YOUR CALL on Ted, Seth MacFarlane’s first foray into feature length comedy. While this film is not without its funny moments, it stays squarely within MacFarlane’s comfort zone, and ultimately watches like just a long, live-action episode of Family Guy.
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Ted opens with brilliantly hilarious voice over narration from Patrick Stewart, who introduces us to John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), and explains how his childhood teddy bear, Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane) came to life.
We fast forward to John as a slacker, pot-smoking adult who still spends all his time hanging out with Ted, and despite her fairly high tolerance and understanding, his hot girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) is losing patience. John makes a pledge to be more responsible, but that means distancing Ted as a friend, and it takes nearly losing him to make both John and Lori realize that they want Ted in their lives.
Wahlberg with Ted
The humor here is 100% derivative of the Family Guy style, there dick and fart jokes, numerous pop culture references, an over the top cartoonish fist fight (sans one large chicken), a couple of quick comic flashbacks, and appearances by some B list celebrities. The film is not without laughs (two of the biggest, however, come in the first 10 minutes, from Stewart’s voice-over and from a wildly funny scene courtesy of the great Alex Borstein as John’s mother). Seemingly every Family Guy regular has at least a cameo in the film, and I wished almost immediately that the picture had been set anywhere but in Boston, as the accents only served to heighten the obvious Family Guy-ness of the movie and got on my damn nerves after 10 minutes.
The novelty of seeing a teddy bear snort lines or try to score hookers wears off pretty quickly. The score by Walter Murphy, similarly, was TV-show familiar, and not in a good way.
Normally with a picture like this, I’d say, “only see it if you’re a big fan of. . .” but in this case I’m going the opposite route. If you’re a big Family Guy and American Dad fan, you’ve seen everything here before. If you’ve never sampled MacFarlane’s animated shows, however, you will probably find Ted delightfully irreverent, offensively silly and really quite funny.
I hope that MacFarlane steps well outside what he’s used to doing in his next live-action effort. The guy is wildly talented and very funny, but this film smacked of either creative laziness or possibly the fear of trying something different in a first effort. Try it, Seth. We might just like it.
YOUR CALL on The Bourne Legacy, the fourth film in the Bourne franchise, but the first to step directly outside the world created by the Robert Ludlum novels. There is no Jason Bourne in The Bourne Legacy, although the story picks up after the events in The Bourne Ultimatum.
Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is part of the Black Briar project, a secret government experiment to make better, faster operatives (when the plot summary to your big budget action movie reminds me of Beauty and the Beast on The CW, that’s not a good thing). When the government decides to shut down the project, it also decides to terminate the experimentally enhanced super spies it has created. Cross is able to avoid termination by outsmarting the unmanned drones sent to shoot him down.
It also decides to wipe out the scientists at the lab, and only Dr. Martha Shearing (Rachel Weisz) survives when a colleague (Zelijko Ivanek) has a chemically orchestrated meltdown and shoots the place up. When a clean up crew is sent to Dr. Shearing’s home to finish the job, Cross appears and rescues her and the two go on the run.
Weisz and Renner
I have to admit, I have grown rather tired of the superspy genre of movies. The many incarnations of Bond, Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, Angelina Jolie in Salt - when you’ve seen one. . . The exception is when I see something new and interesting to appreciate, like Saoirse Ronan’s hauntingly magical performance in Hanna, Liam Neeson’s cool intensity in Taken or George Clooney’s stark isolation against the gorgeous backdrop of rural Italy in The American.
While The Bourne Legacy represents a departure from other Bourne films, there is certainly not enough fresh material here to call this anything other than just another action flick, albeit a pretty well made one.
Jeremy Renner has a sort of everyman combination of decency and badassery that makes him particularly well suited for action movies – better than Matt Damon, if you ask me, and Legacy smartly stays away from trying to shoe-horn a Renner-Weisz romance into its action-heavy plot, while leaving open the possibility for the two to hook up in a later installment. Edward Norton does a pretty good job of injecting some excitement into the otherwise boring role of the government guy directing the action while watching everything happen on remote screens.
There are the usual sequences here: several fights where Renner takes out three guys at once, a car/motorcycle chase that goes on just a little too long, and your typical too-smart-for-its-own-good plot hole: “Hey, you know how that superspy just killed all the regular guys we sent after him? Let’s send the super-duper spy after him instead.” “Good idea, if we had done this an hour ago, the movie would have been much shorter.” And scene.
As a stand-alone action pic, The Bourne Legacy suffers from nothing more than a too-long running time (which is a rampant epidemic in Hollywood these days) and, as mentioned, a certain lack of originality. However, there are also numerous mentions to the character Jason Bourne and efforts to move the Bourne-centric plotline forward, as if they are expecting Matt Damon to come back for part V in the continuum. These add-ons felt awkward to me, although for fans truly invested in the franchise, I suppose they helped provide context and continuity.
On the negative side, I’m not sure I’d want to see another Bourne installment after watching Legacy, but on the plus side, I have to admit I didn’t think I’d EVER want to see another Bourne installment period, and Legacy did hold my interest.