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Ah, how I love to reminisce. It was the third day of photography class, freshmen year of high school. After what seemed like a promising start in the first two classes (actually going outside and taking pictures), my classmates and I would soon be given the rude awakening that all photography students who still use the arcane ‘film’ method rather than the modern digital method must go through: developing film. The good news: sitting in a strangely lit room swirling funky-smelling chemicals surrounded by a lot of people you barely know is almost as fun as it sounds! But seriously, the one good thing about this class was that one of my good friends Ian and I were in the class together, and the room had a pretty sweet speaker system that you could plug your iPod into. You know that friend you have who always knows about cool music a month before everyone else does? That’s Ian. So, as we found ourselves sitting in that room swirling cylindrical containers of who knows what, Ian went over to start the playlist. The first song he played: I’ll Be In The Sky by B.o.B. The sheer energy of the song amazed me, and it screamed of a rapper with a ton of potential. After that, I made Ian tell me the name of the song and rapper three times so I wouldn’t forget, in order to go home and investigate all of his music. A short four years later, I’m a huge B.o.B fan, and I want to thank Ian for that. So, take this entire review with a slight grain of salt, as I went into it already loving B.o.B’s work so far in his career. Without further ado, here’s a song-by-song breakdown of Strange Clouds:
Note: all opinions about what these songs are about are 100% my opinion. I didn’t interview B.o.B for this review, although I did tweet at him asking if he would like to do an interview, but he didn’t respond.
Bombs Away (Feat. Morgan Freeman): This song has one, singular, all-encompassing adjective that permeates its entirety: epic. From Morgan Freeman’s dramatic monologues to the middle-of-a-battle-scene-in-Brave Heart-esque beat, this song just has the feeling that whomever produced it is really proud of themselves for how deep and philosophically existential it is. I would beg to differ. When I first heard this song, I actually really enjoyed it, as B.o.B’s flow (as it is in most songs) is top-notch, making it pretty easy to listen to. But once I heard it a third and fourth time, I started to realize how absurd and almost demoralizing it was. The songs opening lines are Morgan Freeman saying these two lines:
“As the war between light and darkness continues
Heroes and villains become harder to identify”
Okay, that’s all fine and dandy, and if Christian Bale said it in his raspy Batman voice, it would all be good. But following up a statement that grand, epic and all-encompassing by complaining that “it seems the bigger I get, it’s the more they get mad at me” just doesn’t seem adequate. I think this song would have been okay if it hadn’t taken itself so seriously, and it almost had a pseudo-intellectual feel to it, which really turned me off.
Ray Bands: There’s not a ton of substance to this song. It’s basically the prototypical rap combo of humble bragging about women who only want to get with rappers based on their fame and money. I don’t think it’s terrible, and I get why it’s on the album, but it’s nothing special either.
So Hard to Breathe: Finally. This is why I love B.o.B. Songs like this, that actually talk about a real issue, with an unconventional beat, combined with his unique, clear flow. This song discusses the hardship and poverty he came from, and how even though B.o.B promised himself he wouldn’t slip into the pitfalls of fame, it’s much more difficult than he thought it would be. B.o.B is saying he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t want to be famous, but he wants to rap to make money for himself and his family to never have to face that hardship again. Rather than coming off as bitching about fame (as he did in Bombs Away), it is really easy to empathize with him sinking under the pressures that come with it. I love this song, this beat, and this message. It’s songs like this that make B.o.B the great rapper he is.
Both of Us (feat. Taylor Swift): If you know me, you probably know I’m an enormous Taylor Swift fan. Other than Bruce Springsteen and the Notorious B.I.G., she’s probably my third favorite artist of all time (although it’s close with the Pixies, but that’s another story). So, naturally, when I looked through the album and saw Taylor Swift’s name on it, I got inordinately excited for this song. But to be honest with you, the first time I heard Both of Us, I didn’t like it very much. The beat is a little… different, Taylor Swift is barely utilized (she repeats the same two lines like 8 times), and some of the lyrics seemed iffy at best (“If it’s all for one, and one for all, then maybe one day, we all could ball.” That’s hardly Shakespearean lyricism.)
