While this week's episode of Happy Endings is, admittedly, a little light in the laugh department — they can't all be perfect half-hours of comedic television — but it does have some pretty interesting things to say about the Chicago-based group and its codependent members, specifically Max and Penny. We have a basic understanding of Dave, Alex, Jane, and Penny's friendship: they grew up together, dating back long prior to high school, and never severed ties. If you yourself have been fated with a childhood clique that survived past college graduation, you know that there's almost zero chance of ridding yourself of said social cyst.
With said back story, Happy Endings risks falling into a territory of "passionless" relationships. People sticking together just because they're used to each other. Just because, thinking beyond the confines of their fictional universe, they happen to be the stars of this show. The presentation of these people as actual friends who contribute something to one another's lives (be the relationships healthy or otherwise) is as such challenging, especially in the medium of comedy, where character examination often takes a backseat to jokes. But Happy Endings makes the two work hand-in-hand, explaining why exactly (in this instance) Max and Penny need each other — specifically each other, as nobody else could fill the role they mutually provide — via delivery of humor.
Max is overwhelmed with jealousy and insecurity when Penny's relationship with Pete (still Nick Zano) turns him into the group's fifth wheel. While the motif of only-single-guy has been played with in sitcoms before, there is something special about the way Happy Endings deals with it. In the opening tag, Max is shoved off the overcrowded barstaurant booth, laughed at uproariously by the mean-spirited (but so silly that you can't really hate them too much) collection of couples that make up his social circle. As the gang (a highly vociferous Brad at the head of the antic) mocks Max for his solitude, it is at once very funny and genuinely, bitingly sad, thanks entirely to a perfectly subtle delivery of pain by Max's Adam Pally.
Throughout the episode, Max focuses his energy on Penny, and her relationship with Pete. See, Penny is Max's emotional crutch, and not simply because she's the only other perpetually single (with Pete as an exception) individual in the group. She, like Max, is an emotional cripple, unable to hold healthy relationships, doused in her own self-loathing, constantly waging a highly comical war against the world. Max and Penny are fellow soldiers in said war, banding together against the turmoil that comes more often than not from within each of them. And although they can be seen as one another's enablers, they provide what everybody on this Earth needs and searches for: someone who gets them. Someone in the same boat. A soul mate of sorts.
But Penny is involved in a happy, healthy relationship with Pete, which loses Max his co-passenger. As such, he finds a "new Penny," a psychologically destitute young woman named Nickel (Kulap Vilaysack... and "it's pronounced Nicole") to fill his void of a needy, self-destructive friend, and to make Penny jealous. The short-lived plan goes awry when Max is abandoned by the nutty lass, but Max's wishes come true when Penny, in Penny form, inadvertently sabotages her own relationship with Pete: he happens upon a list of his faults that Penny wrote up, as she does with all suitors as a preparatory means of making herself feel better once their relationships end. But seeing how genuinely devastated she is over the breakup, Max employs his truculent nature to force Pete into giving Penny another chance, allowing for a happy ending (hey! That's the name of the show!) for Penny, and a bittersweet conclusion for Max.
This latest examination of the pair's relationship proves how much merit there exists within and between these characters. Max and Penny don't have the relationship you'd find between Monica and Rachel or Joey and Chandler (or Ross and Phoebe... were they friends? Did they ever do anything together?). Their friendship is often toxic and disruptive, but this is what makes it interesting and, sadly, realistic. The most important people in our lives are usually the ones who do the most damage. But as is Max with Penny, it's the ones who opt to prevent or rectify this damage whenever they can that makes these people worth said importance.
On the other side of the game, we have the final holdouts in the lineage circuit: we meet Alex and Jane's parents, played by Christopher MacDonald and Julie Hagerty. The "I've got to impress my dad/father-in-law!" shpiel, a sitcom favorite, is ordained for this episode, but played with strikingly low stakes: Jane, charged with making speeches at every one of her father's annual galas, wants this one to be funny as opposed to her usual heartfelt. There is clearly no lapse of love between Jane and her straight-faced father, she's just on a constant drive to prove herself the best at everything. And Brad is on the same journey, hoping to warm up to Mr. Kerkovich... even though it doesn't really seem like there's that great a distance between them. Brad makes claims of his own extended family's detest for Jane due to her race, but the only issue facing Brad and Mr. K is that they aren't good at making party small talk.
