Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

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  • Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

    This will be a lot easier if you've seen the excellent Dawn of the Dead (2004) and remember the character growth of CJ.

    I'm writing an action/sci-fi romp that will either have a high comedy factor (Ghostbusters) or be out-and-out comedy (Hot Tub Time Machine) and my plan is for one character to grow from being a selfish prick to sacrificing his guaranteed safety, right at the death, in order to ensure that everyone else survives.

    My question is, do you think this is too much pathos for a light-hearted Aliens-ish affair? I'm writing it for a '15' rating in the UK which is 'R' in the USA.

  • #2
    Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

    You can probably make it work. There's a technique, some might call it a trope, in movie comedy of the giving of a gift. It 's usually a gift given to the main character, whether it's the harmonica in Manhattan, the bailouts in Liar Liar, or Ben Stiller tracking down Brett in Something About Mary, it can be a powerful moment, and the bigger the gift, the bigger the moment.

    Also, if you can find a way to cut the tragedy, probably with a joke from the character doing the sacrificing, you can make it great part of the movie. Ultimately it comes down to how you have the other characters react to the sacrifice.

    HTH,
    Last edited by KitchonaSteve; 01-08-2018, 02:01 PM. Reason: typo
    Just my 2 cents, your mileage may vary.

    -Steve Trautmann
    3rd & Fairfax: The WGAW Podcast

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    • #3
      Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

      Thanks for the feedback. I'm not sold on the gift aspect. With regards to There's Something About Mary (which is the only film in the list that I remember) it didn't stop Stiller winning in the end.

      What I have planned isn't as drawn-out and tear-jerking as Spock's death in Wrath of Khan but still, hopefully, a 'nooo!' moment. It would definitely add depth and seems to be my character's natural arc. I could be wrong, as I was fast-losing interest, but I think that tree-thing sacrificed himself in Guardians of the Galaxy but even then, it was softened by the emergence of baby tree-thing. Would it have worked without that rebirth?

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      • #4
        Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

        Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
        I could be wrong, as I was fast-losing interest, but I think that tree-thing sacrificed himself in Guardians of the Galaxy but even then, it was softened by the emergence of baby tree-thing. Would it have worked without that rebirth?
        The rebirth of Groot definitely softened the sacrifice, and provided some funny credit moments. I think the sacrifice of a supporting character can work in a comedy, especially an action comedy. It just depends on how you handle the reactions, probably by finding funny, or at least humorous reactions to the sacrifice.
        Just my 2 cents, your mileage may vary.

        -Steve Trautmann
        3rd & Fairfax: The WGAW Podcast

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

          I'm thinking of Bill Murray in Zombieland, but not sure of the tone of your movie.
          Just my 2 cents, your mileage may vary.

          -Steve Trautmann
          3rd & Fairfax: The WGAW Podcast

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

            ALIENS is light hearted?

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            • #7
              Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

              Like anything else, self sacrifice can work beautifully or it can come out hokey. All depends. It's not a new moment in film, as many films have done and continue to do it. That doesn't mean that you can't of course. I think the key to the moment will be in that character's storyline prior. The death is the end of that character's storyline. Make it end on a strong emotional note like redemption or irony. Maybe prior in his story, he had the chance to go back and get innocent people out of danger and he did not. Or you paint into the narrative how this is a very selfish character. Always looking out for themselves, they come first, and like Bogart said they stick their neck out for no one, now sacrifice by this character will have an emotional charge to it. Emotional charge is what will keep it from being just a 'supporting character dies for effect' scene.

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              • #8
                Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

                Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
                This will be a lot easier if you've seen the excellent Dawn of the Dead (2004) and remember the character growth of CJ.

                I'm writing an action/sci-fi romp that will either have a high comedy factor (Ghostbusters) or be out-and-out comedy (Hot Tub Time Machine) and my plan is for one character to grow from being a selfish prick to sacrificing his guaranteed safety, right at the death, in order to ensure that everyone else survives.

                My question is, do you think this is too much pathos for a light-hearted Aliens-ish affair? I'm writing it for a '15' rating in the UK which is 'R' in the USA.
                Then there's "Joe Versus the Volcano", if you want to have your character both sacrifice himself and survive.
                "I just couldn't live in a world without me."

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                • #9
                  Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

                  The quick answer is that it would be hard to have too much pathos. Most good comedies have some sort of emotional core, even the silly ones.

                  While it is a darker comedy than most 'Bad Santa' has a great example of an ******* growing throughout the film until he decides he would risk getting killed just to give a child a toy. It's a touching sacrifice and it really works. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

                    Cheers, all. Food for thought.

                    Am tempted to watch Joe versus the Volcano but I seem to recall it getting slated back in the day. Or was that Bonfire of the Vanities?

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                    • #11
                      Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

                      Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
                      Cheers, all. Food for thought.

                      Am tempted to watch Joe versus the Volcano but I seem to recall it getting slated back in the day. Or was that Bonfire of the Vanities?
                      as should be self-evident from my nick, "Joe v. The Volcano" is fantastically great.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Self-sacrifice in a comedy?

                        Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
                        Cheers, all. Food for thought.

                        Am tempted to watch Joe versus the Volcano but I seem to recall it getting slated back in the day. Or was that Bonfire of the Vanities?
                        With me, it has to be in my top five favorite movies. Not everyone has my sense of humor, but I'd definitely suggest giving it a shot.
                        "I just couldn't live in a world without me."

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