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Robotdoll Has Another Look At CAPT. COOK’S EXTRAORDINARY ATLAS Fantasy Pilot For ABC!!

Published at: Aug. 23, 2008, 11:04 p.m. CST

I am – Hercules!!
For those just tuning in, “Captain Cook’s Extraordinary Atlas” is an ABC pilot for a fantasy adventure hourlong from novelist Thomas Wheeler (“The Arcanum”). It’s about a girl who uses a magical book of maps to discover an alternate world beneath Earth. It stars Jodelle Ferland (“Tideland,” “Good Luck Chuck”), Janelle Moloney (“The West Wing”), Patrick Breen (“Christmas With The Kranks”), Nathan Gamble (“The Dark Knight”) and Hal Holbrook (“Into The Wild”). The network appears to be testing it. “Robotdoll,” an untested spy, sends us this:
Just got to see this pilot, apparently under development for ABC. It’s a story in the Spiderwick Chronicles and Pan’s Labyrinth vein, but I think it needs a bit of work to hit the nail squarely on the head. Jodelle Ferdland plays Guinevere Molloy, an inquisitive young girl who enjoys crawling around in the crawl space under her new house in a quest to discover new things. Her mother (Janel Moloney from West Wing) seems a tad impatient with her love for the weird and father (Patrick Breen – Quellek from Galaxy Quest) is a college professor just assigned to a new town and a new school. At the home of the school’s head, Dean Winters, played by Hal Holbrook (who couldn’t be bad in a role if he showed up high on Drano and baby laxative), Gwen just can’t help from exploring the mysterious old house, helping herself down to the basement, where she uncovers the titular McGuffin, a massive journal of maps and notes made the famous Captain James Cook. Apparently, in between discovering the pineapple and banging a lot of island babes, he traveled to an assortment of other worlds and met an amazing menagerie of not-actually-mythical creatures. She stashes the book back where she found it, but is shocked to find it in her bedroom closet the next morning. She does what anyone else would do; she takes it to school and leaves it half-hanging out of her bookbag, where it’s noticed by the instantly obviously evil algebra teacher. After school she follows one of the maps (Apparently many of Captain Cook’s explorations are all within walking distance of this quaint suburban town) and finds a dragon lair. Just as she’s about to get broasted, she’s saved by Bishop (not Lance Henriksen, alas, but the not-hard-on-the-eyes Jonathan Cake), a man who seems to know much more about the book than she does. She goes to see Dean Winters again, and he sits her down for a long (and yet still disjointed) expository scene, explaining to her what was told to the audience in the opening teaser. The Atlas has had a number of owners over the years, and Winters has trained a number of them. She is now The Navigator, the “Chief Exploration Officer” of the Atlas. It’s her job to keep the book safe, and complete the charting of all these new worlds. Of course, Dean Winters is attacked and killed in him home later that night, leaving Gwen without a mentor, save for the mysterious Bishop, who is supposedly looking to deliver the book to a group who claim it belongs to them. He doesn’t seem all that keen in getting the book from her, more than willing to help her in her adventurers, with a half-hearted “Can I have the book?” every so often. Gwen has a well-spoken little brother who gets himself deeply in trouble when he finds and tried to use the book, her parents apparently do have something they’re keeping from her (it may merely be that she’s adopted, but considering she finds a drawing of a faerie in the book that looks a LOT like an older her, there may be much more to that) and she generally carries herself well in a series of adventures that would send anyone’s else’s bowels to water. The effects are the star of the show. Very nice character designs for the fantastical creatures, and good interaction with the actors. The actors, however, were a little less believable. Miss Ferdland was too animated in scenes early in the show with her parents, and she’s woodenly still in scenes when she should be terrified. Hal Holbrook does what he can with the traditional teacher who gets taken away too soon, and Mr. Cake is in a position where he plainly doesn’t know if Bishop is supposed to be good or bad, so he makes no acting decisions one way or the other. The show really needs a couple more episodes to decide what it wants to be. None of the fantasy characters (save the algebra teacher) are particularly threatening as much as they are just weird. The mysterious helper character isn’t as much mysterious as he is distracted. And for somebody who “wants to be the first person to see Maccu Piccu”, Gwen doesn’t seem to be nearly as excited about her amazing adventures as you’d expect a young kid to be. There’s really no sense of excitement in any of the actors, nothing that really gets you caught up in the happenings. With a bit of work, it might be better when it finally makes the air; I’d say there’s just about enough potential to give it a look when it does. Share and Enjoy, - Robotdoll

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Readers Talkback

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  • Aug. 23, 2008, 11:01 p.m. CST

    I'll take it

    by Aloy

    The more fantasy the better.

  • Aug. 23, 2008, 11:21 p.m. CST

    2nd

    by WIBoomer1

  • Aug. 24, 2008, 2:59 a.m. CST

    I'm pretty sure I know Nathan's older bro...

    by iamnicksaicnsn

    Mason... unless they're cousin's or Mason's his uncle... You may remember Mason as the live action 90's Dennis the Menace! He refuses to talk about it.

  • Aug. 24, 2008, 3:05 a.m. CST

    This word, McGuffin

    by Holodigm

    I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Aug. 24, 2008, 4:18 a.m. CST

    looks like an ok use of the word to me

    by RokurGepta

    Definition: in film, a plot device that has no specific meaning or purpose other than to advance the story; any situation that motivates the action of a film either artificially or substantively; also written MacGuffin

  • Aug. 24, 2008, 5:17 a.m. CST

    Ms Planty McPlanterson

    by Ray Gamma

    Not bad but you still need to work on the delivery of these 'reviews'. Some lines worked well but I think they're going to see through it with some other lines. Please draft up another one and have it on my desk tomorrow lunchtime.

  • Aug. 24, 2008, 6:14 a.m. CST

    Wil there be titty?

    by Kentucky Colonel

    Cause if so, I am there!

  • Aug. 24, 2008, 10:29 a.m. CST

    I repeat...

    by Jubal_Harshaw

    my statement from the other thread, it sounds like they ripped off Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere

  • Aug. 24, 2008, 10:38 a.m. CST

    Ummm, yeah...

    by The Ape Giggins

    This won't last two episodes.

  • Aug. 24, 2008, 1:28 p.m. CST

    Not a Correct Use of the Word McGuffin

    by Michael of the North

    Read your own definition RokurGeota: "Definition: in film, a plot device that has no specific meaning or purpose other than to advance the story" This Atlas has a very specific meaning and purpose - to transport this girl to other worlds. A true example of a McGuffin would be "a mysterious treasure everyone is looking for" that has no purpose other than it is something to look for.

  • Aug. 24, 2008, 3:52 p.m. CST

    McGuffin, MacMuffin what's the difference...

    by dihay

    If it makes it past the pilot it won't live long on network tv...