Meanwhile, Dave shows up to the party, uninvited, to reestablish himself in the Kerkovich family, not knowing that Alex has avoided telling her family that the two are dating again. But once more, the stakes are low. It is Alex who Mr. Kerkovich is angry at over the runaway bride situation that led to the pair's breakup (she did do the running away), not Dave. In fact, Mr. Kerkovich openly admits to always having liked Dave, and (once the cat is out of the bag) to be happy to have him back in the clan. Meanwhile, Julie Hagerty teaches her daughter how to appropriately handle a buffet. So, in direct opposition to every other parental situation we've seen thus far (Max's difficulty telling his parents that he's gay; Dave and Penny dealing with their parents dating; Brad's inability to connect with his father emotionally), the Kerkoviches seem like they're living on easy street. So how did both daughters end up so nuts?
[Photo Credit: Carol Kaelson/ABC (2)]
I Just Blue Myself: 'Arrested Development' Production Halted for Possible Extra Episodes
The Dos and Don'ts of Dating from 'The Mindy Project': When Hosting a Christmas Party
'Community' Season 4: The Year of Lasers and Unicorn Men! (So, Toning It Down?) — PICS
From Our Partners:
Lea Michele Calls Her Breasts ‘My Prizewinners’
Kim Kardashians Best Bikini Moments (PHOTOS)
Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) a smooth L.A. music exec used to be shy fat and the butt of jokes back in high school. The only bright spot was his close friendship with Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart) a super-popular cheerleader. He of course wanted to be more than just friends but she just didn’t feel the same way. Fast forward to the present Chris has turned into a calculating ladies man who finds himself back in his hometown. He runs into the lovely Jamie and the old feelings resurface. He tries to woo her as the new and improved Chris. But unbelievably Chris finds it even more difficult than ever to escape the clutches of the “friend zone”--or as Chris describes “the penalty box of dating in which a guy becomes a complete nonsexual entity in her eyes like her brother or a lamp.” Ah a zone many men have stepped into. Reynolds’ glib sense of humor has brightened some pretty bad films (Blade: Trinity) and even a horror film (The Amityville Horror). But unfortunately he isn’t nearly as effective as the romantic comedy lead. His consistent sardonic delivery soon starts to grate. And while Smart (The Butterfly Effect) is delightfully perky and down to earth as Jamie there isn’t much zing with Reynolds--another big red flag. However there are some bright spots. Anna Faris (the Scary Movie series) nearly steals the show as a whiny no-talent pop singer whose diva-esque behavior hits close to home. Also hilarious is Christopher Marquette (The Girl Next Door) as Chris’ girl-crazy younger brother. Watching the two brothers slap the spit out of each other is just plain good stuff. Just Friends actually has a pretty good set-up which makes it all the more disappointing the film can’t completely hold up. Roger Kumble (The Sweetest Thing) just paints by the numbers never really offering anything new or different. The best parts are the flashbacks to the early ’90s when the overweight Chris is lip-synching “I Swear” in the mirror or writing the 100 reasons why Jamie is such a great girl. It really will take some of us back a bit. But as you sit there mildly laughing at the film’s earnest attempts at pure hilarity you can’t help wonder what this film would have been like in the hands of say the Farrelly brothers. Just Friends could have definitely used some of There's Something About Mary’s mean-spiritedness and crude bathroom humor.
The tragic opera tells the story of a disfigured musical genius (Gerald Butler) who haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera waging a reign of terror over its occupants [cue the organ music]. Think The Elephant Man meets The Hunchback of Notre Dame--except this particular "monster" has some serious sex appeal. I mean honestly his only "disfigurement" is some scarring on one side of his face which he covers with a rather classy mask. No big whoop. But I digress. When he falls desperately in love with the lovely ingénue Christine (Emmy Rossum) who has lived in the opera house for most of her life the Phantom devotes himself to molding the young soprano into a star exerting a strange sense of control over her as he nurtures her extraordinary talents. But when Christine falls for the dashing Raoul (Patrick Wilson) all hell breaks loose as the Phantom's growing jealousies threatens to tear everyone apart [OK now it's really time to cue the organ music].
Fans will no doubt be happy their favorite musical has finally made it to the big screen but the musical's original stars Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman have been replaced in the movie version by hot young actors. This is a very wise decision considering the film's rather longwinded nature. In other words even though the Phantom performers keep singing and singing and then sing some more at least they are appealing to watch (and they did do all their own singing). Butler (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life) is particularly effective as the Phantom all brooding mysterious and far more intriguing a suitor than pretty boy Raoul played blandly by Wilson (HBO's Angels in America). With her alabaster skin and long luscious locks Rossum (The Day After Tomorrow) also does a nice job as Christine. But she is unfortunately limited to only a few range of emotions--either all doe-eyed and somber over her Phantom doe-eyed and gushy over Raoul or just plain doe-eyed. As for the supporting players Minnie Driver nearly steals the show as the Italian soprano diva La Carlotta. As the only breath of fresh air in the musty opera house you definitely crave more of her.
