is nice and quiet and the TV cameras and the National Guard have gone away. Eddie explains to Joshua that "De Nile" is just a river in Egypt, and Joshua believes him wholeheartedly because why not! So Joshua stays in the closet, waiting for Eddie to return.
But Eddie doesn't return because instead he gets lynched for saying "hi" to a white woman. But before he's strung up, he winks to Joshua in the closet so the boy will remember it's all just a funny pretend "strange fruit" game! Unfortunately, Eddie does everything he can to tip off the White Supremacist thugs that Joshua is in the closet when he directs his flamboyantly bittersweet pre-lynching performance directly at the very spot where Joshua is hiding. But fortunately, the racist lynch mob is cooperating 100 percent with Eddie's game, so they simply look the other way and don't notice Joshua -- otherwise the boy might be disappointed!
Dr. King gets permanently disqualified from the game, but some FBI agents from "Mississippi Burning" come along in a big yellow school bus and reunite Joshua with his mom. Thanks to Eddie's heroic sacrifice, Joshua grows up never knowing that there is racial injustice or prejudice or bigotry in America. In fact, he never even notices that his dad isn't around anymore, because Eddie has done such a good job! Life is wonderful and Eddie is a hero!