However, now that I’ve listened to every song on this album a minimum of 4 or 5 times, I’ve slowly grown to enjoy Both of Us more and more upon each new listen. The song is actually really, really deep and has a surprisingly important message. B.o.B is saying that struggle is ubiquitous, we all deal with things in our lives that are troubling, and more or less, we all have a similar goal in life: to be successful. B.o.B asks us why, if we all have this similar goal, we don’t we work together to lift all of us out of poverty, rather than working against each other and most of us failing.. Although I may not agree with the ideological principles behind this song, I think that the ability to convey that much depth in such simple language is a gift of its own. Both of Us is definitely one of the best songs on this album, so if it’s all for one, and one for all, maybe one day, really, we all could ball.
Strange Clouds (feat. Lil Wayne): Despite the fact that B.o.B has 2 verses to Lil Wayne’s 1, this is about 75% a Lil Wayne song and 25% a B.o.B song. It has tropes on tropes on tropes of a classic rap song, and therefore classic Lil Wayne song (it’s literally about smoking weed, how awesome the two rappers think they are, and getting girls). This song isn’t very good, and it really doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. I have no idea how it became the title entity. I much prefer B.o.B when he’s trying out new things or doing something unexpected, and it feels like this song is on the album solely because the record label wanted to bill it as an album with ‘Lil Wayne’ on it. Not a fan.
So Good: This song is tough for me to evaluate. No, it doesn’t have a lot of substance. Or, really, any substance. But somehow, I’m okay with that. Sometimes, songs need to be appreciated for what I like to think of as their aesthetic value, which is a weird way to think about something that’s not visual. Essentially what I’m saying is: this song is really, really fun to listen too. It’s up beat, it’s got great flow, and it makes me feel happy. There’s a ton of value to that, so even if So Good isn’t going to change the world, it might make a few people 1% happier. And that matters.
Play for Keeps: This is probably the least traditional song on this album. Play for Keeps is a cross between a Def Jam Poetry reading and a rap song, and it conforms to none of the traditional rap structures other than the use of a beat. The song is structured as one, long tirade, where B.o.B basically tells the entire rap-listening world: I’m not a one-album wonder, I’m one of the big boys now, and don’t fuck with me. I don’t really know what to make of this song; it’s just something you have to listen too.
Arena (feat. Chris Brown & T.I.): It’s a club song, through and through. The best way I can put that is Arena is reminiscent of Taio Cruz’s Dynamite. Once again, I get why it’s here, but a chorus that starts ‘if anybody feelin’ fresh up in the building, take your hand, hold it high to the ceiling right now’ isn’t going to have much depth nor really catch my eye. I actually think T.I. does a good job with his verse, and it reminded me why I used to listen to a lot of T.I. Chris Brown is very ‘meh’ in this; I haven’t really liked anything he’s done since he played Kaitlin’s love interest on The O.C. (in which he was actually really good). Overall the song is mediocre at best.
Out of My Mind (feat. Nicki Minaj): This is probably the only song on the album that I’d classify as really bad. The song’s message: I’m crazy. Groundbreaking, right? The beat makes my ear drums want to explode and the chorus literally has more lines (9) than different words (7: 1: I’m 2: Out 3: Of 4: My 5: Fucking 6: Mind 7: Yeah). I think B.o.B and Nicki Minaj could have potentially made a good song together, but they decided to make a more Minaj-styled song than B.o.B-styled song, similar to what happened with Lil Wayne in Strange Clouds. The difference is that Lil Wayne is a really effing good rapper and Nicki Minaj is a well below average rapper, so Strange Clouds was passable whereas this was just bad. I just don’t understand why this trend happened on this album: B.o.B got freaking Eminem to come and rap on his debut album in an extremely B.o.B-styled song, but he can’t (or doesn’t want to) get Nicki Minaj to do it? I think B.o.B needs to assert himself a little more into his songs featuring guests. It’s your album Bobby, not theirs.
