Welcome to the House of Crouse. Batmans come and go. For a time Michael Keaton wore the caped suit. Then in rapid succession Val Kilmer and George Clooney donned the cowl. In recent years Christian Bale and Ben Affleck have been fitted for the Bat-Suit, but of all the actors to have played the Dark Knight, one stands head and shoulders above the rest in our imaginations. For two-and-a-half heady years—and 120 episodes—from 1966 to 1968 Adam West was Batman on the most popular show on television. West passed away Friday night in Los Angeles after a short battle with leukemia. He was 88 years old. This conversation dates from 2010 and finds West in a chatty and gracious mood. Sit back and raise a glass to the man who called himself The Bright Knight.
Posts Tagged ‘Family Guy’
Each week on his show Family Guy, Seth McFarlane manages at least one joke that makes me cringe. It is as edgy a television show as there is on network television and many times I have muttered, “That’s not right,” under my breath even as I am laughing.
I expected McFarlane to push the envelope even further for the big screen as writer, director and star of the “Blazing Saddles-esque” “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” and for sure there are some wild and crazy gags—some may literally make you gag—but it feels safe. Like Judd Apatow, not McFarlane.
Set in Arizona’s wild west, McFarlane is Albert, a mild mannered sheep farmer who hates the frontier. “It’s a disgusting dirty place,” he says, “a cesspool of despair.” The despair of his day-to-day life is compounded when his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him and takes up with a wealthy owner of a moustache grooming shop (Neil Patrick Harris). He finds love again with a mysterious stranger Anna (Charlize Theron), who helps him cope with dangerous frontier life and grow a backbone. His newfound courage is tested when Anna’s husband, outlaw Clinch (Liam Neeson) rides into town.
Despite the similarities to “Blazing Saddles,” “A Million Ways to Die in the West” doesn’t have the satiric subtext that made Mel Brooks’ movie great. McFarlane takes stabs at racism and the social morays of 1880s—only he could create a prostitute character (Sarah Silverman) who loves her work but is saving herself for marriage—but here he comes off as Brooks Lite.
As the star he is funny by times, but his part is basically one joke. He’s the fish-out-of-water who speaks like a twenty first century smart aleck. For instance, as people around him are killed in increasingly wild ways—hence the movie’s title—he observes, “We should all just wear coffins for clothes.” It’s a good line, but his overall performance is more Bob Hope (with more than a hint of Peter Griffin in his voice) than John Wayne.
“A Million Ways to Die In the West” relies on anachronisms and shock value jokes to raise a smile, and spends too much time on the love story. Brooks went for the jugular, and forty years on it’s still funny and edgy. McFarlane’s movie does have at least one classic moment that will appeal to Generation Xers and the most undignified duel ever, but it doesn’t have much sardonic resonance.
SYNOPSIS: Set in Arizona’s wild west, McFarlane is Albert, a mild mannered sheep farmer who hates the frontier. “It’s a disgusting dirty place,” he says, “a cesspool of despair.” The despair of his day-to-day life is compounded when his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him and takes up with a wealthy owner of a moustache grooming shop (Neil Patrick Harris). He finds love again with a mysterious stranger Anna (Charlize Theron), who helps him cope with dangerous frontier life and grow a backbone. His newfound courage is tested when Anna’s husband, outlaw Clinch (Liam Neeson) rides into town.
Richard: 3 Stars
Steve: 2 Stars
Richard: Steve, I laughed at A Million Ways to Die in the West, but strangely enough, I was hoping to be more offended by it. Each week on his show Family Guy, Seth McFarlane manages at least one joke that makes me cringe. I expected him to push the envelope even further for the big screen. Sure there are some wild and crazy jokes here, but they’re at the level of Judd Apatow, not McFarlane. Was it outrageous enough for you?
Steve: It is outrageous but the brazenness in McFarlane’s big-screen sophomore effort is buried beneath more juvenile gags involving bodily gases than the off-kilter comedy his show or Ted succeeds with. Perhaps by covering off all areas of writing, directing and then hiring himself as the lead, McFarland suffers from an inability to self-edit. Speaking of, what do you think of McFarlane as leading man?
RC: I do find him funny, but I can’t help but hear Peter Griffin in his voice and I find that distracting. His part is basically one joke. He’s the fish out of water who speaks like a twenty first century smart aleck. For instance, as people around him are killed in increasingly wild ways—hence the movie’s title—he observes, “We should all just wear coffins for clothes.” It’s a good line, but his overall performance is more Bob Hope than John Wayne.
SG: It’s true but, in this, McFarlane seems to think his gags are more brilliant than they actually are – as if audiences haven’t seen an explosive diarrhea gag before. That said, when he pushes social mores, he goes for the jugular focusing most notably on historical racism. It comes off for some uneven narrative. It’s a good thing he surrounds himself with a solid supporting cast.
RC: Comparisons to Blazing Saddles are inevitable. Both movies have social commentary mixed with cringe worthy gags—some may literally make you gag—but A Million Ways to Die in the West doesn’t have the satiric subtext that made Mel Brooks’ movie great. McFarlane relies on anachronisms and shock value jokes to raise a smile, and spends too much time on the love story. Brooks went for the jugular, and forty years on it’s still funny and edgy. A Million Ways to Die does have at least one classic moment that will appeal to everyone over age 30 and the most undignified duel ever, but it doesn’t have much resonance.
