How Bad Was the Reagan Movie Script?

Hollywood is fighting back over Will Ferrell’s abandonment of the Reagan-with-Alzheimer’s “comedy.” Two Hollywood tabloids have offered additional details about the plot and nature of the film. How bad was the script? This bad: here’s the Hollywood Reporter:

It turns out Reagan is actually a good-natured and well-researched comedy that offers an “alternate take” on seismic events in American history — a direct descendent of 1999’s Dick, in which Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams play ditzy teens who unwittingly bring down Richard Nixon.

But it does revolve around the conceit that the 40th president had no knowledge of where he was or what he was doing throughout his entire second term.

The protagonist is Frank Corden, a low-level White House aide with a sweetly idealized view of American democracy. The first clues that Reagan is not in his right mind come early on: As Frank prepares coffee for Reagan re-election staffers, he overhears Treasury Secretary Don Regan (depicted as a stern, mentor-like figure) in a heated phone conversation with Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger (cartoonishly abusive, he’s described as “all Brylcreem and forehead veins”).

“Write it down for him,” Regan says. “Write everything down. Even his name!”

In the next scene, Frank visits his parents’ home for a family dinner. It’s here that the script sets up a key plot point: Frank’s father, Jack, has developed early signs of dementia. Having dealt with this before, Frank knows that bringing up the subject of baseball stimulates his father and gets him to communicate more.

That expertise comes in handy later in the script when, minutes before Reagan’s second inauguration, Regan and Weinberger — joined by national security adviser Robert “Bud” McFarlane (nervous and shifty) — are frantically on the hunt for someone named Mark that the president keeps asking for.

Frank realizes Reagan is actually looking for his “camera mark,” and, jumping to action, pretends to be a movie director. Reagan assumes he is Frank Capra, and, upon hearing “Action!” takes the stage and waves to thousands. Nervously standing nearby are other real-life Reagan cabinet members like deputy security adviser John Poindexter and chief of staff James Baker (described by Rosolio as having “hair plugs and nervous eyes”).

The comedic bits then tumble into place: Reagan thinks Mikhail Gorbachev is Ernest Borgnine; Reagan announces, “Hey fellas, let’s bomb Russia!” and his generals wonder if he’s kidding. (He is.) Later, Reagan, complaining about an imagined wardrobe assistant named Libby, announces, “I want Libby gone. No more Libby.”

That leads to the bombing of Libya.

Meanwhile, Oliver North cavorts in the background, depicted in the script as the kind of part Ferrell built his career on: A dim-witted, cocaine snorting party animal who finds the perfect assistant in Frank’s equally dim intern, Fawn Hall.

By the end of the film, Reagan’s inner circle of bumbling baddies get what’s coming to them, and a clueless Reagan gets his hero moment in front of the Brandenburg Gate, as Peggy Noonan — the one female character, she’s painted as his whip-smart, honorable speechwriter — and Frank proudly look on.

Nice of them to make a role for Peggy Noonan, but of course the Brandenburg Gate speech was written chiefly by Peter Robinson.

But wait! There’s more!

And then there’s Vice President Dick Cheney, who looms throughout as a mysterious and menacing presence. In the second-to-last scene, Cheney — who’s already setting the stage for George W. Bush’s presidency (W. is painted as a complete dolt, not unlike Ferrell’s famous Saturday Night Live impersonation) — makes his true nature known.

What Hollywood film about politics would be complete without Cheney somewhere, even though Cheney was a member of the House from Wyoming throughout the entire Reagan presidency. Hollywood just can’t help itself. Sounds like a barrel of laughs

The Daily Beast has another account, and it doesn’t make it sound any better.