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Jack vs. Future Jack

Author: Christopher Leone
Genre: Comedy/Sci-Fi
Storyline: 4
Dialogue: 5
Characterization: 3
Writer’s Potential: 4

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Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

Commitment-phobic Jack receives a visit from himself, from five years in the future, urging him to marry his longtime girlfriend.

Synopsis:

JACK, 30, notices some odd things one morning: he has a duplicate toothbrush, he finds a Post-It on a photo of his girlfriend reminding him of a date he never made… He goes to a coffee shop, and the barista, ALLISON, questions Jack about visiting twice in one day. Jack’s confused. He goes to work, at a bargain-bin video-game developer, and his best friend, BRADLEY, tells him that Jack’s girlfriend called. Bradley urges Jack to marry her, but Jack says he has to keep his options open. At a meeting, Jack’s boss, BILL, reads a hostile e-mail signed by Jack. Although Bill agrees with both the sentiments and tone of the e-mail, Jack denies writing it. Bill gives Jack the opportunity to pitch his very own pet project, Murder Legion, to big-shot investors. Jack’s thrilled. He tells Bradley his five-year plan is coming together.

Jack calls his girlfriend, CHERYL, and invites her to dinner, naming the restaurant and time from the Post-It note. Cheryl says it’s perfect timing — she has a surprise to discuss with him. Jack calls the restaurant to make the reservation, but the MAITRE D’ gets confused. Jack already made the reservation. After work, Jack sees someone has written him a message in the dirt on his car: “Don’t be late.” At the restaurant, the Maitre D’ is confused some more because he believes he’s already seated Jack. He seats Jack and Cheryl “again,” and Cheryl reveals her big news: she landed an account to do the interior design for an entire hotel chain — in Japan. She’d have to leave for a year or two, on Thursday. This quickly turns into an argument about Jack’s lack of commitment. Cheryl wants to know when Jack plans to take things to the next level. As Jack tries to back away from a further commitment, the Maitre D’ has the house musicians play “Here Comes the Birde,” and busboys appear with roses. The Maitre D’ slips Jack a ring box. Inside, with the ring, is a note telling Jack not to break up with her.

Jack panics. He catches sight of a MAN trying to sneak away from the restaurant, and Jack chases him into the men’s room. He discovers the man is — himself, from five years in the future. FUTURE JACK tells him breaking up with Cheryl was the biggest of his life. Baffled Jack leaves, taking Cheryl’s hand and pulling her out of the restaurant. He takes her home, and Cheryl thinks Jack is panicking about her new job, but he’s actually panicking about Future Jack. He goes to a diner to clear his head, but Future Jack finds him. Jack asks him personal questions to verify his identity. Future Jack explains that he came back because he’s been miserable without Cheryl. When Jack asks him about the future, Future Jack says they have two rules — he can’t talk about the future, and he can’t change major historical events. He’ll be around for three days, and he’s staying with Jack.

At Jack’s apartment, Future Jack explains that he still lives in the same apartment, still has the same crummy job — he’s going nowhere. Haggard, Jack tells Future Jack he’s going to bed. The next morning, Future Jack tells Jack he’s not going to work — he’s going to Cheryl’s office to propose to her. Jack argues. They go to the coffee shop, where Future Jack reveals that he “nailed” Allison in the future, right after he and Cheryl broke up, and that Jack should stay away. In the car, Jack says he has to go to work to pitch Future Legion. Future Jack explains that it’s pointless — the investors will pass, anyway. Future Jack offers to pitch the game instead, if Jack will propose to Cheryl. Jack tries to remind Future Jack of all of her irritating qualities. Future Jack argues that she’s hot. At Cheryl’s office, Jack leaves Future Jack with the car, which Future Jack remembers how to operate it because he’s still driving it in the future.

Future Jack goes to work, where he verbally abuses Bradley about something Bradley hasn’t done yet. At Cheryl’s job, Jack and Cheryl run into each other at the elevator. She asks what he’s doing there, and Jack says they need to talk about the future. A woman jumps to the conclusion that he’s talking marriage, causing Jack to panic and pull Cheryl off the elevator at a random floor. Instead of proposing, he chickens out. Enraged, Cheryl points out her many good qualities and says they’re good together, but Jack blew it.

Back at his office, Future Jack excuses himself to go to the bathroom, while Jack calls Bradley to complain that he and Cheryl broke up. Bradley’s baffled. He begs Bradley to pick him up at Cheryl’s office. Bradley and Jack go to the diner, where Bradley offers vague consolation until FUTURE BRADLEY shows up. He says he’s been sent to track down Future Jack, because his plans may violate the rules. He urges Jack to break up with Cheryl, then mentions the reason Future Jack hates him is because Bradley slept with Cheryl right after the break-up. Future Jack pitches Murder Legion like a jerk, intentionally insulting both the investors and Bill. Bill fires Future Jack, which throws Future Jack’s timeline into disarray — now, he’s been a lifeguard for the past five years. Horrified, Future Jack finds Jack and asks how things went with Cheryl. Jack tells him they broke up.