SG: It doesn’t have much heart either. Although Charlize Theron does a stalwart job playing the romantic interest against McFarlane’s spineless pessimist, the filmmaker’s ceaseless determination for punchlines only undermines the film’s attempt at circling back to an earnest love story. In that respect, it lies as lifeless as the film’s many, many corpses. And that includes the western town’s unnoticed, three-day dead mayor.
SYNOPSIS: Based on characters from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, the movie stars the voice of Modern Family’s Ty Burrell as Mr. Peabody, a beagle who is also the world’s smartest being. Imagine “Family Guy’s” Brian with less attitude but more PhDs. When his adopted son Sherman (Max Charles) bites schoolmate Penny (Ariel Winter) Peabody tries to smooth things by throwing a dinner for Penny’s parents (Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann). His party plan is almost derailed when Sherman and Penny hijack the WABAC device, a time machine that takes them to ancient Egypt and the Trojan War. Can Mr. Peabody rescue them before Penny’s parents notice she’s gone and the space-time continuum is irreparably destroyed?
Richard: 4 Stars
Steve: 3 Stars
Richard: Steve, Mr. Peabody & Sherman lacks the political bent of the original Jay Ward cartoon series, but it is loaded with references from literature, history and popular culture. It’s the only kid’s movie with an Oedipal joke and I can’t imagine a Minion punning, “Marie Antoinette could have kept her head if she had issued an edict to distribute bread to the poor. But you can’t have your cake and edict too.” Which means it is stuffed with the spirit of Ward, which is a good thing, even if it does veer off path with a sentimental father and son subplot. What did you think?
Steve: I agree 100% Richard. In fact, by dipping its proverbial toe into that father-son subplot, the film dares to touch on what other family films like Finding Nemo or The Incredibles have done better. Still, the movie’s meteoric pace never lingers too long on any facet of the film and its niche truly is the ceaseless nods to historical events. My favorite had to be a clever throwback to Spartacus.
RC: I know the history element sounds dangerously educational for a mainstream kid’s flick, but the movie’s trips back to ancient Egypt, the Trojan War and Leonardo Di Vinci’s studio where they discover the secret of Mona Lisa’s smile are really fun. They are made doubly so by great voice work. As the dim witted general Agamemnon Patrick Warburton really stands out. He started the confident dumb guy routine on Seinfeld and uses it to hilarious effect here.
SG: And for those who remember the old Bullwinkle series, Ty Burrell does a pretty decent job voicing the movie’s canine savant. Even more successful are the comedy’s captivating visuals especially the way director Rob Minkoff works the 3D to capture the measure of epic Trojan battles or traveling through the time-space continuum and not simply for eye-catching sight gags.
RC: The animation is top notch and like the best of Ward’s work, Mr. Peabody & Sherman realizes that the material has to work on multi levels, the surface and the satirical. Like the Lego Movie, I think this movie will appeal to kids and adults.
SG: Again, I agree. The movie is a peppy, playful ride through history for all ages. In fact, it probably won’t hurt either that most everyone in the audience will barely remember the old Bullwinkle cartoon.
Fans of “Family Guy” already know what to expect from “Ted,” the big screen directorial debut of Seth MacFarlane. As the writer and the voice behind Peter Griffin on that show he has redefined the limits of what is acceptable on prime TV. Now imagine that without a network censor looking over his shoulder. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Ted.”
When John Bennett (Mark Walhberg) was a small, lonely child he wished for just one thing—a best friend. His wish came true, and Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane), his trusty teddy bear, came to life. The pair became “Thunder Buddies” for life, which causes problems when John grows up and moves in with his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). After four years of living with John and the pot smoking, foul-mouthed Ted—imagine rooming with Bob Marley and Charles Bukowski—she becomes fed up, and makes an ultimatum: It’s either her or the stuffed, stoned bear.
The novelty of watching a stuffed bear spout words that would make a biker blush fades soon after the opening credits. After that the movie relies on Seth MacFarlane’s trademarked blend of awkward, inappropriate humor to get laughs, and you know what? It works. I didn’t feel good about laughing at some of the gags, but I laughed.
The movie is structured like a long-form episode of “Family Guy.” There are flashbacks, fight sequences that intentionally go on too long, pop culture references—MacFarlane gives “Flash Gordon” star Sam Jones the biggest part he’s had in twenty years—and the kind of jokes you tell around the water cooler the next day, but only in a whisper. Seth MacFarlane is an enemy of political correctness, and no one or subject is off limits. You’ve been warned.
The movie works best when it is cursing and drinking, but it also has a heart. Sort of like an R-rated “Alf.” Despite the concept—a teddy comes to life and gets high with his owner—the movie is a fairy tale—although a very raunchy one—and wants you to take the relationship between John and the two most important people in his life—Ted and Lori—seriously. MacFarlane eases off on the raunch slightly in the last half-hour to allow the relationship part of the story to take center stage, but ends off with some memorable jabs.
“Ted” must be the coarsest movie to ever star a teddy bear, but beneath the crudeness is a real stuffed beating heart.