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Non-Review Review: The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders may be the worst film of the year.

There are any number of issues with The Happytime Murders. The film is only ninety one minutes long, but feels interminable. The film has no idea what it is about in any meaningful sense, beyond assembling a number of familiar tropes in a very familiar way. Beyond that, the film seems to believe that rehashing familiar clichés is amusing of itself, some sort of self-aware postmodern ironic anti-comedy where the reference to the thing is enough of itself to become a joke.

It really blows.

A larger problem is that the film assumes that seeing puppets do “adult” things has greater novelty than it does. The Happytime Murders is a film that is consciously powered by the juvenile thrill of watching beloved children’s characters caught in inappropriate situations – swearing at one another, smoking cigarettes, engaging in vigorous sexual activity. This glosses over the fact that there are plenty of other media that has already covered this ground. The Happytime Murders runs on a joke that has already been repeated and rehashed several times.

However, all of these concerns distract from the biggest issue with The Happytime Murders. It is just not funny.

The boy in blue.

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Shared Pop Culture History (Ted)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #2

When it comes to end of year “best of” lists, comedy seems to draw the short straw as a genre. Like some of the less earnest genres, comedy is far too easily overlooked in favour of something more “worthy” of attention. Seth MacFarlane’s Ted has been something of a contentious film this year. Depending on where you sit, the film is either the epitome of everything wrong with American comedy, or it was a refreshingly profane yet heartfelt breath of fresh air. I lean more towards the latter than the former, and I appreciated the way that it played to MacFarlane’s strengths – concealing a surprisingly sincere sentiment behind a cynical and glib exterior.

As such, it’s no surprise that the most effective sequence in the film – the opening credits – managed to play to both that side of MacFarlane and also to his wonderful ability to channel pop culture as something of a shared collective history. Call me sappy, but there was something wonderful about seeing Ted interact with Johnny Carson and watching Ted and John queue for The Phantom Menace in costume, that created a tangible sense of back story between the characters.

ted10

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Non-Review Review: Ted

Ted is an impressive directorial debut from Seth McFarlane, the creator and star of Family Guy. Those familiar with McFarlane’s work will know what to expect from Ted. It’s loud, it’s crude, it’s full of retro pop culture references, but it’s also constructed with almost surreal innocence and earnestness. McFarlane can be brutal at times, and he does make a few cheap shots here or there over the course of Ted. (Take that, Justin Beiber! Take that, Brandon Routh!) However, for the most part, the film actually does a remarkable job of balancing its crass in-your-face offensiveness with a weird emotional warmth. At it’s heart, Ted is still the story of a boy and his teddy bear. It just so happens to be a really messed up teddy bear.

Bear with me…

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Win! Ted Goodies!

Courtesy of the nice folk at Universal Pictures Ireland, we have three prize packs to give away (including hat and t-shirt) for the upcoming comedy Ted. Directed by Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, the movie stars Mark Wahlberg as a guy living with his childhood teddy bear, the foul-mouthed life of the party Ted. It’s already been released Stateside, and my brother absolutely loved it, so I’m very much looking forward to checking it out for myself.

The following is the red-band trailer and is unsuitable for minors.

To enter the competition, simply fill in the entry form below the jump. Here’s a look at the prize pack:

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Trailer for Seth McFarlane’s Ted

I know that Seth McFarlane is a bit of a controversial figure, with a lot of commentors quick to criticise his more recent output (and even some of his earlier work). While I don’t like The Cleveland Show, I’ve actually enjoyed the handful of American Dad episodes I’ve seen and I’m still quite fond of Family Guy. And I think that, even if some of his work might be a little unfocused (probably from spreading himself too thin), he’s a prodigious comedic talent. So I am actually quite looking forward to Ted, the actor/writer/singer/songwriter/comedian’s directorial debut. It will star McFarlane as a foul-mouthed teddy bear who has grown up with John, played by Mark Wahlberg, and causes friction in his best buddy’s love life. I’m very curious about this, I must confess.

Family Guy: It’s A Trap!

Oh, we’re about to do Jedi, aren’t we?

Let’s just get through this.

– Stewie and Peter introduce the episode

And so we reach the end of the Family Guy Star Wars specials. It’s A Trap! is pretty much at an immediate disadvantage – the guys have already made two Star Wars specials, so a lot of the novelty is gone; not to mention the fact that Return of the Jedi is hardly a classic, fondly remembered in comparison to the prequel trilogy, but still nowhere near as good as the original two films. However, the production team acquit themselves admirably. When the episode works, it really works – there are some absolutely hilarious scenes in there. It’s not the most consistent piece of television you’ll see this year, but it’s damn entertaining, and made with a respect that shines through.

That's one bad dad...

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Family Guy: Blue Harvest

A long time ago, yet somehow in the future…

The wonderful thing about myths is that they essentially repeat. All the great and epic stories have been told time and time again, from the first cavemen passing the time by a late night fire through to the matinée screening of the latest big budget blockbuster. Each generation creates their own variation of the myth, putting their own spin on it – some parts are given more emphasis in this iteration, while we shy away from others. In writing Star Wars, George Lucas acknowledged his debt to Joseph Campbell, the author who proposed a “monomyth” – the idea that there is one single overarching story which has been told tim and time again. I reckon that it’s this timelessness is the root of the film’s success, and what makes it such a ripe target for Family Guy.

Click to enlarge...

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