Jack and Future Jack get drunk, and Jack calls Cheryl. The two Jacks fight over the phone, leaving Cheryl thinking Jack is nuts. The next morning, Jack wakes up ready to propose. He has a plan. While Future Jack showers, he goes to get coffee. Bradley and Future Bradley grab him. Future Bradley shows Jack a photo of Cheryl’s future wedding photo, to a hunky blond guy. Future Bradely urges him to not ruin her future. At the apartment, Cheryl shows up to collect her things. Future Jack is nice and complimentary, making it more difficult for her. Cheryl leaves, but Future Jack goes after her. When Jack returns with the Bradleys and finds Future Jack gone, he knows Future Jack has gone to propose to Cheryl himself.

They find Future Jack at a mall, buying another ring, but Jack loses him in the chase. Jack goes to Cheryl’s office, only to find out she isn’t there. Future Jack follows Cheryl to a private party at the SkyBar. Future Jack embarrasses her by acting like an overbearing creep, and then he notices Jack arriving. They get into a fight, out of Cheryl’s sight. Jack ends up unconscious in a pool. Desperate, Future Jack saves him with his lifeguarding skills. Soaking wet, Jack approaches Cheryl. Future Jack has vanished. Jack tells Cheryl to go to Japan — she’d have a better future without him. Cheryl doesn’t disagree.

The Bradleys are waiting for Jack, but they find Cheryl instead. She asks for a ride, and they’re happy to oblige. Jack goes to a bar to drown his sorrows and finds Allison tending. They go out to eat, and Allison shows herself to be vapid, shallow, and annoying. Jack goes back home, where he finds Future Jack waiting for him. Future Jack finally reveals that Cheryl’s marriage is a disaster — the husband’s a cheater, and they’re getting a divorce. Jack decides it’s not too late. He and Future Jack go to the airport, but Jack has to buy them both tickets to get past the security screener. Future Jack gives Jack the ring, then disappears — back to the future. Jack continues on, proposes to Cheryl at the gate. She turns him down. The HUNKY BLOND GUY — her future husband — tries to console Cheryl.

Jack gets a call on his cell phone. It’s Bill, un-firing him because the investors loved his no-nonsense approach. Jack gets on the plane and goes to Cheryl. He announces that he is, apparently, moving to Japan. He had to make a choice, and this is his. He presents the ring, and Cheryl accepts.

Comments:

This ineffectual comedy has more than a few smile-worthy moments, but nothing truly funny or clever. The premise — a man from the future convincing himself from the past to fix his romantic problems — has great potential, but the execution is disastrous. The writer piles on romantic-comedy clichés without ever giving us a compelling reason to believe in the Jack-Cheryl relationship. If we can believe in that, the entire story collapses.

Future Jack, the only one who seems invested in this relationship, generally comes off like a creep. It damages his credibility and, by extension, makes present-day Jack less likable. Cheryl has zero development. Jack and Future Jack spend ample time discussing why she’s great, but why does she think he’s great, and more than that, why does she think they’re so great together? Nothing Jack says or does suggests he’d be a great catch for anyone, and the writers never make us understand what attracted Cheryl to him in the first place, why she sticks around, why she’s so eagerly waiting for his marriage proposal, or why she’s so surprised that he doesn’t, since she herself describes him as a commiment-phobe. Inconsistencies like this are never resolved, which makes the resolution unsatisfying.

The time-travel gimmick gives the screenplay its only spark of originality, but even this isn’t exploited well. Aside from the myriad inconsistencies in their time-travel logic, Future Jack learns nothing from his experience, and Jack doesn’t seem to learn a thing until the last three pages — and yet, the concluding “job vs. girlfriend” decision comes out of nowhere. Here, there’s an opportunity for two men to hold up a mirror to one another. Jack can see what he’s become and realize he should do anything in his power to avoid becoming that guy, while Future Jack, looking at his past self with the benefit of hindsight, could see him as an even more pathetic figure because he refuses to accept responsibility for his future and embrace adulthood. But then, as presented in the current script, Future Jack hasn’t accepted responsibility or embraced adulthood, either.

A flashy trailer might make this appeal to teen or college-age audiences who enjoy mediocre sex jokes and don’t understand or particularly care about the shallowness of the central relationship. Ironically, the time-travel conceit will likely keep audiences away, despite the un-sci-fi nature of the actual story.

Posted by D. B. Bates on October 3, 2008 11:17 PM  |   | Print-Friendly  | Professional Script Coverage

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