The other day while watching the Super Bowl—no, not watching it, rejoicing in it—I had to do a double take. During one of the many advertisements that bookend the pigskin plays, I thought I saw a line of text scrawl across the screen about “Hasbro, the company that gave you the Transformers.” And then, lo and behold, there came a series of scenes that depicted fleets, and vessels, and men in uniform, and women with headsets on, and finally Liam Neeson. Most of the action seemed to be taking place on a battleship.
Oh, no, I thought, my mind scrambling to the finish line like an excited kid playing Parcheesi. It can’t be. Is this a movie based on the board game Battleship? And, in fact, yes, it is.
Battleship—the classic game of strategy and persistence—has been revamped into a big-screen film. I imagine the folks at Hasbro are cashing in on the winning streak they’ve had with Transformers. After all, weren’t they toys before they became summer franchises?
That got me to thinking about all the possibilities that exist in our toy boxes for celluloid blockbusters. G.I. Joe is coming back to the cineplexes once more—this time, the all-American hero and his buddies will be embodied by onetime wrestler “the Rock” and onetime husband to Demi Moore, Bruce Willis.
If the fuzzy-haired Joe doll could find his way to Hollywood twice now—a couple years back, Dennis Quaid co-starred in one of these vehicles—then why not some of our beloved dolls?
We have to start off with the most well-known doll of all: Barbie. Sun-kissed skin, bouncy hair, and a gravity-defying silhouette, who could translate Miss Barbie to the big screen? Perhaps Scarlett Johansson—she has the requisite physique and glossy blond tresses. And Ryan Reynolds, her former main squeeze, would be the ideal Ken. However, their rather nasty split might make their screen reunion a no-go. Reese Witherspoon could be a nice Barbie, too: she’s perky and sunny and blond. And her ex-hubby, Ryan Phillippe, would make a rather good-looking Ken, too. But just like Ms. Johansson, Witherspoon has not stayed on the best of terms with her separated mate. What is it about male co-stars named Ryan? Apparently, it’s not such a lucky marital moniker. (Too bad these Hollywood stars don’t unite for life, or at least until all their chemistry has been harnessed and photogenically explored!)
Barbie, and her many occupations, outfits, and subtle facial shaping and re-shaping, make her an exciting candidate for a panoramic espionage saga. Perhaps Scarlett and Reese are too tame for the popcorn-selling Barbie. Get Angelina Jolie—in a blond wig, of course—on the phone.
It’s not Barbie alone who would pack filmgoers into movie theaters and their stadium seats. What about Gene Marshall? What a role of a lifetime: the chance to play a movie star who was on equal footing with Davis, Crawford, Turner, and Tierney. The wardrobe for Gene was so lavish and so meticulous that the costume designer just has to make the ensembles a tad bigger. (Let’s face it, most movie stars—even when they are nearly 5’ 11—can squeeze into a size 2 or 4.)
Who do you see as Gene? She never looked the same in any of her Ashton-Drake or Integrity incarnations. To me, Cate Blanchett could assume that role easily. She’s a veritable chameleon. (Plus, she’s been made into a doll by Robert Tonner, and has been immortalized as an action figure, too, for her work in the last Indiana Jones flick.)
And though she often looks the same, Gwyneth Paltrow has a trunkload of accents that she can pull out at a moment’s notice. And Ashley Judd would also be yummy in a 1940s siren part. Oh, it would be exciting to cast someone as Gene!
Robert Tonner is always fashioning likenesses of this year’s big hits. His “Twilight,” “Lord of the Rings,” and “Harry Potter” dolls are legendary. Isn’t it about time that one of his original creations gets her own life upon the big screen? Which of his many misses would you want to see romping across your local cinema? All of his characters are so fascinatingly made with complete bios and histories, why, any of them would be the perfect Oscar-worthy package.
Truthfully, if a board game like Battleship can launch a big-screen epic, why the hesitation about raiding the doll aisles for the next big dollop of escapism? Before I plunk down my ten bucks for two hours browsing in Candyland, or a trip down Chutes & Ladders, or an afternoon witnessing high-rollers waging Monopoly—though that’s pretty much the six o’clock news these days—I want to see a good-looking guy and a better-looking doll. Call me an old romantic, but I think there’s plenty of toe-curling sizzle to be found in our modern plastic and vinyl collectibles.
Barbie, get ready for your next close-up. It’s just a matter of time.