It’s been a while since chubby megalomaniac Brett Ratner deigned to bother the film world with his mirthless blitherings behind the camera, but with the decidedly non-revolutionary “Tower Heist” hitting theatres in the proximate future, the bolshie “Rush Hour 3” director seemingly can’t keep his trap shut.
Not merely content with becoming a ubiquitous by-word for offensive mediocrity (next time you’re stuck in a public bathroom with a case of the runs be sure to scream out “I’m Ratnering!”), in an otherwise unremarkable New York Times piece, he lets slip that helming a film version of hit Broadway musical “Wicked” would be his “dream project." Which is an odd coincidence, because we've had actual nightmares about that.
In the same piece Ratner also reveals himself to be possessed of a persecution complex that would slightly outrank Jesus Christ, though remains a hair shy of hubris champion James ‘King of the World’ Cameron, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that such a lowly proposition as a “Wizard of Oz” inflected musical would be incongruous for this titan of cinema – until you realise Ratner has the build and world-view of an over-zealous representative of the Lollipop Guild. This is, after all, the same Brett Ratner who thought it in good taste to position a set-piece in a family film that involved Roman Polanski conducting a cavity search as the stuff of ribald hilarity. All together now – “If he only had a brain…”
“Wicked,” for the few mouth-breathers left on the planet unfamiliar with the tale, is near enough the Patient Zero of the ‘revisionist fairy tale’ nonsense that Disney punted into the cinematic stratosphere in 2010 c/o Tim Burton’s creatively bankrupt art-design haemorrhage “Alice in Wonderland.” Repositioning the L. Frank Baum literary classic from the Wicked Witch’s POV, it does, at least, have a shimmering track record behind it – both as a successful novel and a phenomenally lucrative international hit on the stage. It also includes ditties like “Popular” which includes lyrics such as, “It’s not aptitude/It’s the way you’re viewed.” – a position with which Ratner will no doubt empathize – and a line that it might be useful to trot out when people point out the guy who directed “Red Dragon” might not have the same critical skills as choreographers-cum-directors such as Bob Fosse and Stanley Donen.
As a project, this has been outwardly dead in the water for over a year, when J.J. Abrams, Ryan Murphy, James Mangold and Rob Marshall were in the frame as potential directors; none of whom are incendiary mavericks, but all arguably more competent than Ratner. The quixotic allure of Oz is vaguely baffling, given that it’s felled great directors (Sidney Lumet’s “The Wiz” stands as the eternal cautionary tale) but continues to trundle on to the tune of several million dollars in the form of Sam Raimi’s “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” attracting talent as diverse as Rachel Weisz and, uh, Zach Braff.
But Brett Ratner is just hypothesising about Brett Ratner, as Brett Ratner is wont to do. He assures us he’s nothing if not prodigious, in a state of terminal reinvention, imploring, “I’ve always challenged myself, and whether I failed or not, I didn’t fail in my mind.” Of course not, Brett, of course not. The Chris Tucker for Scarecrow campaign begins here.