Never Let You Go (feat. Ryan Tedder): I didn’t now who Ryan Tedder was before listening to Never Let You Go, but I really enjoyed his voice and the beat behind it. I also really jived with the song’s traditional message, and I enjoyed B.o.B’s rapping. Never Let You Go is a nice combination of rock and rap, which B.o.B seems to do better than most of his contemporaries, and overall, it’s just a good, solid listen.
Chandelier (feat. Lauriana Mae): Lauriana Mae has what I’d guess is a polarizing voice: it’s a little bit whiney, but I actually really enjoyed it after a few listens. I don’t really have anything interesting to say about this song because this song isn’t that interesting. It’s not bad, per say, but it’s not good either. It’s very ‘meh’. The chorus is probably the best part of the song. Next.
Circles: I love this song, and it’s not for reasons that I can fully comprehend. I’m sure it has something to do with the nursery-rhyme feel to the song bringing me back to a happy subconscious memory from my childhood, but really I think it’s more than that. The feeling portrayed in this song—one of meeting a girl for the first time, and then having her being the only thing you can focus on—is just done really, really well. It isn’t a complicated song, because that isn’t a complicated feeling: it’s a carnal, primitive one. I think the beat of the song does a great job setting its tone, and Circles is just an overall joy to listen too.
Just a Sign (feat. Playboy Tre): Playboy Tre was an interesting choice of guest on the most existentially questioning song on the album, as it was nearly polar opposite of his appearance on B.o.B’s last album in the song Bet I. I actually think this song turned out quite well though. The tone of Just a Sign complements its questioning message of ‘does anything we do in this world really matter’ perfectly. I had a tough time understanding what the verses meant at first, but after some examination, I think I’ve concluded that they are just giving examples of the monotony of life. And in rappers lives, I am SURE there is a ton of monotony. But eventually, the verses are interspersed with examples of what actually matters in the world (“Thinking about my partners death / I’m angry, in a flash he was gone / Man how can that day not rearrange me”). It goes on to discuss how we do all of this escapist shit to try to stop ourselves from thinking of some of the terribleness (drinking, drugs, etc), and makes us question if what we do really matters in the world. I’ve had internal debates about this topic many times, and I think although it didn’t really delve deep into it—more allude to it—B.o.B does a really good overall job discussing existentialism in this song. I was impressed.
Castles (feat. Trey Songz): Once again, this song has elements of So Good, meaning I really like it for aesthetic reasons. The chorus is amazingly fun to listen too, B.o.B’s usually great flow is particularly awesome in this song, and the beat is very up and happy. However, I actually really like the message in this song as well, because it kind of contradicts what he’s saying in a lot of his other songs on this album, and B.o.B finally seems content with his fame. He’s happy with these metaphorical castles in the sky (which represent his accomplishments), and he’s finally celebrating them. This is a well made, fun-to-listen-to song, and one of the best on the album. Also, what Trey Songz lacks in spelling skills he makes up for with his voice: it’s fantastic.
Where Are You (B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray): This song is stylistically reminiscent of Biggie’s Gimme The Loot, as B.o.B raps one verse as Bobby Ray, one verse as B.o.B, and then an ambiguous verse where I think he puts forward his true, combined self. Where Are You is a really impressive piece of music, and it delves into B.o.B’s self-identity issues. On one hand, he has the people he knew before he was famous bitching about him changing now that he’s become popular, and on the other he has his fans that loved his old stuff but bitch about his new stuff. In the final verse, he admits that he’s changed thanks to his fame, and really, who wouldn’t? Everything he ever knew was flipped on its head, and he basically says he doesn’t give a shit what people he doesn’t know say anymore, he’s just gonna live how he wants to live, for himself and the people closest to him. In the last verse of this song, you can audibly hear B.o.B give everything he has, and you can hear the visceral, pent-up emotion pouring out of him. It was phenomenal.
The Album as a Whole: I know people don’t listen to albums anymore, but I’m going to judge it as one anyway. This album was very interestingly constructed, and besides the opening track and a few in the middle, I liked the structure of levity, followed by some depth, followed up with levity, and finished with depth. It took me on a very nice journey, and I enjoyed it more and more each time through. I give Strange Clouds a 4.5/5, and I believe B.o.B has carved out a unique, up-beat niche in a mainstream contemporary rap world that is mostly stuck in an overdone, repetitive, shallow mode right now.
