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My Google Alert recently picked up a lot of chatter on the Internet about a rumored Dilbert movie in the works. The rumor is ahead of the reality, as the project hasn't been funded, and there isn't yet a director, writer, or actor signed on. But I was fascinated by the reactions of the many movie web sites that weighed in with their opinions on whether it was a good idea to create a Dilbert movie.

What?

Evaluating whether an idea is good enough for a movie is a bit like an automobile expert saying a certain brand of car doesn't taste good. It's absurd. You can only hold the opinion that a particular movie concept is a good or bad idea if you don't understand what a movie is or what an idea is.

For example, here's the world's worst idea for a movie: Titanic. It did okay at the box office.

Movies are good or bad because of execution, not concept. Even outside of the movie realm, ideas generally have no economic value whatsoever, except in rare cases such as when a patent is issued. And even in those cases it's the patent law that creates the value, not the ideas.

The self-appointed movie critics went on to point out that Office Space was already a movie, so there was no room left in the universe for a Dilbert movie. That's a bit like saying there's no point in creating a romantic comedy because someone already did that one. It's a fundamental misunderstanding of what a movie is.

I've long been fascinated by the common human illusion that ideas can be sorted into good and bad, when all experience shows this not to be the case. We could play the game all day long where I describe a simply terrible idea and then tell you about the people who got rich implementing it just right. Let's try a few...

How about a comic strip that is literally a bunch of stick figures? It will be called XKCD and have no discernable characters. Done! It's the most viewed comic on the Internet.

How about a movie about two gay cowboys? Done! Academy Award!

How about a comedic TV show about a Nazi concentration camp? Done! It was called Hogan's Heroes and was a hit in its time.

How about a Broadway musical about a bunch of frickin' cats? Done!

You'd be hard pressed to come up with an idea so bad that it couldn't succeed with the right execution. And it would be even harder to imagine a great idea that couldn't fail if the execution were left to morons.

Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything.

 
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Jun 4, 2010
"Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything." goes a little far i think. while you don't truly know somethings true value until you've seen the execution, in some ways execution is limited by the idea. also, dilbert is such an established icon, a "dilbert movie" is actually a little more to go on than most of your one liner examples.

that said, having seen both your animations on site and the old tv show, i can't help but think the idea of a dilbert movie has great potential
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
Some ideas can be sorted into good and bad. Here's an idea for making money: We're going to sell rolls of toilet paper, for $2 a roll, at Walmart. This is special toilet paper: it has already been used. The paper is covered in anonymous human fecal matter. No matter how you execute it, this idea stinks.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
The only reason that I can see to support the viewpoint that a Dilbert movie would not be a good idea is the same reasoning that Bill Watterson used to fight syndication of Calvin and Hobbes. As I recall, he did not want the readers imagination constrained by the reality of having the comic strip brought to "life" by actors or animators. He didn't want the question of Hobbes existance answered by some CGI animator, or Calvin's voice and attitude provided by some actor.
I remember the short lived Dilbert cartoon series and enjoyed watching it, but I was also slightly disappointed in some of the delivery. Dogbert's contempt, Ashok's innocence, Alice's anger, all provided voice, inflection and accent that were not consistent with what I had imagined. The same can be argued about any book that has been turned into a movie.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
I hate to pick at a scab when you've made a very important point,but Hogan's Heroes was not set in a concentration camp. The Luftwaffe's had responsibility for most of the POW camps that held British and American prisoners of war. While not Club Med, they were predominantly compliant with Geneva convention standards.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
"How about a movie about two gay cowboys? Done! Academy Award!"

that movie holds the distinction of having been spoofed on South Park before it was even made (if only they'd eaten pudding)... also, I'm secure enough in my "tolerance" to say it sucked! not b/c of the subject (I'm fine w/that/have lots of gay friends) but b/c is was PAINFULLY BORING! 90 % of the population feels like they MUST gush praise upon it out of PC or condemn it (usually w/o having seen it) out of religious belief but there are a few of us who are OBJECTIVE enough to call it how we saw it (pretty scenery but PAINFUL to sit through)!
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
On the 'Orgasmo' DVD extras, Matt Stone discusses the premise to their movies usually start with a brain storming session along the lines of 'What's the worst, most ridiculous premise for a movie?' Which is how we ended up with great movies like 'Orgasmo' the !$%*!$%*! action hero Mormon comedy, 'Cannibal!' the musical, 'South Park' (Originally pitched as 4 boys growing up in a Colorado mountain town with a talking piece of poo best friend), or 'Team America'.

I think he is on to something, because so many movies now are just remakes and rehashes it's nice to see something that tries to be different, eg. 'Hot Tub Time Machine' (probably one of the worst movie titles ever), but still manages to be entertaining to their target audience.

