Seth McFarlane makes the jump to the big screen, while managing to stay true to his signature Family Guy brand of humor. The character of Ted feels like a cross between the blithely careless Peter Griffin and his dog companion, Brian. Ted's rowdy and adult humor is funny on its own, but it is particularly funny because the animation is so good. He does look like a real teddy bear that came to life. The interactions between Mark Wahlberg and Ted are great. Their conversations drift into amusing random tangents, like Family Guy, but still work to build depth in the characters. The slightly unorthodox storybook classic narration is also enjoyable and works very well to set the scene and introduce the characters. Unfortunately, the relationship between Wahlberg and Mila Kunis is not as good and provide little to no humor. Kunis feels like an annoying nag. Even when her character has valid points, they come off in an unappealing way. When a creepy yet funny Giovanni Ribisi and his son abduct Ted, it looks like things will improve. Wahlberg and Kunis must find their friend, and it is fun again. Sadly, this promising plot element is short-lived and too close to the end of the movie. If this movie did not piddle away so much screen time with painful formalities of the romance, then a more inspired adventure might ensue. As it stands, it is a good time with some good laughs. It is just frustrating how a few adjustments would make it much a better product.
Steve Jobs is one of the most fascinating figures in recent history. With such an interesting subject, a biopic movie, like this one, comes down to casting, storytelling, and presentation. Against the odds, the casting is good. When it comes to casting the role of Steve Jobs, Ashton Kutcher would never enter my thoughts. I generally believe he is best suited for comedy and when he attempts a serious role, the results are not pretty. It turns out with a different haircut and the option of a beard Ashton resembles Steve Jobs, particularly in his younger days. To my surprise, Kutcher also pulls off the walk, speech nuances, and some of the more identifiable public mannerisms. Indeed, Ashton's performance is a pleasant surprise. Josh Gad is also good as Steve Wozniak; it is sad that his part is not a little bigger. The storytelling and presentation, however, are not quite there. It is not that it is boring, but it lacks feeling and excitement. The beginning of the story feels rushed, robbing us of an important understanding of who Steve Jobs really was before Apple. The movie skims Jobs' personal life in the most awkward of ways. It makes a distracting tangent about an out-of-wedlock child, but then fails to see that part of the story through. There is no explanation or focus on how this affects him. Huge portions of his life are missing, particularly the time while he is away from Apple. Far too much focus goes into the decline of Apple during the 80s and the eventual firing of Jobs. It leaves out too much and makes things feel like things happen in a rather sterile way. It fails to make the emotional connections to the characters, including Jobs. Joshua Michael Stern does not have an impressive resume as producer and director. It is unfortunate that a more skilled filmmaker, like David Fincher (The Social Network) did not get this project.
Some movies are better off without a sequel. Comedies, in particular, have a difficult time bringing a set of beloved characters back together and forming a fresh situation. That is why this movie's strongest asset and key to its success is self-awareness and the ability to mock the Hollywood system. The movie repeatedly points out how everything is as it was last time or may have the smallest of changes, but is essentially the same. Tacked on familiar characters from the original are obviously forced back into the story in a mocking way. It points out how sequels are more costly and emphasize bigger effects and more of the same in misguided attempts to top themselves. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum developed an unexpectedly good chemistry in the first movie. It carries over, and that is the other most significant component to why this movie works. It would be nice if the story capitalized on the college setting more. Some of the scenes in the dorms and classrooms are great, but injecting even more elements of college student-life would be a nice improvement. It is not up to the level of 21 Jump Street, but it admits that about itself in a refreshing way. It tries to take a different approach at "doing the same thing" and it works.
The first Hunger Games movie has an empty feeling. The characters are paper-thin and there is a complete lack of depth and detail. Worse yet, the action scenes are tame and unexciting. The second installment in the Hunger Game saga rebounds nicely. It is not perfect, but it is significantly better. Finally, this oppressive government system and the social conditions are starting to take shape. The gladiator games themselves are boring, it the society that is interesting. It is nice to see this story expand beyond a poorly crafted romance for teens with a splash parentally approved action. Even at the end of this movie, there are still many unanswered questions. While some of the characters are fleshing out most of them remain underdeveloped. Details are a weak point for this series, and the love triangle is painfully forced. The good news is that this is not a waste of time, and the ship is righting itself.
The movie has a strong concept and offers some light action, but it feels like something is missing. It shows good imagination of a futuristic society ruled by a brutally strong government with an extremely lopsided social structure. I wish there was more focus on the nature of this drastically different society. It would build a better understanding the characters and their situation. The movie revolves too much around the selection and ceremony and not enough time goes to the bigger picture or even the gladiator fight scenes. The concept seems grizzly but the action hardly delivers the power, instinct, action and emotion of gladiator or survivalist movies like Gladiator or Predator. The love triangle side of the movie works well enough but a stronger cast would have only improved these aspects. Jennifer Lawrence does not bring enough confidence or personality to her character. The main characters are just as out of their element. Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, and Woody Harrelson are good but their parts are all small. A stronger cast, with more action, and a much greater focus on the bigger picture would have made this a very impressive movie, possibly even a sci-fi classic, but it settles for less. It manages to entertain but offers far less than it should.