Note: * indicates spoilers
Let’s make no bones about it: To Rome With Love is almost entirely about Woody Allen’s life.
The film is shot as a series of semi-intertwining vignettes that are set in the aptly titled Rome-antic city of Rome. Although there is a lot of overlap within each of the different stories, in my mind there are a total of four different vignettes within the entirety of To Rome With Love, and each one represents a comment on a different theme. I thought three of these were executed beautifully, and one was sub par at best.
Let’s start with the good. The vignette consisting of Anna (Penelope Cruz), Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi), and Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) was an absolute delight to watch. The chemistry between Cruz and Tiberi was fantastic, and Cruz epitomized a sex symbol while simultaneously bringing levity to the film. She was amazing. Milly’s journey and Antonio’s journey essentially mirrored each other, and this vignette, more than any of the others, represented a legitimate success: both partners had to look outside the relationship to fulfill what they were looking for, only then they could they realize how much they meant to each other.
My favorite scenes in the whole movie no-doubt were within the presence of John (Alec Baldwin), Jack (Jesse Eisenberg), Monica (Ellen Page), and Sally (Greta Gerwig). This one is quite obviously a tale of lust battling logic, and the extreme detail and comedy of these scenes made it very relatable.* I also want to add that the acting performances by Baldwin, Eisenberg, and Page were all outstanding in this portion.
*The fact that Baldwin plays the role of ‘sub conscious’ (or the trio of Eisenberg, Page, and Gerwig play his memory, it doesn’t really matter) without overtly saying the events weren’t real is what made this portion of the movie. Eisenberg’s internal battle of logic vs lust is a ubiquitous battle throughout all of humankind, and Woody Allen did an amazing job writing the transition between Eisenberg seeing Page’s continual bullshit to him being consciously aware that it was B.S. and not caring. The writing during this portion was particularly exceptional; from the mention of Russian authors to Kierkegaard quotes to reciting one line of a poem, Woody Allen fully captured what it meant to be a pseudo-intellectual with Monica. I’m guessing he was drawing on some kind of experience from being in Hollywood so long…
The tale of Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) was simply the story of fame, both the good and the bad of it. Leopoldo’s scenes were some of the funniest in the movie, and this story felt very personal to Woody Allen. He obviously felt the same way as Leopoldo at first: why do people give a shit about what I do? Then he progressed into enjoying the benefits of fame, and eventually getting fed up with it like all celebrities must. Finally, in the end like most celebrities, he missed the fame once it was gone. While a simple story, and obviously not a very relatable one for most, I found it very charming and it was an interesting comment on the absurdity of celebrity.
Alright, let’s get to the bad. I did not enjoy the story of Jerry (Woody Allen) Phyllis (Judy Davis), Hayley (Alison Pill), and Michelangelo (Flavio Parenti). This vignette, in my opinion, was about the fear of retiring and, in turn, the fear of death. This one was obviously the most personal to Woody Allen, as he’s at the stage of his career (and life) where he is near retirement, but I didn’t find it charming nor did I find it uplifting. Even though the story turns out well, and there were some comedic moments in this section, I just found all of the characters in this area of the film a waste of time. Woody Allen’s Jerry was a caricature of an actual person (although that could be said of a lot of the characters in this movie), and I didn’t think Pill and Parenti had any chemistry together, each moment feeling like a grind between them.
Overall, I completely understand why critics and many fans didn’t like this movie: it doesn’t flow together very well, it is hyper-intellectual, and it’s not uniformly funny or interesting. However, if you take the movie for what it is: a charming, beautifully-shot, funny, smart, lesson-teaching film about the mistakes and regrets in life to go along with the good and serendipitous things in life told by a reminiscing man, I believe it is worth watching for almost everyone. I loved To Rome With Love, and to me it was as good as Allen’s Midnight in Paris.
