Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As grand as the themes of good and evil, needs and deservings, power and responsibility and such forth are, superhero movies are generally pretty straightforward in premise: hero stops villain from wreaking havoc. As off-putting as this kind of simplicity might sound, it's usually the right way to go. If you pack enough substance into your characters and adhere your plot to these linear margins, you can actually wind up saying a healthy amount (and having a lot of fun). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets half of this formula down pat. Although Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is still a moreover undistinguished identity, his emotional magnitude (re: his relationship with Gwen Stacy) is enough to keep him valid through the storm of lunacy that is his second feature. And it's not even that lunacy that holds him back. The problem isn't how wild his conquests are, how silly some of the action sequences feel, or how absolutely bonkers his villains turn out to be. It's all the other stuff (and yes, if you can believe it, there's a ton more going on in this movie than what I've already mentioned — that's the issue). All the plot twists, tertiary mysteries, ominous flashbacks, abject reveals, and weightlessly sinister pawns in this brooding game that, save for its fun with the baddies, takes itself way too seriously. All that stuff that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 thinks is necessary to make Peter Parker matter? It actually does just the opposite.
Peter is at his best when he's playing Tracy and Hepburn with the girlfriend he's perpetually disappointing (the eternally charming Emma Stone), or trying to win back the favor of the only remaining parental figure from whom he's rapidly slipping away (Sally Field, reminding us why she's a household name), or angling to connect with the mentally unstable engineer who just wants people to notice him (Jamie Foxx working his comic shtick with a frightening zest). We have the most fun with Peter when he's playing the simplest games, and we connect best with him on similar ground. But Peter and company, at the behest of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise's Sandman-sized aspirations, spend so much time exploring new avenues: the secrets surrounding the death and work of Richard Parker, the behind-the-curtains operations of OsCorp, the nefarious goings on in the waterside penitentiary Ravencroft.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As a result of the grand stab at world building, there is just so much stuff that Peter has to wade through in this movie, dragging the likes of Gwen and his boyhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, mastering angst, menace, and upper-class privilege all at once) into the dark crevasses of narrative waste. With so many diversions into the emotionally vacant, deliberately joyless explorations of Parker family origin stories, secret brief cases, and underground subways — The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rivals Captain America: The Winter Soldier in complexity, but forgets the necessary ingredient of fun — we barely have enough energy left when the good stuff hits.
And in truth, the good stuff isn't really good enough to sustain us through all the duller periods. Garfield and Stone do have laudable chemistry. Foxx is a hoot as Peter's maniacal new foe, especially when paired with the grimacing DeHaan. And the action, while often straying from any aesthetic authenticity, is nothing shy of neat-o. It's all passable, occasionally worthy of a hearty smile, but rarely anything you'll be definitively pleased you took the time to see.
But beyond coming up short in the micro, the film's regal downfall is its scope. With so much to do, both in accomplishing its own necessary plot points and setting up for those to come in future films, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't seem to take time to make sure it's having fun with its own premise. And if it isn't having fun, we won't be either.
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Let’s all reminisce together for a moment. Think back to the glorious time you spent growing up devoted to one magical block of television: TGIF. The classics like Family Matters, Full House, and Step by Step started a revolution for the Friday night timeslot and paved the way for edgy and cool shows like Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Boy Meets World to thrive.
It was a simpler time, filled with Tamagotchis, Beanie Babies, and the allure of the perfect teen specimen known as Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Now fifteen-ish years later, we have the opportunity to relive the glory days of our tweendom and twirl with excitement knowing Friday nights are finally cool again — and we have Happy Endings to thank for that.
