With Rock of Ages bum-rushing theaters on Friday and the recent news that Jon Favreau may bring Jersey Boys to the big screen (and don't forget that the Mamma Mia! movie grossed $600 million worldwide four years ago) movie versions of jukebox Broadway musicals could become Hollywood's next big trend. Considering how many of these pop-song fueled shows have come and gone from the Great White Way (particularly in the past few years), the studios certainly have plenty of fodder to choose from. And sure, most are terrible (Lennon, anyone? How about that Bob Dylan show, The Times They Are A-Changin'?), but we peered back into musical theater lore and came up with five jukebox musicals we'd actually pay to see in movie theaters.
All Shook Up
Featuring the Music Of: Elvis Presley
Original Broadway Run: March - September, 2005
Sample Song List: "Jailhouse Rock," "Can't Help Falling in Love," "Burning Love"
Plot: Studly, sideburned troubadour Chad gets sprung from prison and makes his way to a nearby small town, where he enters into a love triangle between dreamy-eyed mechanic Natalie and hot-to-trot glamor girl Sandra. He also runs afoul of the uptight Mayor Matilda, who doesn't think too much of his whole rock 'n' roll vibe. Things get really complicated in old-fashioned Shakesperean fashion when Chad's attempts to woo Sandra result in a whole bunch of misunderstandings that often feel straight out of Twelfth Night... because they are.
Why It'd Make a Good Movie: Elvis seems overdue for a big-screen comeback and this would be a more entertaining option than yet another biopic. And while the "teenage rebel tears up a small town" angle is old hat by now, when done right it's a reliably enjoyable formula. At best, this could be another Cry-Baby. At worst, another Cool As Ice. And at least in this case, we won't have to put up with Vanilla Ice.
Featuring the Music Of: Green Day
Original Broadway Run: April 2010 - April 2011
Sample Song List: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Last Night on Earth," "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)"
Plot: A trio of unhappy suburban young adults, Will, Johnny and Tunny rebel against their bland, corporatized surroundings through various methods of escape. One moves to the bright lights of the big city, another enlists in the military and is shipped off to war and the third falls into drugs and alcohol. Somehow they emerge on the other side of all their trauma more hopeful, thanks to the power of friendship and/or love.
Why It'd Make a Good Movie: We can already picture ourselves sitting in the theater headbanging along to Green Day's music erupting out of those big speakers. The rage inherent in the story and the songs also feels appropriate for the country's current climate, particularly among underemployed teens and twentysomethings. Plus, a great movie version of American Idiot might help make up for Chris Columbus's terrible Rent flick, which completely botched the whole angry-young-people-singing-rock-songs a few years ago.
Featuring the Music Of: Fela Kuti
Original Broadway Run: November 2009 - January 2011
Sample Song List: "Iba Orisa," "Upside Down," "Water No Get Enemy"
Plot: An exploration of the life and times of the renowned Nigerian singer, who was instrumental in creating the Afrobeat style of world music. The child of a civil rights activist, his music often openly opposed the reigning government at the time, which resulted in serious repercussions for himself and his family.
Why It'd Make a Good Movie: We need more films about Africa told from an African perspective and Kunti's biography has the makings of a sweeping, stirring epic about the conflicts that have engulfed that continent. Beyond its educational value, a Fela! movie would also introduce the joys of Afrobeat to a wider audience.
Featuring the Music Of: Billy Joel
Original Broadway Run: October 2002 - December 2005
Sample Song List: "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," "She's Got a Way," "Goodnight Saigon"
Plot: Personalities from various Billy Joel tunes -- including Brenda and Eddie, Judy and Tony -- become characters in a '60s-set portrait of a group of Long Island teens growing up against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.
Why It'd Make a Good Movie: With its emphasis on dancing over singing (on stage, the tunes were sung by a house band, while the performers just focused on their hoofing) Movin' Out could be the equivalent of one of those teen-friendly Step Up movies for nostalgic middle-aged parents. And admit it -- every time you hear "Uptown Girl" on the radio, you feel like dancing too.
We Will Rock You
Featuring the Music Of: Queen
Original Broadway Run: It's never actually had a Broadway run, but it has been playing at the Dominion Theater in London's West End since 2002 and has had multiple international productions, including one in Las Vegas that ran from 2004-2005.
Sample Song List: "I Want to Break Free," "Fat Bottomed Girls," "We Are the Champions"
Plot: Phew, okay see if you can follow this: 300 years from now, Earth is the sole property of the Globalsoft Corporation, which has rechristened our world as iPodPlanet. Rock music has been outlawed and all kids are required to consume the same safe media. But one young man, Galileo, challenges the system and uses the power of rock to take on the head of Globalsoft -- the fearsome Killer Queen.
Why It'd Make a Good Movie: Honestly, we're not sure that it would, but it would be great fun to see someone attempt it, particularly if they did it with the right mixture of humor and spectacle. (Edgar Wright would be an inspired choice, for example.) We Will Rock You could sit right next to Phantom of the Paradise on our cult movie musical shelf.
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