The Recaps: About a Boy – “Pilot”

Pilot’s are tough. Half-hour comedy pilots are tougher. Even more difficult, are half-hour comedy pilots based on a dramatic film. If anyone is up to the challenge though, its creator/showrunner Jason Katims who has become the go-to movie-to-series producer with both “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” oh his resume. He set’s solid groundwork for “About a Boy,” despite changing genres.

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The biggest challenge for the pilot is cramming the plot of the film into 25 minutes and hits most of the broad beats of the film. Will (David Walton lies his way into a single-parents support group and hooks-up with attendee Dakota (Leslie Bibb), meets his new neighbor Fiona (Minnie Driver) and her sheltered son Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and has Marcus pose as his son to validate his story for Dakota.

I apologize for spoiling the majority of the episode but all these beats are taken from the film and book which I don’t anticipate the rest of the show resembling – especially if it get’s a second season. Like “Parenthood,” it looks as though “About a Boy” will focus on what happens to the characters after the plot of the movie which makes it hard to give a definitive judgement on the series but there’s a lot more going on than one would expect.

The key relationship in this story is that of Will and Marcus. We have to believe not only that Marcus would find Will incredibly cool but that Will would want to become a father figure for Marcus. The former is rather easy. Will is rich – albeit for writing a hit Christmas single – is successful with women and can eat barbecue ribs whenever he wants. Marcus is a tougher case. He’s a “good kid” and is willing to pose as Will’s cancer-surviving son to score points with Dakota but that’s about it. Maybe sympathy is enough for now but we need to see him give Will life perspective.

It looks like we’ll get plenty of time for that though. According to the show’s IMDb page, Bibb only appears in the pilot episode of the nine-episode season. Maybe she was only supposed to be a one-time surrogate for female viewers but based on her having Rachel’s (Rachel Weisz in the film) position in the talent show audience – not to mention Katims’ reputation for bringing back characters – I have a feeling we’ll see her back in a hypothetical second season. As far as Will’s personal growth goes, I am concerned the addition of Al Madrigal as Will’s married with two kids best friend Andy who is the source of wisdom in this week’s episode.

All these questions mean that the pilot episode of “About a Boy” is..well…a pilot. It’s far from perfect but what is there has promise and I wouldn’t trust anyone more than Katims to fulfill those promises and then some.

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5 Minute Movie Game Show: The Lego Movie/Titanfall Beta

Greetings everybody. A different kind of post today. I have decided to add a couple drops to the ocean that is YouTube and start a new show I’m currently calling the “5 Minute Movie Game Show,” in which I will talk about something movie-related over footage of me playing a video game.

This week I talk about The Lego Movie – read the written review here – while playing the Titanfall Beta. Enjoy!

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The Reviews: The Lego Movie

On my sixth birthday, my big gift was the Lego  “Fire Breathing Fortress Castle”. I still remember my “Nintendo 64 Kid” reaction. I had just gotten into Legos and while I had the occasional “Ice Tunnelator” or “Pirate Lookout”, it was my first full set. My Dad played a crucial role in helping me match the box art but the pieces soon made it into the family Lego bin to be used as needed. The Lego Movie takes place in that bin from our childhood.

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Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have incorporated the Lego aesthetic with the sense of humor they first brought to the scene with “Clone High” and incorporated that with the same emotional depth that made 21 Jump Street such a pleasant surprise. Credit also has to be given to the Lego corporation and Warner Bros. who allowed Miller and Lord the freedom with their countless licenses.

The film follows Emmet (Chris Pratt) an enthusiastically average construction worker who lives his life following directions for both work and life. The instructions are handed down by President Business (Will Ferrell) who runs the country through a corporation that controls every aspect of the world. There is only one song and one television show and both are massive hits. Emmet’s world is turned upside down when he meets the beautiful Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and finds a mysterious brick that will dismantle President Business’ reign of control over the world after joining a group of rebels called “Master Builders.”

The plot borrows a lot from traditional science-fiction fare but applies Lego’s in creative ways. The Matrix stuck out to me, particularly watching scenes where the Master Builders see random pieces and build something new off the top of their head in the same way Neo sees the code of his false world. The script even goes out of its way to make fun of this – instead of “The Chosen One,” our heroes refer to Emmet as “The Special.” There are some elements that don’t carry over as well, particularly the romantic plot between Emmet and Wyldstyle that doesn’t address the same level of parody as other instances. Thankfully the film finds its pathos in ways I won’t spoil here.

The performances are excellent all-around. The movie officially kicks off 2014 as Pratt’s big year with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy coming out this summer. On the surface, his voice work comes off as generic because that’s the character but he plays enthusiasm and a “gee-whiz” persona that he has developed as Andy on “Parks and Recreation.” Though here his character’s simple-mindedness comes from naiveté, rather than stupidity.

Both Ferrell and Banks are great as well though Banks isn’t given much in terms of the script and her arch is the less meaningful for it. Ferrell on the other hand is great as the villain. He proved he does very well in the role in the underrated Megamind. Unlike that performance though, his transformation is much more sudden causing a wooden performance in an otherwise powerful scene.

The brilliance in the other performances is one of casting and writing as much as anything else. Morgan Freeman as the Obi-Wan Kenobi character is the perfect role for him, as is Nick Offerman as Metal Beard, a brilliantly designed mecha-pirate with shark on one arm and dual-canons on the other. Will Arnett is also excellent as a parody interpretation of Christopher Nolan’s Batman. There are so many superb smaller-supporting roles that it will be entirely up to the audience to pick their favorite – mine is Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as Superman and Green Lantern respectively.

Like a the bucket of random Lego pieces that create this world. Every random piece of the film from the writing, casting, performances and aesthetic comes together to form a truly special, greater whole.

****/*****

What did you think of The Lego Movie? Is it the best you’ve seen so for this year or has something else stood out. Let me know in the comments below or send me an email to tylerlyonblog@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at @tylerlyon.