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TGIF — the oh-so cool acronym for “Thank Goodness It’s Friday” — was the place to be on Friday nights. If you were going to be busy that night, you’d better pray to Salem that your mom remembered to hit record on the VCR. Now in the technologically advanced world of 2013, we have the luxury of knowing that our DVR will capture the two back-to-back episodes of Happy Endings joy to watch at our leisure. But you shouldn’t do that — and here are six reasons why:
1. It’ll Make an Amahzing Pregame: Let’s be real, we’re all a little older, and hopefully a little wiser but anything that tugs on our '90s-loving nostalgia heartstrings takes precedence over anything else. Use the hour from 8-9 PM as a way to relive your glory days of childhood — while also getting wasted for your mid-twenties nights. “It’s early enough that I feel like at 8, 8:30 you’re not going out yet on a Friday night,” Happy Endings creator David Caspe suggests. “You’re probably going out around 10 or 10:30 so you can pregame with Happy Endings.” Our favorite rules? Take a shot every time Alex is confused or Brad and Jane have an overly sexual exchange. You’ll be drunk and ready for your night in no time!
2. It’s Free: Star Zachary Knighton knows that going out in [insert your city here] can be expensive, so why not stay in for a night and relax with some laughs? “Instead of wasting your money at a bar, or a club, you could stay home and watch Happy Endings for free. You’ll save money!” Knighton presents a perfect compromise for the loyal Happy Endings fans out there: “If you love our show and you want it to stick around, please watch on Friday night and go out Saturday night or even on Sunday night and then be really hungover at work on Monday.” We’re sure your boss will understand!
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3. You Won’t Get Rejected By That Hottie At the Bar: Staying in to watch Happy Endings on Friday night will be a huge ego boost! Not only will you avoid the embarrassment of getting shot down in front of your friends, you’ll know that the entire Happy Endings cast and crew is praising you for your fine taste in Friday night entertainment. In fact, Casey Wilson wants to send you countless compliments and thank yous. “If you’re watching in any capacity, God bless you,” she says. “We all love you and you’re a visionary and you get comedy and television and life.” Aww shucks, you’re welcome, girl!
4. It’ll Make You Smile: Plain and simple, Happy Endings is a phenomenal thirty minutes of television and the fact that every Friday fans will be rewarded with a double dose of laughter makes it even better. If you’ve been living under a rock, the lovely Elisha Cuthbert has the perfect explanation as to why all you newbies need to tune in. “To the people who haven’t seen it, I say just give it one episode and see what you think. I really think just one episode gets you involved and makes you understand what these amazing characters are all about," she says. "Something magical is going on here… When you get us all in a scene together it’s like taking six rubber balls and throwing them in a box and it’s chaotic and it’s fun to watch.”
5. They’ll Reenact An Episode of Full House For You: The cast of Happy Endings loves you and they want you to be happy with the new TGIF, so they are willing to take on some of the most iconic Friday night characters we’ve ever seen: The Tanner Family. Damon Wayans Jr. called dibs on his favorites, (“I’ll be the twins, I’ll be the Olsen twins!”) While Eliza Coupe is wiling to switch genders as the Elvis-loving Uncle Jesse. Coupe says, “Elisha should play Joey except she can’t figure out the whole 'Cut it out!’ thing.” Coupe and Wayans automatically demoted Knighton to the geeky and cleaning-obsessed Danny Tanner, but the verdict is still out on who Pally should portray. Shout out your suggestions in the comments below!
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6. Okay Fine, At Least Just Make Sure You DVR It: Always the realist, Adam Pally explains how fans can still help out even if they’re a cold-hearted, TGIF-hating person. “Let’s cut the s**t and know that you don’t have to watch it Friday night at eight because you won't be home if you like Happy Endings… So I will say to anyone who likes Happy Endings, DVR it.” Pally reveals that unlike other shows, Happy Endings can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, and with anyone. “Happy Endings to me is like candy or a party you can stay there as long as you want but you don’t need someone to be like, 'And that’s the end of the party!' Happy Endings was built and made to play whenever you want to see it. That’s why it’s such a fun show because you can pop it in and enjoy the jokes and enjoy the characters at any time.” But seriously, try to watch it live!
Tune in tonight for a full hour of Happy Endings — aka one of the greatest shows to ever grace your television — tonight at 8 PM on ABC. And don’t forget to tweet your support using the hashtag #SaveHappyEndings!
Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
[Photo Credit: ABC]
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