Average joe Ed Pekurny is selected by True TV executives as their new money-maker, as star of 'EdTV', a 24-hour broadcast of this one man's life. Immediately, the film opens up a world of possibilities for itself. There's the strain put on Ed's relationship with his family (particularly his brother Ray), the reaction to Ed's fame by strangers and friends alike, and obviously the development of Ed's own character when he's broadcast to the world all day, every day. The film is even studious enough to delve into the character of the show's creator (played by Ellen DeGeneres), whose mistreatment by True TV executives (in particular, Rob Reiner's arrogant True TV President) fuels her desire to see the show succeed.
Yet, with such promise comes great capacity for failure, and EdTV is a failure. It never truly explores the interesting plot lines it sets up, and doesn't even try to be the kind of interesting or dramatically enriching film that The Truman Show is. Instead, it wastes the talents of it's cast, refuses to ask the kind of questions you'd expect, and doesn't even capitalise on the escalation that most films of this variety do. No resolution is provided for the interesting plotline involving Ed and Ray's absentee father, nor is the gradual face turn of Ellen DeGeneres' character met with any satisfying act of goodwill.
That's a problem that I feel lies with director Ron Howard. The writing is cliche, sure, but the the cast never quite phone it in (even if nobody really gives it their all). Instead, scenes are completely tonally inconsistent, and it's maddening. There's a scene early on in the film where Ed discusses the TV deal with his family around the dinner table. This should have been a light, mildly inspirational scene (you know, where the protagonist promises his dependents the sun, moon and stars), but it was played with too much of a satirical, borderline cruel tinge, and came across as more condescending than uplifting.
Then there's the supporting characters. Characters like Ed and Ray's sister come in and out of the film, mostly when there's a joke to be made. No resolution is provided for the sister character, or her seemingly self-destructve relationship with the terrible frontman of a local band. The worst example of the film's dispensable peripheral characters is Elizabeth Hurley's femme fatale character. She is set up as something of an antagonist, the popular attractive obstacle for Ed to overcome, before his inevitable reconciliation with love interest Shari (Jenna Elfman). Unfortunately, Hurley's character is given a modicum of characterisation before she shuffles off into the sunset. It's maddening.
That's not to say the film doesn't have it's redeeming elements. As I said, the cast is strong (McConaughey, Harrelson, DeGeneres and Reiner are all memorable and committed), but poor writing and inconsistent direction really detract from that. And the film does have some great ideas. Even if it hadn't asked the philosophical questions The Truman Show had, it could have been a seriously compelling look at the skeletons that emerge when a family is scrutinised by millions. Yet again however, it's a totally underwritten idea that amounts to naught by the film's run time.
The film's visual style is similarly fatiguing. It's not bad, necessarily, but it's aiming for that in-your-face, highly-colourful, look typical of ads or music videos, presumably in an attempt to keep with the film's themes of voyeurism and media control. Unfortunately, as the film descends further into the pit of bad comedy, the film's style becomes more and more grating, until it gets tiring to watch.
EdTV is the kind of film that I would simply suggest you avoid. It's not as bad as say, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but I would recommend that monstrosity over EdTV for morbid curiosity, the pretty visuals, or even the acting. EdTV, while a better film, is the kind of forgettable, pointless film that should never have come to fruition, especially after The Truman Show.
EdTV gets a 4/10.
The Truman Show was a hell of an interesting film because of its adventure theme and the way it made a commentary on the negative obsessions of the entertainment industry, so the idea of taking a comedic approach to the same kind of idea sounded like an innovative theme.
