How I Was Disappointed by How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother PictureWhat made How I Met Your Mother an interesting entrant into the sitcom field is that it had a binding narrative arc that ran the course of its 9 seasons. there were payoffs for long game joke set-ups, references to previous episodes that weren’t casual lip-service, and a rich mythos set up by creator/writers Carter Bays and Craig Thomas that’s usually reserved for serial dramas.
And we all went along for the ride. We were there for every inside joke. Every hook up. Every break up. Every make up. Every suit up. Fans of the show stuck dutifully by its side through 9 seasons in hopes of meeting the mother and getting a satisfying end to the longest story ever told.

Which we did…. kinda. Let me back up a little.

The primary conceit of the 9th season was that it all took place during one weekend, the wedding weekend of Barney and Robin. The narrow focus of the show’s final season raised some eyebrows when it was announced, but I commented that Bays and Thomas knew what they were doing, and we should trust that they’ll not lead us astray. And I was digging the final season. It was an odd route to go, but I trusted them to land the show in a satisfactory way.

But holy shit did they blow that the hell up.

Because of the final season’s structure, we were taken on a journey through Barney & Robin’s relationship, and how they handled their cold feet and dealt with their feelings and we came to accept that they truly did love each other, and we also had to deal with both Ted and Robin letting each other go after both being such a huge part of each other’s lives.

We were also given very little face time with the mother. We don’t even find out her name is Tracy until the final episode. Looking back, it does nicely set-up the final reveal that the mother has been long dead while Ted’s telling his kids the story, and that Robin and Barney have since divorced. Since his relationship with Robin was a big focus of the whole story, it became his way of asking permission to date again. To date Robin.

My initial reaction to the finale was just two words: “Fucking Bullshit.” And I stand by that. During the first 8 seasons, we’re on this journey with Ted as he tries to find “the one.” That’s the story we’re emotionally involved with. We came close with Victoria and Stella and even Robin herself. They dropped subtle, and not-so-subtle, clues throughout the show’s run as to who she is and when they’ll meet. That’s what we were on board with.

In the final season, we’re emotionally involved with Barney and Robin, and all the little interactions with Tracy. How she came to meet everybody before she met Ted, then the pay off of them meeting in the final episode. We were now connected with Tracy. We loved her. We were emotionally invested in these stories and we wanted to see them played out.

By killing off Tracy and sending Ted right back to Robin, they completely invalidate everything we went through by hitting the reset button. Killing off the mother before we really get a chance to see them together… I mean REALLY see them together, means that our attachment to her was pointless. Ending the Barney & Robin relationship as casually as they did, just shrugging it off with “Oh, P.S. divorce” means the 4 season attachment we’ve had with them has been pointless. All the corners Barney turned to be with Robin… pointless.

Ultimately, my problem with the finale isn’t Tracy’s death, Robin & Barney’s divorce, and Ted & Robin getting back together. That ending makes quite a bit of sense. My anger, my disappointment, my dissatisfaction stems from how gloriously mishandled it all was.

Had the arc of the 9th season been condensed into the first few episodes of the season, starting off with the wedding right away, maybe meeting Tracy by episode 3 or 4, that would have been perfect. We could have lost all that Daphne road-trip bullshit. The point of the Blauman episode still could have been made. And then they could have spent the remaining 20 episodes on cultivating the relationship with Tracy. See them date and fall in love and go through all the things they go through. That way we as an audience can form that bond with Tracy that Ted does. They could have also spent more time on the Barney & Robin split, so that could have packed a more emotional punch for us as the audience.

But as it stands… it feels too hollow. We spent so much time on Barney & Robin’s wedding weekend, and then everything else was just rushed through and skimmed over. The important stuff was rushed through and skimmed over.

And that’s where they failed. Not in the story they told, but in how they told it. I’ll still love How I Met Your Mother… but that finale was just terrible. Again, not for what happened, but how they told us what happened.

And this is all coming from a guy who liked the Lost finale.

