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Elizabeth Banks and Brooklyn Decker star in “What To Expect When You’re Expecting,” a film based on a self-help book that flopped in the box office.

Games, self-help books fodder for flop films

May 18 was a historical day at the multiplex, the sort of historical day that probably won’t be recognized as such until future historians seek out this column, as surely they must.

It was the day that two movies, one based on a board game and one on a pregnancy manual, opened.

If you are one of those people who had just naturally assumed that fans of board games and pregnancy manuals couldn’t possibly be interested in movies based on those things, you were not alone.

And, as it turns out, you were right.

“Battleship,” which was essentially a “Transformers” sequel with a board game veneer, bombed at the box office.

“What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” a romantic comedy with the same name as an educational tome that has been apprising gravid women of the gravity of their situation for decades, fared almost as poorly.

One obvious drawback to adapting board games and pregnancy manuals to the big screen is the lack of obvious narrative material.

In fact, both of these pastimes are designed to encourage users to go and create their own narrative material, by playing the game or living their soon-to-be child-rich lives.

Of course, Hollywood has never let a lack of narrative material prevent it from creating lacking narrative material.

What’s changed is that movies have become more expensive to make and Hollywood is more desperate than ever to ensure success.

In the olden days (defined as the time when Hollywood could not only define “story” but could tell one as well), movies were based on novels, plays or TV shows.

Today, I believe Hollywood is prepared to base films on anything that has thrived in any other medium.

I think it is safe to say that we won’t be seeing any more board game and textbook movies for a while, but that doesn’t mean Hollywood is done buying the rights to things with negligible cinematic potential to make movies out of them.

But will moviegoers bite?

If a chef brought you a sardine and told you he’d based it on a salmon, he might get away with it if he were a great chef and you were really dumb about fish.

Hollywood can only wish it had chefs that smart and consumers that dumb.

Yet Hollywood has a way of wearing us down.

That food analogy wasn’t just for show. I firmly believe Hollywood will soon start to make movies “based” on some of our favorite foods.

I can almost see it now: A police procedural about a serial killer who targets barbers called “Shave Ice”; a drama about an idealist fighting corruption in Congress called “Pulled Pork”; and a trendy erotic thriller called “Spanakopita.”

Or perhaps a teen movie about a bully who gets his comeuppance called “Jerk Chicken”; a drama about a strike breaker at a bronzer factory called “Orange Roughy”; and a comedy about crazy fashion designers called “Garbanzo.”

A major studio could very well go ahead and make a trilogy called “Toad in the Hole,” “Pigs in a Blanket” and “Ants on a Log.”

I, for one, would pay to see it.

Maybe that’s just because I have been on a strict diet and am ignoring my personal prohibition against writing when I’m hungry.

Since I can’t be held responsible for what I type at the moment, how about the following giant robot movie: “Baconator vs. the BKK Quad Stacker.”

When all these food-based movies have made billions of dollars, it won’t be long before Hollywood moves on to beloved kitchen implements.

Coming soon, a drama about a schism in a family of professional fishermen called “Crab Fork”; a comedy about an unfulfilled citrus industry mascot called “Lemon Zester”; and a comedic thriller about an overweight female sheriff called “Muffin Tin.”

How about a drama about a basketball player with hydrocephalus called “Melon Baller”; a thriller about a weak-willed politician who successfully takes on a group of kidnappers called “Waffle Iron”; or a police procedural about a cop who goes undercover in a corrupt bread factory called “Pastry Bag”?

If Hollywood has its way, it’ll be like a new version of the word association test that psychologists used to give.

Our response to every suggestion will be “movie.”

Steve Penhollow is an arts and entertainment writer for The Journal Gazette. His column appears Sundays. He appears Fridays on WPTA-TV, Channel 21, WISE-TV, Channel 33, and WBYR, 98.9 FM to talk about area happenings. Email him at spen@jg.net. A Facebook page for “Rants & Raves” can be accessed at www.facebook.com/pages.

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