Note: * or ** means spoiler
In my mind, there are three comic book series that are elevated above all the rest: X-Men, Batman, and, of course, Spider-Man. The characters in those three series provide by far the most for directors and writers to work with. So, while I thought The Amazing Spider-Man was good, I didn’t think it was ‘great,’ and it had the potential to be much better than it was.
To understand The Amazing Spider-Man, we must first understand the preceding Spiderman series. Although the Toby Maguire-led films did amazingly well at the box office, the content of the movies was mediocre at best—the first one was quite good, then the series tailed off getting progressively worse until the awful third installment. In the same time frame, the Batman series managed to do just as well if not better at the box office while simultaneously garnering amazing reviews from critics and fans alike. This new Spider-Man series obviously wanted to mimic that success, and I think they ‘borrowed’ a lot of the best elements of the Nolan-directed Batman movies and tried to make them work in The Amazing Spider-Man.
Some of the things they took from the Batman series worked splendidly. Paying for great supporting actors (as Batman did with Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Heath Ledger, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Hardy, and many other renowned actors) definitely enhanced the movie. Martin Sheen and Sally Fields were phenomenal as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and both made huge additions to the movie helping to dramatize mediocre dialogue.
Most people probably don’t know Rhys Ifans by name, but he played one of my favorite roles of all time as Spike in Notting Hill, and I thought he did a fantastic job with a subpar character to make Dr. Curt Connors partially relatable rather than fully detestable. Finally, casting Dennis Leary as Captain Stacy was a great idea, and despite the necessary cop-douchiness, he brought some of the best moments of levity and understanding to the film.
Also like the Batman series, Sony decided to spend the first Spider-Man movie mostly focusing on the superhero’s origin story, which I thought was the right thing to do.
To me, the most interesting and enjoyable parts of the movie were spent in two ways. The first was the collection of scenes where Andrew Garfield was essentially by himself trying to figure out what he was after being bit by the spider and who he wanted to be once he realized he had his newfound powers. This led to watching Spider-Man transition from a motivation of rage-fueled revenge to legitimately wanting to do good for the world, which was done very well. I chalk a lot of those great scenes up to good writing and directing, but I must say I think Andrew Garfield’s humble, nonchalant acting style definitely helped the role along.
The second wholly enjoyable part of this movie was the romance between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Going with Stacy as the love interest in this film rather than Mary Jane Watson was a very good choice. It definitely helped to further separate this series from the last one, but unfortunately, as much as I love Emma Stone, I don’t know if she was the exact right choice for this part. I had a really hard time believing she was in high school, leading to some of her scenes in the film feeling ridiculous rather than genuine*.
However, Stone’s charm and charisma combined with what I’ll describe as Garfield’s sheepishness did make my heart jump during their romantic scenes, and for that I do think Stone was perfect. To me, Emma Stone is the ideal level of attractive: not hot in an exotic, intimidating, Giselle Bundchen, Angelina Jolie type of way, but more in a girl-next-door, cute, hypothetically you could pick her up at a bar type of way.
*For example, the scene with Peter Parker in her room when Stone is yelling to her dad about not wanting hot chocolate would have been realistic and slightly sweet for a 17-year old actress, but with Emma Stone’s two-pack-a-day smoker voice, it just made me laugh.
Regrettably, it wasn’t all good news with The Amazing Spider-Man, and the film does have some huge flaws. My biggest problem with Spidey happens to be exactly where whoever was making this movie decided to vary from Batman the most: the film’s director. Rather than going with an experienced, dark, drama-focused filmmaker, someone somehow decided to hand the reigns over to director Mark Webb. Webb is 37 years old, and has previously directed one full-length feature film: the comedy (500) Days of Summer. While I did love the offbeat clever comedy, I don’t really understand how Webb got caught up in Spiderman (besides his name, of course), and why the project didn’t go to a more experienced director.
While Webb certainly added great touches to the romantic scenes in this film, I think he did an absolutely awful job in the action-based parts of the movie. First of all, there wasn’t nearly enough fighting, and even when there was I don’t think they did a very good job showcasing the hand-to-hand combat**. When one of the key parts of the climactic fighting scene that the entire movie has been building too is about gathering cranes in a row, you’re probably doing something wrong.