Reviews: Safe, The Five-Year Engagement, The Raven

Safe
Safe

Safe

2 stars

Starring Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Robert John Burke & Anson Mount

One thing I like about Statham is that he has a type of film. He’s found a genre he likes, and he sticks with it- loner action hero. He does it quite well, and I tend to like his films. That’s not to say they’re generally good… but I enjoy them. Safe has some solid action, but is ultimately hindered by a ridiculous plot and sloppy writing.

There was one line in particular that was uttered by two different characters in two different scenes. The characters had no contact during their respective scenes. So in addition to being a well-worn plot, the writers are recycling their own dialogue within their own movie. That was one of the more cringe worthy aspects of the film.

Otherwise, they made the film way more complicated than it really had to be, with plot points being introduced way too late in the game to make them viable to the arc. It’s similar to the problems with The Raid. They hit the third act when they realize they need to a way to tie it all together, and they end up doing so in the laziest way possible.

But credit where credit is due, Statham does a considerable amount of actual acting in this role, playing a broken, world beaten man who does what he has to do out of some sense of redemption. And of course the action is wildly entertaining, it’s what he does best. I just wish he’d pick better vehicles to showcase it. I can’t wait for his return in The Expendables 2. If you absolutely have to see it, I say wait for DVD/Netflix.

The Five-Year Engagement
Jason Segel and Emily Blunt in The Five-Year Engagement

The Five-Year Engagement

3.5 Stars

Starring Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie

The comedy team of Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller is one of the more productive and hilarious in recent years.  They kicked it off 4 years ago by working on Forgetting Sarah Marshall together, Stoller directed, Segel wrote and starred. They carried that success into getting the prestigious gig of writing  The Muppets last year (which Stoller also directed, and Segel also starred in). Fast forward to this year, and we get their latest offering, which despite a strong cast and solid premise, just isn’t as strong as their previous efforts.

I can’t not like Segel. He’s a very funny guy, and so disarming with it. He’s just a nice guy you’d love to hang out with. Everything he’s in, from How I Met Your Mother to the movies mentioned, he’s just so gosh darn likable. Add into the mix the beautiful and equally charming Emily Blunt, who is always a delight, with Parks & Recreation‘s Chris Pratt and Community‘s Alison Brie, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for comedy gold. But it just goes on too long.

I have no problem with long movies. Some of my favourite movies push the three-hour mark. This one was slightly over 2, and that’s not terrible for a comedy… if they can keep the audience’s interest. Unfortunately the film drags way too much and can’t overcome that fact.

It’s a standard romantic comedy, and you can guess the end of the film with the trailer, but it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and they take the long way to get there. During the parts where it drags, there’s also a drought of laughs, which is where I would get lost. It’s right around the middle of the 2nd act, and the 3rd act is slow going. If they would just trim the fat, this would be perfect.

If you’re looking for a good date night movie, this is it, just be warned that it gets a little tedious in the middle.

The Raven
The Raven

The Raven

3 stars

Starring John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson

Much like last year’s Anonymous did with Shakespeare, The Raven looks to cast a new light on a famous writer, this time we head to the 19th century and take a look at Edgar Allan Poe. And much like last year’s Anonymous, it’s actually a really good film if you know absolutely nothing about the writer or the times. Having written term papers in college on both men, my enjoyment was a little marred.

This is a sort of departure for Cusack, as he’s not known for doing period piece. I kind of like him as Poe. He really played it straight, with some classic Cusack neuroses thrown in, which was a good choice. I was scared they were going to go over the top gruesome with him, and play him his as more of a caricature than as a man, and I appreciate the restraint.

As someone who didn’t particularly care for V For Vendetta (the message got lost/forgotten), I was quite impressed with director James McTeigue’s vision. Much like Cusack, he played it straight, and just made a really solid thriller. This is the kind of film that if Tim Burton got his hands on it, it would have been a schlocky macabre mess. But McTeigue kept the focus on the cat & mouse between Poe and his adversary (don’t want to spoil it for anyone) and plays out in an almost Holmesian way.

A really solid gothic thriller about the master of horror. It’s not worth full price, see a matinee or a 2nd run theatre.

