BoJack Horseman: Season 1 (TV Review)

BoJack Horseman: Season 1 (TV Review)

New to Netflix is another cartoon geared specifically towards adults, BoJack Horseman. Right off the bat, it feels as if this show is meant to provide people who love Archer with something to do while they wait for the next seasons to be released. In BoJack Horseman, we get a little bit of Archer, a little bit of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and a dash of Arrested Development. There is a long list of talented actors who lend their voices to the show, but in the end, it falls a little bit more flat than I would have expected.

The story is about an actor, who is also a horse, who had a huge hit with a 1990’s family sitcom, and he has never truly recovered, or moved on, since. Never able to replicate his success, and unable to land a job, BoJack Horseman has become a bitter pseudo-celebrity, living off his glory years. And excessively living in his glory years, to the point where he often watches the DVDs of his old show, laughing along with the tired, filmed before a live studio audience, jokes that made him famous. The only gig BoJack has going for him, is an offer to write his memoirs, something he finally gets around to doing when he hires a ghost writer, who follows him around, reliving his stories of fame, and becoming his friend. 

bojack2The cast here is good, and the title character is voiced by Will Arnett, who simply has one of the coolest voices out there. it feels as though he never reaches the potential with his voice acting in this show, however, or maybe it is just that we want him to be more like Arnett is in his other shows. Maybe we just want an animated version of Gob Bluthe, but we don’t really get it. Other primary member include Aaron Paul, of Breaking Bad fame, as Todd, the freeloading friend of BoJack’s who sleeps on his couch, and has to fight just to be allowed to use some closet space. Alison Brie provides the voice of the ghost writer, Diane. There are other celebrity cameos, like Naomi Watts and others, and there are some pretty decent secondary characters, like BoJack’s friend/rival, Mr. Peanutbutters (who is dating Diane), a dog who had a hit show similar to Horseman’s back in the day, and BoJack’s agent, a cat named Princess Carolyn that serves as BoJack’s agent and occasional love interest. 

Overall, it seemed like there could have been more done from the stellar actors they have to do the voices. I was expecting more, at least, and finished the series wondering if it could have been better had the voice actors gone a little further, or a little more extreme, in their creation of their characters. Think of how distinguishable each character is on Archer, simply based on their voices. I didn’t feel that came across in BoJack Horseman

As with most new shows, it takes a while before this one feels like it hits its stride. However, throughout the whole first season, it is not laugh-out-loud funny, as often Archer is, or the other comparable shows are. Perhaps it is unfair to compare this new series to something like the three I mentioned in the opening paragraph, as they have become cult favorites, or true comedy gems. But, since they are going after the same audience, I guess I can justify the comparisons. 

When you finish the dozen episodes of the first season, you are left with something that is…okay. There are some good moments in the show, and they start to string together jokes from other episodes, something that is more and more common in binge-watching TV series. There is a reasonable plot line, and BoJack himself does go through changes as the show progresses, so there is definitely a character arc, for the titular character, at least. There aren’t tons of laughs, but there are definitely worse things out there. Despite the expectations that I may have had for BoJack Horseman, it comes off as something that is distinctly average, unfortunately. But there is hope, as things have been set up nicely, and perhaps from here the writers can take this show somewhere more daring, and different, in order to improve for its second season, whenever that may come along. 

You won’t hate yourself for watching this show, as it is not a complete waste of time. But I wouldn’t go in expecting a gut-bustingly funny show, either. 

Smashed (Film Review)

Smashed (Film Review)

Ah, Netflix. I love you because of your random suggestions. Since I watched Drinking Buddies, I might also like…

Smashed.

A quick film about a young married couple (Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul), who have issues with drinking. Like, they enjoy it too much. Both of them are alcoholics, and the film centers around Winstead wanting to get clean, Paul’s refusal, and the way in which alcohol, or the lack of it, drives them apart.

smashed_headerAt the beginning, Smashed seems like it will be a harrowing journey into the lives of alcoholics, in the way that so many substance abuse movies are. We will watch them have fun, then things will turn bad, then they will go through the torturous withdrawal on their way to redemption. I will give this movie credit, in that it isn’t as cookie-cutter perfect as it could have been.

The movie opens with Winstead waking up hungover, getting ready for work, drinking in her car, then throwing up in front of her grade 1 students. Seems like our abuse film is right on track. This leads to a side story, where Winstead says she is pregnant, causing her to be ill. While the story line initially seems kind of pointless, it does lead to a redeeming part later on, so there is definite purpose. Later on, she smokes crack with a stranger. A quick escalation, and we see that she could easily become a complete train wreck.

The best part of the movie is Winstead’s performance. She is confused, and angry, with the choices she has made, and she comes across as genuine throughout the film. She is able to create the performance of someone who is broken, and ready for a change. She drank because it made her feel good. And then it made her feel bad. So she stopped.

And this is the problem with the film. It all seemed too easy for Kate. She went to a couple of meetings, with the guidance of a fellow teacher (played awesomely by Nick Offerman- he has the most memorable, and most awkward, scene in the movie when he is in the car with Kate and admits he has a crush on her), found a great sponsor, and got clean. Sure, there is the inevitable relapse, but Smashed keeps us away from the physical pain of detox. There is no real indication that Kate as any issues with being around others that drink, which I would imagine, is one of the most difficult things for a recovering alcoholic to do. She carries on with her life, does better at her teaching job, before the drift with her husband occurs.

It is nice to see the opposite side of the coin, however, in that alcohol was the thing that kept this couple together. We are more used to seeing how the presence of booze will drive a couple apart. For the most part, it becomes the absence of alcohol that creates their marital issues, as it was something that they could bond over for so many years. For that, Smashed offers a slightly different perspective on the issue.

For the most part of the movie, Aaron Paul is underused. He is a good actor, but the majority of his performance is basically a spinoff of the early Jesse Pinkman on the first couple of seasons of Breaking Bad. He could have been more. He gets to show his acting chops as the movie progresses, but for the most part, I feel he could have done more.

In all, Smashed is just ok. It could have been dark, and gritty, but it only gave us glimpses into that side of alcoholism. This film is carried by the actors that are in it, and for them, it is worth viewing. As a movie that focuses on the pain and desperation of addiction, it does fall a little flat.