Gilligan Re-Stranded

This has the potential to be spot on or awful…. Maybe even both at the same time.

The line up for the new Gilligan’s Island movie is not on imdb, but Yahoo gave a stab at casting which made a pretty good go of it with, I assume, at least one ad:

When you have seen the line up, you’ll realize that most of this hypothetical cast is perfect. You might also be confused as to why Marissa decided to sell it with Josh Gad.

If you are unfamiliar with the show, Gilligan’s Island is a situational comedy where seven specific stereotypes who would never have anything to do with each other in real life are shipwrecked on an island together and struggle against odd stereotypes that are thrown in at random in an effort to escape said island. Think J.J Abrams’ ‘Lost,’ if it was intentionally funny but with fewer smoke monsters and errata polar bears .

There is scuttlebutt about each of the seven characters representing the Seven Deadly Sins, and that might be how they decided on what characters to select, but after watching the show for years, I never got that impression.

After heading out on a three hour boat tour from Honolulu, Hawaii, the ship gets caught in a storm and the captain saves all aboard, but wrecks on an uncharted island. The seven survivors are the Captain of the ship and his first mate (who the series is named after), an affluent couple, one of Hollywood’s top female actresses, a college professor and a Midwestern girl next door.

In the title role is Micheal Cena, and I never realized until now that Gilligan is the character Micheal Cena has always played. Shy, sweet and good-natured  yet horribly naive and and somewhat bumbling, if Michael Cena were to play anything else, jarring and off-putting.

Another role that was handled with brilliant typecasting is the role of Thurston Howell the Third. In the original series, Jim Backus was able to create a Rich Man character that became so beloved, it spun off into its own existence as Mr. Magoo. Thurston was a Harvard Man who was able to put on airs like a second nature, but was so good natured that you had to wonder if his fortune would have been able to survive if he _had not_ been shipwrecked.

Yet, in today’s world, that would be something difficult to portray. The stigma surrounding the rich these days has them on par with cartoon super villains. However, casting came up with an answer so obvious that none of us would have thought of it. Kelsey Grammer played a character that he, himself, described as, “flawed, silly, pompous, and full of himself, [yet] kind [and] vulnerable.” In fact, he’s so  identified with this character, Fraiser Crane, that he played for 20 years that it is almost impossible to see him as anything else.

The same can be said for the casting of Mary Anne and Ginger. Scarlett Johansen as a red headed Hollywood vamp? Mila Kunis as the hot Midwestern girl next door? Typecasting at its finest.

Though I am somewhat salved by the prior casting the three remaining character are filled with actors I am not familiar with, and two of these roles can make or break the entire movie.

Russell Johnson played the original Professor and, despite having a massive resume before and after the original Gilligan’s Island, he’ll always be the Professor. Delivered in a rapid fire deadpan usually associated with 1950’s G-Men and the doctors in commercials, it was perfect for the time that the series played.

Having not seen the Lone Ranger reboot, I am not sure what type of actor Armie Hammer is, and only know of him because he has the perfect G.I. Joe name. The problem is that the character itself existed in a time that is no longer here, and if he tries to be the original Professor, there is a very good chance that he’ll blow it, but to remake the character might alienate people.

The other most difficult character to play, the one that has doomed former Gilligan’s Island reboots, is The Skipper. Originally played by the irreplaceable Alan Hale Jr., many people don’t realize that, except for hamming it up a bit, the Skipper was all Alan Hale. He didn’t ‘do a voice’ for the character… That was actually how Alan Hale sounded. Every reboot since then has tried to get somebody to ‘do’ Skipper’s voice, and it always sounds like someone ‘doing a voice.’ The magic of Skipper was that he was this larger than life father figure with a blustery voice, and that _was_ Alan Hale.

Now, nothing against Josh Gad, because I really am not familiar with his work, but watching his interviews, he seems more like a Jonah Hill clone than an Alan Hale clone. To me, this means that he is going to try to ‘play’ the Skipper, and if he does, it will doom the entire project. Esther Zuckerman over at the Wire came up with the perfect person for this role, and I agree with her completely.  John Goodman would not only be able to carry off the Herculean feat of playing The Skipper, but he would be able to carry the movie even if all the other big names on this list turn it down. Take Walter Sobchek out of the Big Lembowski and put him in the Captain’s Hat, and you’ll have a movie destined to become another cult classic.

Finally, we have Lovey Howell. I have no idea on that one, and will leave it to the professionals.

There you have it; my critique of Yahoo’s casting for Gilligan’s Island. Dead on for many of the parts, but completely off the mark on others.

A perfect example of how this reboot might go is a commercial floated by TBS for their series, The Real Gilligan’s Island, encompassing too many fanboy dreams for it to be a success, and topping it off with a lousy Skipper.


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