Con-Air is a Film From An Alternate Universe

Con-Air
This movie does not exist

Con-Air is, by most accounts, a terrible film. I think it is. General consensus is that it is. But I love it. It so delightfully over the top, ridiculous and cheesy that there’s just this small part of you that enjoys it for what it is: A big dumb action film filled with archetypes and explosions. Over the past few years I’ve been developing a hypothesis that the film wasn’t actually made for our reality. It was initially made for an alternate reality where Con-Air is actually the pinnacle of cinema, and through a rip in the space-time continuum, it landed in our universe, where it goes unappreciated.

Films on TV

On television programs, particularly sitcoms, the characters will watch two different types of movies. They’ll watch movies that exist in our world, usually making mention of it (“Let’s watch Predator!” “We’re catching a midnight showing of Manos: Hands of Fate“) and you’ll rarely, if ever, see or hear actual footage, they’ll just use generic sound-alike effects to give you gist of the idea. The other type is a concoction of the writers, and this one usually involves more planning, as it’s used to further the plot along and only exists within the confines of the show’s universe.

The Predator and Manos references above come from the hilarious sitcom How I Met Your Mother (which will be referred to as HIMYM from here on out). Both films are mentioned as being viewed and enjoyed by characters on the show. But the second scenario is what’s important. Towards the end of season 5 of HIMYM, a film was released (within the show) called “The Wedding Bride” that was a fictional account of the Ted/Stella saga (she left him at the altar). Here’s the trailer:

Everything in that trailer is intentionally over the top, intentionally cheesy, it’s a knowing satire – to us, the viewer, in our reality. The melodrama is cranked to 11, because it exists within another fictional universe. It’s done to separate it from the established melodrama of HIMYM (think the levels of dreams in Inception). To us, it’s ridiculously over the top but within the construct of HIMYM, it’s perfectly legit. You can also see this in the McBain and Troy McClure movies on The Simpsons.

Now… that above trailer is ridiculously cheesy to us in the real world. You’d see that trailer ahead of a movie, and you wouldn’t even bother seeing it. Not even on cable.

Watch this scene from Con-Air:

Is that any less cheesy or ridiculous or over the top than “The Wedding Bride?” I know that many, including myself, have a soft spot for this film, we like it because it’s ridiculously bad. And that’s not a bad thing. But objectively look at it. I ask again, is it any less ridiculous than “The Wedding Bride?”

I think not. I think it’s right up there with “The Wedding Bride,” and that’s what led me to the conclusion that Con-Air wasn’t even supposed to exist in our universe.

I think there is an alternate, sitcom version, of our universe. People always have something funny to say. They pause for laughs. Something dramatic happens and everything fades to commercial. Lessons are learned in 23 minutes, unless it’s a BIG lesson, then it’s a two-parter. But the sitcom versions of us need some entertainment, too. After all, they’re just like us, but funnier. So because the melodrama in their universe is a juiced up version of our own lives, the entertainment in their universe is, as I said about “The Wedding Bride,” cranked to 11.

Con-Air is that universe’s Citizen Kane. The pinnacle of cinematic achievement. That universe ended their version of the Criterion Collection because nothing after 1997 was deemed essential. And somehow, through a rip in the fabric of time, or maybe one of Professor Farnsworth’s universe boxes was left open, a copy of that movie found its way into our universe. Somehow, it landed on Jerry Bruckheimer’s desk. He did a quick search on the 1997 internet, and found nothing about this film, but knew he must release it. Everybody got paid for working on that movie, even though it was in fact their Sitcom Universe versions who did the work. But this was payment for services rendered. This was hush money. “Here’s a check. Tell everyone you worked on this film, and you get to keep this free money.” It was released, and that brings us to today.

The film doesn’t exist, as we know films to exist. It is an alternate universe film. There is no other possible explanation for how laughably bad this big budget Hollywood film is, featuring such noted thespians like Nicolas Cage, Colm Meaney, Steve Buscemi, and Johns Cusack and Malkovich.

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