EdTV is largely hit and miss though. Altbough its largely comedic, the approach it takes to its source material is somewhat dramatic but doesn't really have a script which is too funny. While the light nature of the film is nice and the way the actors deal with the material is entertaining, the script just doesn't have all that much great humour in it and there isn't really enough jokes for a comedy. It has some really funny moments and as a whole it has a genuine charm, but there isn't really a consistent rate of laughs for a film with such a high-concept plot. It handles its story from a dramatically standpoint in a mostly effective way, though it isn't as insightful as it should be if it is drama, nor is it as funny as it should be for a comedy. EdTV comes up somewhat short in the two areas of its comedy-drama genre, and while it does have enough to succeed it just feels like sometimes the film cannot decide which one to be and that Ron Howard simply has not been able to find the appropriate balance to make it work this time around. While he does render the film an appealing experience, he just doesn't capitalise on the potential of EdTV as much as he did with many of his superior projects.
But aside from that, EdTV proved to be entertaining. Thanks to the strength of an intelligently written script, EdTV is both insightful to its characters and satirical in its look at the relentless attitude of the entertainment industry which is explores in a very true manner. Considering that even today we are stuck in an age dominated by senseless reality television, EdTV shows just how ridiculous the concept is as a whole, and the satirical edge behind that is enjoyable. EdTV reveals just how ridiculous all reality shows are as well as reminding us just how much studios tamper with things for their own effect which reminds us all of the lies that the entertainment industry has fed us for years, so Ron Howard's honest storytelling is both dramatically effective and intelligent while not forgetting to be funny in the process, so it is rather original entertainment in the end.
And from a technical perspective EdTV succeeds because it has a fairly good sounding soundtrack to set the time of the film a little better, and it is ripe with great cinematography and timely editing as well as a lot of really convincing visual production nelements which makes EdTV feel all the more realistic from both a storytelling perspective and a technical one. In the end it isn't Ron Howard's finest film, but it has some of his skills at handling comedic material even though it isn't as funny as I had hoped. It simply tells its story with intelligence and satire and it takes a thought provoking look at the nature of reality television and the obsession that humanity has with it while also questioning why we do. That is a question I myself have been asking for years, and I'm just glad that EdTV realised it and asked the same thing.
EdTV does manage to capture a lot of serious charm thanks to the skills of its immensely talented cast.
Matthew McConaughey is the perfect lead in EdTV. As he proved in his breakout role in Dazed and Confused, Matthew McConaughey is very good at portraying laid back and chill figures to comedic effect. Although his performance isn't as funny as in Dazed and Confused, his natural charisma makes him an excellent lead in EdTV. He was able to handle the material without problem, and you can see the development in him over the course of the film from a laid back and relaxed fellow to a man who has become seriously emotionally distraught due to the television tabloids refusing to let his life off easy. There is a lot of meaning to Matthew McConaughey's characterisation of Edward "Ed" Pekurny in EdTV, and it makes him the ideal lead for the role where he works strongly with director Ron Howard and manages to boost the credibility of both of them for having worked with each other.
Woody Harrelson really doesn't get enough screentime in EdTV for his finest comedic talents to flourish, but within the brief timespan he receives he manages to supply quite a few good laughs out of the comedic situations with ease and it is no trouble for him. He is immensely likable without having to try hard to enjoy him, and his relaxed chemistry with Matthew McConaughey was an enjoyable asset to EdTV.
Ellen DeGeneres is perfect as an addition to the cast in EdTV because of her legendary career as a hilarious talk show host, so her name is ideal to the film. Her natural charisma is hilarious and her energy never subsides because she is so consistently effective, and the result is a continuously entertaining performance on her behalf in EdTV.
And last of all, Jenna Elfman's lead performance was a great one because as well as showing how she can work with comedic material it displayed some of her abilities in the dramatic arts. EdTV gives her a complicated character, and she gives back by delivering a strong performance which boasts the ability for her to manipulate her emotions as she sees fit at any second and a strong chemistry that she establishes with Matthew McConaughey. Jenna Elfman is a key asset to the success of EdTV, and it is really no surprise how well she comes out shining on the other side.
So while EdTV can never really decide to be a comedy or a drama and loosely lingers between the two without staying consistently on one theme for an extended period of time, it is still an intelligent and thought provoking film with a nice touch of Ron Howard's comedy and some skilful performances, particularly from lead Matthew McConaughey