Friday, October 22, 2010

Structure Analysis – Leonard Part 6

Yesterday, I put up a structural analysis of Diablo Cody's award-winning screenplay for "Juno." I will be writing this kind of analysis for good scripts (ones that have won awards or earned the highest box office amounts) and for bad scripts (ones that earned the least amount of money compared to their budget) to see what their structural differences are. Here's the structural analyses of a notorious flop, "Leonard Part 6," which is at the top (or bottom) of many worst-movie lists. While bad structure isn't the only thing wrong with this awful movie, its structural flaws are pretty glaring, as you'll see below.

Leonard Part 6
Written by Jonathan Reynolds, Story by Bill Cosby
Notorious flop from 1987
Budget: Unknown, but listed as “embarrassingly high”
Domestic Gross: $4.9 million


Genre – Action/Comedy
Number of pages – The screenplay is not available, but the movie without titles and credits runs for 78 minutes.

Protagonist – Leonard Parker
External goal – To stop Medusa from pouring her animal-controlling formula into the San Francisco Bay.
Internal need – To reconcile with his wife.

Note that a typical screenplay would show the protagonist trying to overcome his internal flaw in order to accomplish his external goal. Leonard doesn’t have an internal flaw in this script, so the story goes back and forth between him trying to stop Medusa from controlling the animals and him trying to win back his wife’s affections. These are both external goals. He clearly does have a flaw to overcome since his wife left him because in the backstory he slept with a 19-year-old girl, but they don’t address that issue in this story.

Also, a protagonist’s internal flaw would normally be in conflict with his external goal. Leonard’s ostensible internal story starts out being in conflict with his external goal because Leonard believes that he can’t win his wife back if he’s in the CIA. But then Leonard’s wife later tells him that she will get back together with him if he defeats Medusa, making the two goals interdependent.

I won’t be listing the external and internal structural points separately because the story doesn’t unfold that way. I’ll just list the significant events as they happen.


Statement of Theme

Small Catalyst (10%)
Page number – Page 9 (13%)
Agent Snyderburn asks Leonard to prevent Medusa Johnson from using her mind-controlled animals to take over San Francisco.

Big Catalyst (17%)
Page number – Page 17 (24%)
Medusa Jones kills a CIA agent by having her frogs pick up his car and hop it into the Bay.

Plot Point 1 (25%)
Page number – Page 30 (42%)
After Leonard's ex-wife rejects him, he decides to take the CIA job. Note that, at this point, Leonard’s goal is to defeat Medusa Jones by capturing her animal-controlling ball. But then later it becomes to destroy the vats of her formula.

Twist 1 (37.5%)
Page number – Page 32 (44%)
Leonard goes to a psychic who doesn’t speak English for advice and she gives him a pair of ballet slippers and a ring box that turns out to have a queen bee in it. No, I'm no making this up.

Mid-point (50%)
Page number – Page 38 (53%)
Leonard arrives at Medusa’s headquarters and steals the ball. While this is a significant event that occurs in the middle of the script, it is not a point of no return for Leonard.

Twist 2 (62.5%)
Page number – Page 52 (72%)
Leonard and his wife go to their daughter’s play and are surprised when she does a nude scene. This has nothing to do with anything else that happens in the story, so I have no idea what this scene is doing here.

Plot Point 2 (75%)
Page number – Page 55 (76%)
Medusa’s main henchman kidnaps Leonard’s ex-wife, but inexplicably leaves his daughter there.

Leonard achieves both his external goal by defeating Medusa and his internal goal by getting his wife back. Unfortunately, in the process, he rides an ostrich, gets lobsters to cut him free by pouring butter on his chains, and he destroys enormous vats of Medusa’s formula by dropping a few tablets of Alka-Seltzer in them. Sigh.

Even though a few of the structural elements happen at the right place and perform the correct function, many of them occur at very odd times and don’t perform any function that contributes to the central plot line. One of the biggest problems is that the second act is several pages shorter than the first act, even though it should be about twice as long.

There are so many things wrong with "Leonard Part 6" that it couldn’t help but be a box office flop. But it’s important to note that one of the primary elements that they got very wrong was the structure. Over the coming months, I’ll be looking at more good and bad screenplays to see how their structures affect their success.

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