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Will Grundler: Zac Efron in space

BY WILL GRUNDLER

Published March 3, 2009

It is a well-known fact that many people, and cats, are unhappy.

For instance, there are many pessimistic people who will see a glass that is half full and declare, “I hate glasses.”

And now, as we resume our education, many people say, “I can’t believe spring break is over, I hate school and wish I were somewhere else,” in a huffy tone, looking very huffy.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I pitched to my fellow peers my alien movie idea — a film that is virtually all about the desire to be somewhere else — and they hated it.

One unhappy person disliked it so much that he ripped up my drawing of the aliens I had doodled on a napkin. Can you imagine if someone had ripped up J.K. Rowling’s napkin about Harry Potter? I can’t. Well, she would have most likely gotten another one and started over. But what if there weren’t any left? Anyway, the point is I forgot how to draw the aliens, and the new ones I drew look stupid.

I’ve decided, then, that it would be best to share my movie with a wider, more diverse audience. With this article it could, perhaps, reach tens of people. Therefore, what follows is a letter I sent to Steven Spielberg discussing my idea:

Dear Mr. Spielberg,

I imagine you receive thousands of boring movie ideas a month, such as documentaries about the Jonas Brothers. However, I promise you mine is interesting and, above all, unique.

I’ve always enjoyed your movies because a recurring theme is that of extraordinary things happening to rather ordinary characters — I believe that this is a powerful theme. In your film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, for example, there’s nothing very special about E.T., but then he befriends the little boy who owns a flying bike, and a flying bike is quite extraordinary. But I’m sure you already know this.

My idea for a movie came to me last summer when I worked in a grocery store. One night I came home, exhausted, and my cat bit me! For no reason, you understand. It’s well known that cats are naturally unhappy. I cursed at her and threw her outside into the night, but then I felt guilty and went out to fetch her. And there, among the brilliant stars and the Milky Way, was a mysterious, flashing object that looked remarkably like an airplane.

It turned out it was an airplane. But it sparked my imagination — what if, against all odds, an ordinary person, played by Zac Efron, had a close encounter with a UFO? One that left him obsessed with UFOs and a strange geological formation where UFOs landed? So obsessed that he ignored his cat, which bites a lot, and said UFO abducted it (the cat, you understand)? (This would ground the audience; there is emotional tension that, although the story concerns aliens, adds a distinct sense of humanity to the production, because humanity doesn’t especially enjoy cats and would like to see them abducted.)

The main plot of the film, then, is Zac’s desire to see the UFO once more and visit the geological formation where it lands (which turns out to be Mt. Rushmore), as well as rescue his cat and repair their relationship. Here’s the twist: The aliens turn out to be peaceful. How many aliens portrayed in films, with the exception of Chewbacca and Keanu Reeves, turn out to be friendly? Here’s the second twist: The aliens communicate via musical signals. Not the traditional squeaks or grunts or river dancing, but musical notes.

And then, the third and final twist: although Zac is reunited with his cat when he travels to Mt. Rushmore to see the UFO, he chooses to enter the UFO and leave Earth. And then the audience realizes it was what he had wanted the whole movie. He didn’t want to have an ordinary job and be an ordinary person – he wanted to be an alien ambassador, which pays better. He wanted to see the universe. And his cat is okay with his decision. At the very end, when Zac is holding the cat before he leaves, it understands somehow, and maybe it could lick his nose.

That’s all I’ve got so far, but I would appreciate your advice.

Regards,

Will

I have yet to hear back from him, but he is extremely busy. I hope he’s not one of those pessimistic people, though, to whom I’ve tried to tell my idea. They listen for less than thirty seconds before muttering how cold Michigan is, utterly missing my entire message: if Zac can escape his situation and become an ambassador of the universe, why can’t they escape theirs? But instead of transferring to the University of Miami, I imagine most of the people I talked to will continue to stay in Michigan.

And I will not be dedicating my movie to them.

Will Grundler can be reached at sailgull@umich.edu.