As for a Dilbert movie, I'd prefer it be animated, because the series was so good. But if it had to be live action, I'd have to disagree with the previous poster on casting of the PHB. Tom Cruise would definitely be my pick, he plays arrogant really convincingly (see any movie he has been in pretty much) but what makes him a shoe was his 'Tropic Thunder' cameo that character was a PERFECT PHB!

A comedy show in an abortion clinic... It's been done, at least in part in the movie 'Dogma' and it was funny.

Soduku movie, easy:

Main character has assbergers (played by Jim Gaffighan?), on a train trying to get puzzle book done, continually interupted, comedy... Maybe on his way to meet his online romantic interest for the first time he met playing Soduku.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
"Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything."

This simple sentence has to be the most powerful concept you've discussed in years. The examples are absolutely endless in all aspects of business, art, athletics, life.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
Just a pet peeve of mine concerning the movie about gay cowboys. COWboys. They were gay shepherds, which doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
For the sake of argument, I'll agree with your statement to a point. However, I'd say that a bad idea is hard to execute well and may have horrible consequences, whereas a good idea is much easier to execute and comes with fewer repercussions.

For instance, it might be a bad idea to drive a corvette over a cliff and then leap free of it with a parachute as an exotic form of base jumping. It is a considerably better [measured in less risk] idea to drive a mercedes convertible to the nearby starbucks and buy a cappuccino.

Vin Diesel pulled off the former in a kick-ass movie, and Paris Hilton wound up in jail for the latter, which would seem to disprove my point...
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
@ brian_e:

9/11 - The Musical was sort of done in the British TV show Skins in Series 2 episode 2 "Sketch." They perform “Osama: The Musical” and it was executed really well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Skins_episodes#Series_2
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
Kabraxis: Not entirely the same but similar concept, and quite popular. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikaru_no_Go

brian_e: Those all sound like awesome ideas.

But, in general I think this theory is tautological. Restated simply (sans hypnotism): If something is executed well it will be good.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
Where are you getting the information that XKCD is "the most viewed comic on the Internet?" I'd guess that Penny Arcade (http://www.penny-arcade.com) gets a lot more traffic, to pick just one example.

As for the point of your post, people criticizing the "idea" for a Dilbert movie are really just saying that they have little confidence that the execution would be good. Some kinds of movie ideas historically lead to poor executions. Among them are movies based on video games and comic strips. Considering an "idea" for a movie in isolation is pretty pointless, since, as you noted, execution is what matters. Thus, almost all discussion of the merits of an "idea for a movie" are really discussions-by-proxy of the prospects of a good execution of the idea.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
Sooooooooooo...

How's that BP stock doing?
 
 
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
Recommended casting as follows:
Dilbert - Philip Seymore Hoffman
Dilbert's Mom - Betty White
Alice - Angelina Jolie
Wally - Gene Hackman
Pointy Haired Boss - Keanu Reeves (may need some makeup, but I'm pretty sure he can play ignorant without much trouble)
Asok - Kal Penn
Director - M. Night Shyamalan
 
 
-6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
Slight disagreement here - an idea is worthless in the wrong hands.

My example - tablet computers.

Apple is executing the idea much better than other computer manufacturers. In the wrong hands, the idea was worthless. 2 million at about $600 each in two months = $1.2 billion in sales. No longer worthless ;-)
 
 
+17 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
"You'd be hard pressed to come up with an idea so bad that it couldn't succeed with the right execution"

The gauntlet has been thrown down...

9/11 - the musical.

A comedy show that takes place at an abortion clinic.

A love story centered around pedophile priests.
 
 
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
What people mean by "bad idea" is "an idea that would be nearly impossible to execute." I agree that with perfect execution any idea can fly, but I also believe that I would be happy for the rest of my life if I found the perfect mate. That doesn't mean either will actually surface.

For example, making a movie about a person doing Sudoku for 2.5 hours is going to be pretty much impossible to execute so well that it becomes a hit. Sure, a handful of Sudoku lovers will go see it to try and solve the puzzles with the main character, but in general nobody is going to pay $10 to see the movie, and it will flop at the box office. That idea for a movie, then, would and should be labeled "bad," meaning "extremely unlikely to be executed with success, so why did these idiots even try?"
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
This is true. Mainly because there are so many movies out there right now that had the potential to be great, but failed miserably because of poor execution. Now some people may say that the director wanted to get a certain rating, or the producers didn't want to offend certain people, or the actors couldn't act or the special effects weren't up to snuff. But these are all variables that could have been changed during the execution, and some of those probably should have been executed....
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
I'm sure someone else will point this out but Hogan's Heroes was in a Prisoner of War camp not a Concentration Camp. Very different.
 
 
 
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