John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

The Amazing Spider-Man

Genre: Action and Adventure, Thriller

Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: July 3rd 2012

Step aside, there
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Mark Wahlberg is quickly becoming my favorite Massachusetts movie star.

Wahlberg, malady the rapper-turned-model-turned-actor, page
has done some incredible work over the past few years. Whether he was garnering an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in The Departed to his leading role in the 2010 drama The Fighter (which he also produced), he’s proven his acting chops onscreen.  His newest project Ted shows something else about the young star. He isn’t afraid to take on a quirky comedy and make the most of a script that features him spending most of his time onscreen talking to a profane teddy bear.

The title character in Ted is a typical teddy bear when the story begins. An eight-year old boy named John Bennett—who no one in the neighborhood wants to hang out with– receives him for Christmas. Bennett wishes that his bear became alive and his hope for an instant best friend comes true overnight. But unlike in other movies, Ted isn’t just alive to his owner. He’s a real walking talking teddy bear who scares John’s parents and eventually becomes a major celebrity.

The realization that Ted isn’t just alive to his owner is one of this film’s nicest surprises.

Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, directed and wrote this story and voices the title character.  But in this — his first film– he proves that he isn’t afraid to embrace an absurd premise. When John gets older and is played by Wahlberg, the story’s potential is fully realized because as Ted grows up to be a crude, profane man-child who likes getting high and geeking out about Flash Gordon, so does his teddy bear.

Both individuals are still kids at heart and easily frightened by thunder but they are also both adults who can’t live without each other. That situation becomes untenable when John’s long-time and ever-patient girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) wants the teddy bear to move out. Ted and Lori get along but Lori wants to have a mature adult relationship with her boyfriend and his talking teddy keeps getting in the way.

This intriguing plot gives MacFarlane plenty of room to fill the movie with the crude, profane comedy that he’s known for. The film is politically incorrect and full of jokes that some will be offended by. But no worries. It’s hard to be offended when the comedy is great and keeps you laughing at the insanity of it all.

Ted eventually becomes the ultimate bear bromance. Sure, John and Ted come from different worlds but these friends belong together and their dialogue and eventually the wrestling match that the two engage in shows how well-suited they are for each other. The film isn’t for everyone—if you’re easily offended, steer clear– but it’s a surprisingly funny and witty comedy about a man’s relationship with his teddy bear. You can laugh at the premise if you want but the movie turns out to be one of the funniest of the year.

Damon and Affleck have proven that two bros can succeed in Hollywood together but in Ted, Wahlberg shows that two guys don’t have to both be human to be best friends.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

That Albert Einstein quote adorns one of the posters seen behind high school student Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) in the new movie, cheap
The Amazing Spider-Man. It’s an appropriate lesson to be highlighting in a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise.

Yes, adiposity
we all know how the story goes of how one angst-ridden teen became a cocky superhero but this movie attempts to re-tell that famous story. Yes, cheap we already may have the knowledge of this story but the question is if this retelling has the imagination and insight to pull us into the theater once again.

Garfield—a strong supporting player in the 2010 drama The Social Network—takes center stage, filling the shoes of the likable but harmless Tobey Maguire. Maguire was a solid choice as Spider-Man, not as great as his admirers believe nor as disappointing as his detractors claim. But Garfield seems to be the perfect choice.

Despite his good looks and charm, Garfield offers a relatable fragility that was on full display when he lost much of his Facebook portfolio in Network. Garfield can no doubt be confident but when hurt, the actor embodies the lonely bullied teen that Parker was before a spider changed his life.

The story revolves around Peter’s search for the truth about his parent’s disappearance. That quest leads him to the scientific facility Oscorp, where he discovers that his high school crush Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) works under the tutelage of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). Dr. Connors—a close colleague of Parker’s father—is working to achieve his goal of creating a world without weakness. Inevitably, Parker transforms into the web-slinger he was born to be and Dr. Connors’ work leads him to cut unnecessary corners and make decisions that transform him as well.

Much of the plot is a rehash of the origin story we saw in the 2002’s Tobey Maguire film but this strong cast imbues it with a freshness and seriousness that Maguire’s sometimes cartoonish film lacked. Parker’s uncle and aunt are here played by veteran actors Martin Sheen and Sally Field. And comedian Denis Leary serves as another opponent that Parker faces off against. Leary plays Stacy’s father, a tough police officer who believes that Spider-Man is more of a threat to the city than some of the criminals he regularly dispatches.

But what the story lacks in originality, it makes up for in some of its quieter moments and its special effects. Watching Spider-Man fight crime is enticing but it’s also neat to watch this masked hero take an order for organic eggs from his aunt while sitting on top of a rooftop between adventures.  And Marc Webb, the director of the 2009 comedy (500) Days of Summer, proves to be an able director of such a high-profile franchise. At times, the direction is disjointed but the special effects make up for that and the 3D effects are quite astounding.

For those who think that Spider-Man didn’t need a reboot after only a few years, I can understand your trepidation about this new franchise beginning. But the movie works, despite its familial elements.

Einstein was right about imagination versus knowledge. The 2002 version of this story had the origin story down but it didn’t offer the imagination of this reboot, which makes this Spider-Man amazing after all.

Review by: John Hanlon