It's taken about 15 years to bring Webber's smash hit to the big screen. Apparently after winning every known theater award for Phantom the legendary producer-composer approached director Joel Schumacher in 1988 to do the movie after being impressed by Schumacher's work on The Lost Boys. Hmmm The Lost Boys to Phantom of the Opera--I'm still trying to tie that one together. Anyway Webber had to postpone production for personal reasons and then Schumacher was busy doing such films as Tigerland and Phone Booth. Finally the time was ripe to make Phantom coming on the heels of the musical movie boom started by Moulin Rouge and Chicago. Schumacher certainly incorporates all the right elements from the young and talented cast to the opulent sets and magnificent costumes. The problem is the material: Phantom really isn't all that compelling of a story. Sure the stage production was and still is a theatrical event especially as the Phantom moves on catwalks all over the theater and the impressive chandelier comes crashing down on the stage. But for the film adaptation there needs to be something more than just grand posturing set pieces and operatic music. Maybe a little more dialogue? A sex scene? Anything?
A Guy Thing's premise is standard and remarkably uneventful. Paul (Jason Lee) thinks marrying the sweet and perfect Karen (Selma Blair) and working for his tough soon-to-be father-in-law Ken (James Brolin) is the best thing he's got. Until he meets Becky (Julia Stiles) the girl he wakes up with after his wild bachelor party. Paul can't remember what happened but assumes the worst and tells Karen a little lie to cover it up. His friends tell him it's fine it's "a guy thing" and he shouldn't feel guilty but in the week before his nuptials he watches the whole thing blow up in his face. See Becky is Karen's free-spirited cousin a girl who lives life to the fullest. Even if Paul wanted to forget Becky and the apparent incident he can't especially when he realizes he is beginning to have feelings for Becky and that maybe Karen isn't the right girl for him. Oh boy he's got some s'plaining to do. This is life folks--these are the tough choices you've got to make. Or so that's what the film wants us to remember when we walk out of the theater with our sides splitting from laughing so hard. Right.
After last year's stinker Stealing Harvard one would have hoped Jason Lee learned his lesson--but apparently not. The thing is the guy is talented. He's shown great comedic flair alongside director Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy) but it's obvious his judgment has been impaired somewhere along the way. Lee looks like he is sleepwalking through most of the film as Paul does nothing more than react to all the craziness around him typically coming to his senses just in the nick of time. Blair (Legally Blonde) once again plays the country-club princess to a tee but someone please give this actress something meaty for a change. She can handle it. Yet it's Stiles who surprises you in A Guy Thing. Venturing into a balls-out comedy for the first time she just seems so out of place in the romantic comedy milieu. You think it isn't going to work but then suddenly you realize she's grown on you and Becky's gangly klutzy style becomes the only refreshing thing in this tired genre movie. Larry Miller also makes a hilarious appearance as Paul's minister neighbor who has seen the whole "guy thing" transpire. Funny stuff.
Someone really needs to tell why these vacuous romantic comedies keep getting made. A Guy Thing portends to be different claiming the comedy comes from real-life choices rather than from outlandish unbelievable situations. OK then it makes sense Paul would climb out his future in-laws' bathroom window to escape seeing Becky only to get hung up on a tree limb then get shot at by big bad daddy Ken and then have to climb back in the bathroom and wind up squirting a shampoo bottle into the toilet to make it seem like he was having gastric problems to those listening outside the bathroom door. Sure that happens all the time. Comedy works best when it's a tad outrageous and don't think A Guy Thing is anything but although it fails most of the time. Still under the guidance of director Chris Koch (Snow Day) the film has a few laugh-out-loud moments including the rehearsal dinner scene where a pharmacy technician caters the meal (don't ask) and spikes the gravy with marijuana resulting in priceless reactions from some veteran actors such as Diana Scarwid and Julie Hagerty playing the two mothers. The actual meaning of "a guy thing " which can ultimately be defined as a guy's inclination to back his buddies up also gets explained in a few hilarious ways. Overall though it's just one formulaic moment after another.