#7. Kevin Smith's Fletch Won, starring Chris Rock
If at the mention of "Fletch" you groan and say, "That '80s Chevy Chase movie?" then we're very, very ashamed of you. Long before that film came along, the Fletch character appeared in a dozen very smart, funny novels by author Gregory McDonald. You should read them. No, not right now.
In 2000 Kevin Smith and Miramax got the rights to Fletch Won, a McDonald novel about a young Fletch that takes place before the Chevy Chase movies. It seemed like a perfect fit: It saved Smith from the burden of coming up with a story, and it let him focus on writing the crude, rapid-fire dialogue that is his one unique talent.
Pretty much every young male actor in Hollywood was mentioned in connection with the role (Matthew Perry, Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon, many more) but we'd have rolled the dice with Chris Rock, who apparently wanted the part very badly. The difference in race from the original Fletch shouldn't have been an issue. At worst, they could have just digitally added Chevy Chase's face and had Chris Rock dub the dialogue.
Why it didn't get made: Smith said he wouldn't direct the movie unless his best friend for life Jason Lee got the part. Shortly thereafter, Miramax announced that Smith wouldn't be directing the movie. Once again, Smith's career was evidently set back by his insistence that he only work with actors he's had at least one drunken pillow fight with. Since this limits his choices to Lee and Ben Affleck (and we're thinking the latter would not only have ruined the franchise, but would have incited fans to pile up all the copies of the novel and hold a Nazi-style book burning) the studio is wisely developing Fletch with another writer and director.
So everything's back on track! On the other hand, apparently the lead in talks to play Fletch is now-brace yourself-Zach Braff.
And while we're on the subject: Maybe Kevin Smith shouldn't take over other people's franchises after all; his Superman Lives script (widely available online) had the potential to be one of the worst movies ever made.
#6. David Fincher's Rendezvous with Rama
Sci-Fi fans seem doomed to choose between silly action movies (like Transformers or Independence Day) and slow, existential lower-budget fare (like Solaris). What we want is more films like The Matrix, goddamnit, where they can delve into metaphysical ideas and still get a solid hour of zero-gravity kung fu. (Seriously, Hollywood, why is that so hard?) Fans saw a ray of light a few years ago with word that none other than Fight Club's David Fincher was on board to direct a big-budget adaptation of Rendezvous with Rama, an Arthur C. Clarke classic about a mysterious 30 mile-long cylinder that comes humming toward Earth like Gaia's lost vibrator.
Why it didn't get made: Money. If you want to make a Rama film you'll need nine digits just to get a seat at the table (remember, Fincher is the guy who needed a $90 million budget to make a movie about two guys fighting in their basement).
Merchandising on Rama wouldn't exactly be a gold mine, either. Little Timmy isn't going to spend hours with his 100 foot-long plastic Rama mothership, contemplating how it symbolizes man's eternal struggle against the cosmic unknown. While the producers hunted in vain for funding, Fincher's schedule filled up with other, less interesting projects (Panic Room, Zodiac).
And while we're on the subject: Fincher was supposed to direct Mission Impossible III as well. If he had taken the job, he could have simultaneously saved both that franchise and the TV show Lost, which languished without JJ Abrams (who had to basically abandon it in order to direct MI:III).
#5. Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Dumb and Dumber 2
It was Jim Carrey, before he got older and started making serious movies. It was Matt Stone and Trey Parker, before South Park got all preachy and libertarian. Their paths nearly intersected in a way that could have made, yes, we'll say it, Poop Joke History.
Forget about the terrifyingly bad film that did get made, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. Stone and Parker were hired to write a Dumb and Dumber prequel back in the late '90s, right after the first film became a hit. Had they followed through, the result could have been a film so crude that society itself may have been in danger of total, immediate collapse (people eating each other on the streets, fathers clubbing sons to death with family dogs, etc.).
We can only guess at what the plot would have been. Perhaps it would have involved a terrorist plot to unleash a chemical bomb that causes every victim within a mile to become inflamed with ravenous homosexual lust. Maybe Harry and Lloyd could have stolen that bomb from the terrorists and realize the only way to keep it from detonating is by continually farting on it (it has a voice-activated detonator and, by sheer chance, Lloyd's farts sound exactly like the phrase "delay timer" in Arabic). Then maybe at the climax of the film they accidentally detonate the bomb at mid-field during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.
Or, you know, not. We'll never know.
Why it didn't get made: When a hot, young talent hits it big, there's invariably a period where they're tempted to say "Yes" to every offer that comes in, for fear that people will stop asking. Stone and Parker were in that stage when they took this on, before they realized they'd be working 22-hour days meeting South Park deadlines.
Another factor: Jim Carrey decided he was too good for sequels right around the time of Ace Ventura 2, so chances are he wouldn't have come on board anyway (at which point the studio started talking prequel instead of sequel). Thus, the horror that was Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd was born. hoisted onto an unsuspecting populace, and then quickly forgotten, peace and reason returning.
And while we're on the subject: It's just as well that Dumb and Dumberer bombed. If the director (Troy Miller) had been given more movies, he may not have gone on to make the superb Flight of the Conchords TV show.