Ted: a young boy who wished that his teddy bear could come to life and be his best friend gets just that, but 25 years later their friendship is tested by a smelly girl! With Wahlberg, McFarlane and Kunis as the leads you know that this one should be funny, and it is. They’re also aided by some ace casting of the smaller roles; Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale, Ryan Reynolds, Sam Jones etc. The film’s pretty much gag-o-rama, with the funniest ones being the ‘shouldn’t be laughing’ moments – the Airplane / Saturday Night Fever homage to a spoof was brilliantly used too. The downside is that the direction is fairly plain, and story is weak, and although it’s funny, it’s not end-to-end-side-splittingly-good. The bottom line is that as a (live action) extension of family guy – cast, voices, music – the Ted does alright, but as a ‘film’, it doesn’t quite cut the mustard. It’s definitely funny, but most of it is forgettable.
The Informant!: follows ADM executive Mark Whitacre, and his turbulent relationship with colleagues and the FBI during a global corporate price-fixing conspiracy. What hits you first is the lo-fi, softly lit yellow hue’d, old-skool, late 1960s TV aesthetic that dominates the style – no film has looked like this for decades, which makes it stand out. To match this there’s a snappy, finger clickin’ jazzy soundtrack with a hint of old spy movie about it – no coincidence there. Damon is superb as the conflicted lead in both his performance and physical transformation – a tubbier frame, moustache and wig puts decades on him. The supporting cast are interesting choices given the number of out-and-out comedians giving restrained performances – but it works. The Informant! boils down to being a two-man show: one at each side of the camera lens. Soderbergh has taken a massive corporate crime story and turned it into a quirky little white-collar caper – and whilst it’s entertaining enough, the story would have had more impact as a flat-out documentary.
Community (Season 1): after being disbarred a hot-shot lawyer finds himself at Greendale community college, and befriended by a study group of high-level social stereotypes. First off, it’s a great bunch of characters, and this show would be nothing without solid characters. They’re well-drawn, with a range of strengths & flaws, and most impressively, almost every pairing of the 7 mains have a unique relationship which is explored in at least one episode, or hinted at through the season. Troy and Abed’s bromance in particular is great to watch, and although 7 is a weird number, it works well and means there’s lots of material. Expanding the cast further are a great ensemble of supporting characters that keep re-appearing: Dean Pelton being one of the best, but not to forget Starburns, Vaugn, and Senor Chan. After the cast, the biggest strength is the comedy writing; which heaps on loads of dry, fast, witty, sharp lines: because of this, the 20 minute episodes are short, punchy and fun to watch – barring Jack Black’s appearance – and most importantly, they’re very moreish. The only main downside that limits my enjoyment is the continual, heavy, explicit use of parody / meta / tropes / genre clichés that one character in particular (a pop-culture nerd with hints of aspergers) continually explains – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but every time it distances you by shouting “you’re watching a TV”. Abed’s role as a meta bridge and observational/explanatory character is a bizarre one, but he handles it like a boss. The ‘parody‘ element is a strength and a weakness. Best episodes are Goodfellas Chicken Fingers and Paintball (action hero movie) episodes – but they are the least original, and blatant borderline cheesy movie/genre rip-offs! For the amount of raw talent and comedy potential in the cast, and despite being funny, Season 1 does feel soft, polished and a little too safe – but above all else, it shows that the show has major potential.