Additionally, I thought the ‘bad guy’ in this movie was a horribly written character, and I didn’t care one bit for the continual Hitler-esque ‘super race’ tirades that Dr. Curt Connors would continually go on. For a movie that cost this much money, there is simply no excuse for not coming up with a better super villain than ‘Giant Lizard,’ no matter how many times you allude to King Kong.
Overall, I think The Amazing Spider-Man was worth watching, and Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield’s palpable chemistry combined with an amazing supporting cast made the movie more than watchable, but if you are looking for somewhere to let off some action-fueled steam, I would save some money and stay home to rent The Raid: Redemption rather than getting 5 minutes of fighting with Spider-Man.
**The one exception to that rule was during Stan Lee’s cameo. When Spiderman is fighting the Giant Lizard at the school and he has his headphones on, the direction for those 20 seconds is phenomenal. It was one of the only scenes in the film that managed a dichotomy of comedy and action at the same time, and that whole scene was one of the best in the movie.
I have to preface this by saying: I am a huge Doug Benson fan. Doug Loves Movies is one of my few favorite podcasts (and I listen to a preposterous amount of podcasts), he was my favorite comic on the one season of Last Comic Standing I watched, and I think his standup is hilarious. So, naturally, I found his newest comedy album, Smug Life, to be absolutely fantastic.
For those of you who don’t know, Doug Benson is a ‘stoner comic,’ meaning he derives a lot of his humor from jokes about smoking weed, oftentimes references how high he is during his act, and even starts most of his shows at 4:20. So, of course, Benson decided to record his album, as he does every year, on April twentieth.
However, this year, the album came with a twist: the first half of the C.D. is Benson’s act done sober (labeled ‘uncooked’), and the second half of the C.D. is the same act done high (labeled ‘cooked’).
Despite the fact that it was the same material both times, the dichotomy between the two halves was astounding. The first act is what I would quantify as ‘cleaner’. It sounded like the set basically went according to plan, and Benson ubiquitously executed his unique story-telling style, leading to a funny, solid album. However, the second time, Benson still went through his hilarious set, but instead of sticking to the plan the entire time, he ad-libbed a ton of little jokes throughout, spent a lot more time talking to the crowd, and did what I think Benson does better than almost any comic today: call things back.
Whether it’s in Doug Loves Movies or in Smug Life, what I find the funniest about Benson’s comedy is his ability to take his joke or someone else’s joke and add a little something to it to make it 5% funnier. While most comics are able to do this, Benson oftentimes will call back a joke that was made half an hour ago, bringing back not only the memory of that joke but adding a little something too it. That’s why I thought the second half of the album was funnier.
As a whole though, there were some extremely high quality bits on Smug Life. The thing people don’t really get about Benson is that you don’t have to be a stoner to enjoy his work—the truth is, his jokes about smoking pot are funny (see the Chronic-Con bit in this album) but his funniest bits are only slightly weed-related and just generally hilarious.
My favorites from this album were How Do Jokes Get Wrote (Uncooked), Furry Convention Crasher (Uncooked), One Knuckle It (Cooked), and True Story (Cooked), which is the only one of those four that is marijuana-related. Although I did like those four bits the best, I still think it is necessary to listen to the album as a whole rather than one bit singularly.
Overall, I really loved the album, I really love Benson’s work, and I think his ‘experiment’ did yield an interesting result: Doug Benson is like a wheel of Gouda; he’s good normally, but even better baked.
Do you enjoy humor relating to drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and pop culture? Or, in other words, do you like the TV show Family Guy? If the answer to that question is no, do not go anywhere near the movie Ted.
The film has all of the great Seth MacFarlane classic go-to’s: an anthropomorphized main character (Ted) in a world that instantly accepts the anthropomorphism as a reality, a man-boy protagonist (Mark Walberg) who has some growing up to do, witty one-liners, ridiculous situations, and comedy derived largely from outrageousness.
