Sundance: Will James Franco mine ‘Three’s Company’ for Oscar jokes?


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The Oscars are less than six weeks away, but co-host and possible lead actor nominee James Franco doesn’t seem to be sweating the gig. Somehow, on top of all his academic pursuits and banging the ‘127 Hours’ awards drum and publishing a collection of short stories, he’s had time to construct an art installation for the Sundance Film Festival entitled ‘Three’s Company: The Drama.’

Yes, as in Jack-Chrissy-Janet and Mr. Roper ‘Three’s Company.’ The installation is part of Sundance’s New Frontier section, which aims to ‘reconfigure art, technology, film and performance,’ according to festival press notes. Franco, we’ve deduced, even has an ‘afterparty’ scheduled Friday for the installation piece. (Perhaps he’s looking to make some new Sundance memories after last year, when his film ‘Howl,’ about Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, opened the fest and got decidedly mixed reviews.)


‘Three’s Company: The Drama’ consists of a room, made up vaguely to resemble the living room set of the iconic 1970s sitcom starring John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers. There’s a brown chenille couch for you to sit on, wicker coffee tables, fake plants and three faux bedroom doors where oh-so-many hijinks, blonds-are-dumb jokes and is-he-gay-or-isn’t-he innuendo played out. Early episodes of the show are projected on the walls.

Franco, on a recorded track, essentially narrates the episodes, reading the lines of the characters in a quasi monotone, giving stage directions (along the lines of ‘Mr. Roper hands Mrs. Roper a cup...’ and ‘Jack and Janet go to the Regal Beagle...’) and even singing the theme song, albeit with some creative liberties. (Whereas the original went ‘come and knock on our door...’ the updated version replaces ‘door’ with a part of the male anatomy.) Franco’s recitation of the lines is not perfectly synchronized with the lip movements of characters, which is oddly effective in letting you appreciate the physical humor of the show.

Compared to some recent Sundance movies, it actually has a lot of plot and character development.

A brief note explaining the postmodern work says ‘by pulling apart the individual story elements of ‘Three’s Company’ and reconstituting them into a fully dramatic experience, Franco allows viewers to activate the body in the act of remembering and reliving the iconic sitcom.’ If you don’t believe us, take it from Franco himself: Just call 801-349-3498, hit 18 and the # sign, and listen to Franco explain the work in his own words.

All of this, of course, has us wondering if Franco intends to mine the sitcom for his opening bit at the Academy Awards. We’ll pencil in Oscar co-host Anne Hathaway as Janet, if only because she’s not blond. Christina Aguilera could do a mean Chrissy, and hey, how about Robert Duvall or Jeff Bridges for Mr. Roper/Furley?

-- Julie Makinen

Photo (top): James Franco at Sundance in January 2010, when his film ‘Howl’ opened the festival. credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times