Welcome to In Development, a new recurring feature on Vulture in which we get our hands on the hottest scripts in Hollywood and give you a preview. Today’s inaugural entry is an untitled screenplay by Dan Fogelman (Cars, Bolt) that Steve Carell recently picked as his next movie following the collapse of Mail Order Groom — which was to be a pairing with his Date Night co-star Tina Fey — because of scheduling issues. In this new project, he’ll play a cuckolded husband named Cal Weaver who’s struggling to regain his self-respect and his wife. Directing will be Bad Santa screenwriters John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (“Your soul is dog shit! Everything about you is ugly!”), who will make their helming debut with the upcoming Jim Carrey comedy I Love You, Phillip Morris.
While Fogelman has made a name for himself writing Disney-Pixar films, his latest opus, which sold to Warner Bros. for a whopping $2.5 million last month, is definitely grown-up fare, funny and poignant as it deals with adultery, intimacy (and the lack of it), family (and the lack of it, too), and forgiveness. Early on, an emotionally wounded Carell threatens to jump out of a moving car if his wife continues to detail her infidelity, and then actually does so. He survives, even if his manhood doesn’t, and flounders — until he meets an unrepentant bachelor named Jacob, who offers to renovate him.
When Jacob finally finishes his proposal to help Cal “rediscover your manhood” and make his wife regret giving up on him:
A line perfectly suited for Carell’s patented hangdog delivery.
Without giving away too much, Cal is transformed from a tragic New Balance–sneaker-and-pleated-khakis wearing blob of a dad into a tailored, GQ-approved, well-dressed and coiffed stud. But it’s actually Cal’s psychological makeover under the tutelage of the cocky cocksman Jacob that offers a surprisingly honest portrayal of the single American male’s psyche.
Its complexity and honesty are welcome departures from the hallmarks of Carell’s recent comedies, which have proven both soulless and unfunny. Indeed, a brief moment in Fogelman’s script seems specifically designed to rebuff Carell’s 2007 turn as a modern-day Noah: Caught in a sudden, massive downpour of rain, a frustrated Cal gazes heavenward and screams, “REALLY???!!!,” presumably at the same God who let him star in Tom Shadyac’s Evan Almighty.
This being a Hollywood studio film, naturally everybody ultimately has to learn something and grow for the “happily ever after” ending (and for anybody who hasn’t seen a couples comedy in the last 30 years, “spoiler alert,” we suppose): Cal’s newly acquired powers with the ladies are ultimately aimed at winning back the wife he’d failed to appreciate, while Jacob ultimately sees the value of intimacy and honesty in relationships. But not before ample sexual confusion and comic mayhem ensue to whet your appetite, if not your shorts.
Or at least, the studio clearly thinks so: Insiders tell Vulture that veteran Warners producer Denise DiNovi (Batman Returns, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) is expected to be hired soon to make the trains run on time, even as Cal’s marriage goes off the rails.