One common story formula involves a character receiving a magical gift…or magical ‘curse’…and being forced to deal with the chaos that the magic causes.
In Liar Liar, the slick, dishonest attorney is compelled to only speak the truth.
In Groundhog Day, the main character repeats the same day over and over.
In What Women Want, the advertising exec can read the minds of all females.
In Big, a frustrated kid finds himself in an adult body.
In The Nutty Professor (1996), an overweight scientist becomes fit, lean and confident.
In these magic spell stories, characters are thrust into a Twilight Zone-thing, often with powers that give them great advantages. Even the “curses” are often blessings at least in some ways. And the characters always have lessons to learn and growing to do. Even the nicer Protagonists.
The character will enjoy the advantages their unusual situation gives them, before realizing they need something more than these superficial victories.
Then they will try to outwit or break the curse in some way (seen when Jim has his son make another birthday wish to end his curse in Liar Liar, and when Mel repeats the conditions that led to his telepathic powers in What Women Want). It won't work.
In the end, it's the humanity they had inside all along that wins the day - it's not the powers. This is a vital element to making these stories resonate. Sure, someone could do a version of this kind of story where no growth is required and no human struggle needed, and where greater power wins the day…but these will not be stories that matter to people on any real level.
In The Nutty Professor, it's not charismatic, handsome Buddy Love who wins the day…actually Buddy becomes the villain. It's overweight, gentle Sherman who finds the determination to fight and win the victory in the end.
In Big, Josh doesn't use his “powers” as a successful adult to finally learn his lesson; it's the almost-teenager within him that has the insight to realize that he doesn't want or need a shortcut to adulthood.
In Liar Liar, Fletcher chooses to be more truthful and have integrity in the end - it's not the magic that forces him forever, because that would be a pointless story.
In Groundhog Day, Phil becomes the best version of himself, using his timeloop-given knowledge but also pushing himself to be caring and heroic, and that's what finally breaks the curse.
I don't remember What Women Want well enough, but I'd bet my last Quackbuck that there's some variation of this that solves the problem for Mel Gibson in the end of that movie too.
In stories based on magical blessings or curses, it's the humanity - not the powers - that have to make the real difference in the end.
it's true! all you have to do is believe!
You again?? That has nothing to do with the topic under discussion! Knock it off!
Sorry everybody. Frikkin sasquatches…
Have a good one!
Banes at 12:00AM, Dec. 9, 2021
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