However, the movie also comes with a bunch of the typical Seth MacFarlane pitfalls, including uninteresting female characters (sorry Lois/Meg, you guys were always the worst), occasional clichés, and, most annoyingly, the length of joke set-ups oftentimes off-sets or even outweighs the payoff of the eventual punch line.
If those were the only issues with the film, it would be well-worth seeing for all fans of slapstick comedy. However, that’s unfortunately not the case. In fact, my biggest issue with Ted likely had nothing to do with Seth MacFarlane’s writing, directing, or vision, and probably didn’t have anything to do with Seth MacFarlane at all. The problem with Ted, at its core, is that the movie didn’t understand what it was. Rather than treat itself with consistency and understanding that Ted was a funny, escapist, quick-witted, magical realism encapsulated comedy that’s purpose was to entertain (like it was billed as), whoever edited the film decided that the last 20 minutes, along with sporadic segments throughout the beginning and middle of the movie, were going to be right out of a below average romantic comedy (I’m looking at you, Friends with Benefits).
Now, I understand why the studio (and possibly MacFarlane) would want this. A romantic comedy is markedly more marketable than a comedy about a talking teddy bear. The problem is, I don’t think the romantic comedy fans out there (myself being one of them) want to sit through an hour of a teddy bear doing bong rips to feel warm and fulfilled inside at the end of this movie. Even I, as a huge romantic comedy proponent, felt letdown by the sappy ending to this film, mostly because it just wasn’t what I was expecting. If I wanted to watch a cliché-filled movie to make me feel like true love does exist, there is justice in this world, and it’s all going to be okay in the end, I would have happily gone on Netflix and ordered Notting Hill, Clueless, or any of the countless other amazing RomComs out there. When I go see a Seth MacFarlane feature, I don’t want to go three minutes without audibly laughing, let alone 20.
On the acting front, I never thought I would say these words, but: I think this movie needed a little (or a lot) less Mila Kunis. Look, she’s gorgeous, and a pretty good actress to boot, but there’s no way around it: Kunis is straight-up not funny, and that outweighs whatever good she brought to the role with her looks and charisma. I would have preferred an Emma Stone-type of actress, who could have accentuated the comedic moments rather than the sappy romantic ones.
I generally love Joel McHale’s work, but he was unfairly typecast as the ‘douchey boss’ character in Ted, and although he did a fine job in the role, it was a waste of his talents to have him play a cliché.
Mark Wahlberg isn’t very funny in this movie either, but I think he did a good job as the more straight-laced but easily coerced counterpart to MacFarlane’s Ted character. The chemistry between them was quite good, and it helped to underscore the highlight of the film: Ted himself. About 80% of the funny lines in this movie are thanks to MacFarlane’s Ted.
Additionally, without revealing anything too specific, I will say that Ryan Reynolds’ cameo in this movie was one of the best parts of the film, and he did an amazing job in the (small) role.
“It was basically Get Him to The Greek,” quipped my buddy Nick, in our conversation after going to see Ted with a group of friends. In a lot of ways, Nick is right: both of those movies are basically about two guys going on a journey together, one character needing to grow up (Wahlberg in Ted, Russel Brand in Greek), and, the similarity that Nick was pointing at in that quote, both movies have one scene in the middle that is the epitome of comedy (The ‘Furry Wall’ scene in Greek, and all I will describe as the ‘Coke’ scene in Ted), whereas the rest of the film is mediocre in comparison.
Unlike Get Him to the Greek though, Ted had the cast of a romantic comedy rather than slapstick comedy, and tries at the end to live up to its cast more than its writer/director.
Even though it wasn’t perfect, I am really happy this movie got made. In an era of continual re-boots, sequels, and awful adaptations (hello, Dark Shadows), I’m happy that an original idea made it to the big screen, and for that I commend the studio.
If you had asked me at the one hour mark, I would have told you Ted was on par with Super Bad, The Hangover, and films of that ilk, but because of its lack of fluidity in message, in total, I’ll give the movie a ‘solid,’ meaning it’s worth seeing for fans of MacFarlane’s other work, but it’s definitely not ubiquitously funny, and certainly not for everybody.