Recently I stumbled upon a film called The Real Macaw. It was during an evening where I was drunk with a few friends and felt that a terrible children's film might be a good thing to take out all my deep seated frustration on, by criticising a work that hadn't been relevant for almost longer than the period that I had been able to think that it was terrible. In my search of bad nineties children's films I stumbled upon The Real Macaw. A film that had surprisingly turned out to be have been co-written by Matthew Perry.
“Hang on”, I thought. Hadn't Matthew Perry been an alcoholic for a lot of the nineties and could this have fallen into that sweet spot of blitzed out bliss, during which he'd managed to write a children's film about a talking parrot that had been friends with a group of pirates and had then gone on to tell a young boy years after the location of a secret buried treasure. Yes, this seems like the kind of a thing that an in deep alcoholic would write.
The suspicion that children's are all written in a drug induced blitz hasn't been a new thought of mine. After all, most children's films don't make any sense, are wrought with such simplified moral lessons that they almost seem to be a satire of real life and follow such a rigid, yet basic structure that it seems the perfect model for half concentrated drug addled minds to follow. Also children find nonsensical situations funny because the world has yet to become the absurd series of rules that is eventually stamped into us through the repetition and habit that is instilled until adulthood; making the confused state of mind that only intoxication and the slow sinking into a hopeless self dug pit of despair can replicate, producing thought patterns that are perfect for empathising with a child's sense of humour.
But for the first time I finally have evidence that a children's film was written whilst under the influence. I thought this day would never come unless Hunter S Thompson or Christopher Hitchins wrote a kiddy flick and judging by the fact that they are both dead and were never going to write kid's films in the first place, then this seemed unlikely. We rarely find out about the writers behind a kid's films. Their IMDB pages remain an ignored blank pictured wasteland, dotted only with disappointments and overshadowed by one of the million other better careers that are a mere click away.
Average ignored children's film writer, complete with the miniest bio I've ever seen
The Real Macaw, not to be mistaken for the fake macaw, is a film that verified with Wikipedia's time line ofMatthew Perry's alcoholism, which hit around the early years of friends and continued throughout being fuelled by a mostly infinite and easily achieved constant stream of dollar, seems to match up to the writing of this movie. There doesn't seem to have been any reason for him to write this movie, since he could have easily have picked a better project, so this seems to be to have been a decision made either out of a drunken stupor of an agreement or simply out of desperation for more quick cash for more sweet liquor and pills.
But what tale of courage and hilarity did Matthew Perry choose to construct back in the twilight years of the nineties? The Real Macaw is the most likely true story of a 150 year old parrot who after his centuries of flying and awkwardly stumbling about the Earth, comes to the aid of an old Australian man in a nursing home who is struggling to pay his debts. The parrot informs him of an old treasure buried by his previous owner who is a drunken pirate, metaphorically played by Perry himself, who came to Australia back in the last century or so to bury some treasure, because pirates often hung around Australia and also were around under 200 years ago. But then again I guess a film about modern pirates wouldn't be so fun as one about the old pirates, mostly because they probably would've just eaten the bird for sustenance since most get into the pirate game out of desperation and not out of a decadent desire to walk around with a bird voiced by John Goodman, however awesome that sounds.
Oh yeah the Macaw, called Mac because it's short for Macaw, is voiced by John Goodman putting on a squawky parrot voice, which I'm not going to attack because of the other two famous Hollywood actors who I've seen star as a parrot, that being both Jesse Eisenberg in Rio and Joe Pesci in Paulie; he certainly puts in the most macaw like performance. As an aside, I don't know what it is about Joe Pesci's voice, but its squeaky New Jersey grating is so different to what a parrot impression should be like, that hearing it come out of a small bird remains unnerving to this day. Also it might be because I have Goodfellas flashbacks whilst watching it, because I watched Goodfellas before I saw Paulie because I had good parenting, so I always imagine Paulie's going to stab me up with a butchers knife and then get his other bird friends to bury me in a shallow grave off an A road somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The only reason that I'm not discussing Paulie in conjunction with this film is that unfortunately I couldn't find any evidence, that was separate from my personal suspicions that anyone who wrote that film actually suffered from alcoholism.
Look into that sick bastards eyes and tell me you find any remnants of a soul
But the whole of The Real Macaw is about the old man's grandson going with John Goodman, who sounds the whole time like he's actually been mutilated into looking like a parrot for the movie, speaking in this pained and compressed guttural cry, as he guides the kid to find the treasure, all the while getting into a lot of hilarious hi jinxes and ultimately finding an ancient treasure that will go on being spent, not to a noble cause like charity or improving the life of an impoverished family, but instead keeping a selfish old bastard happy for the last few meaningless years of his drawn out throw away decay years.
Most of time's greatest writers were severely damaged people, many of who drank themselves to death or at least excessively. It is this desire to share your experiences and relieve the stupid thoughts and unspoken feelings that cram themselves up in your skull, to be exorcised through the therapy of writing that is what makes it so attractive to a certain type of hurting people and the impending failure to cure them which drives them to an inevitable desire to escape into sedation. It is at this low point that most writers will write their best and most personal work, free of the inhibitions and creative boundaries that could otherwise hold them back. It is a testament to a good writer, how well they can write when they finally give in to the sauce.
Having said that then, let's have a quick peep at what Matthew Perry created while in his darkest hour. There are several hilarious scenes in The Real Macaw, but I don't say that in anyway to make the film sound as if it is light hearted in anyway. There's plenty of drama here, heart wrenching stuff, like in the end climax where Sam (the kid) has a fight with the unavoidable bad guys who hear about the treasure and spend the entire movie chasing them down, only to survive the fight and then open up a big treasure chest in front of his family for them to gawp at. Then later when Mac says his goodbyes because he has to leave for some random reason, he sits on the shoulder of the grandfather and declares how much he'll miss them all, whilst the grandfather sits there dead eyed not giving a single lick of shit for the bird that kept him in assisted care.
The whole movie is really touching stuff, and even with John Goodman in every scene squawking out each line with the same intensity and tone as if he had been kicked in the nuts whilst taking a particularly wide shit, the emotional weight of the film never lets up.
I've tried looking around for any more kid's films that I can tell have been written by alcoholics and although there are some that have probably been written by severely depressed people, both disappointed and ashamed at what their careers have become, there is no evidence with which that I can verify the presence of any intoxication, mostly because most of these people barely turn up in Google searches let alone have their own Wikipedia page with a dug abuse sub section. But for the first time we have found and can bathe in a children's film written by a drunkard, and my what a bland and boring thing it was, full of all the same clichés and dull set ups that any bird based road movie would contain.
But maybe that's more a problem with the talking parrot based family film sub genre as a whole and not Matthew Perry's under the influence handiwork. Maybe this is a day where we can gain pleasure from watching a drunk kid's film, but also be saddened that maybe the limits of what parrots are able to do within the film industry had already been hit by the late nineties.