Friday 24 November 2017

Ted talks, to the lighthouse, and the horrors of the school reunion

Ted 2 (16, 115mins), 2 stars
* Song of the Sea (PG, 94mins), 3 stars
* The Reunion (No Cert, IFI, 88mins), 4 stars
* The Choir (PG, 103mins)

A bear call Ted: battling against prejudice
A bear call Ted: battling against prejudice

Ant-Man (Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas); True Story (James Franco, Jonah Hill); The Gallows (Reese Mishler, Cassidy Gifford); The Wonders (Monica Bellucci).

In 2012, Seth McFarlane scored a massive hit with Ted, a kind of fairytale gone wrong starring Mark Wahlberg as a Boston slacker whose childhood teddy bear came mysteriously to life and is now an unemployed reprobate. It was essentially a one-joke movie - a bear who drinks and swears - but it was a pretty funny one, and McFarlane strung it out surprisingly well.

By the end of Ted, however, it had worn pretty thin, a worrying sign considering it has now been joined by this sequel. Three years on, John Bennett (Mr. Wahlberg) has recently divorced, but things are going better for Ted, who in the opening scene marries his sweetheart Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). But their plans to adopt a child (you'll be pleased to hear that Ted does not possess a penis) go disastrously wrong when the authorities examine Ted's case and decide he is not an actual person, merely a possession.

Cue a long-winded court case, and a desperate battle to prove Ted's personhood with the help of an inexperienced young lawyer (Amanda Seyfried).

To McFarlane's credit, he has realised that more jokes about bongs and hookers will not on their own be enough to sustain his sequel, and so Ted is given a sort of heart, and a civil rights-style battle against prejudice. It doesn't really work, and neither does the bad taste humour McFarlane desperately resorts to whenever there's a lull.

Song of the Sea is the latest offering from Tomm Moore and Cartoon Saloon, the team that produced the sumptuous Secret of Kells. They animate traditionally, hand-drawing each frame, which makes the complexity and beauty of Song of the Sea's imagery all the more impressive. In fact the animation on this film is so good it can be compared to the work of Studio Ghibli, and Tomm Moore's movie is only let down now and then by a story that meanders slightly, though very pleasantly, it has to be said.

Song of the Sea is set on a storm-battered Atlantic island in the early 1980s, where two young children, Ben and Saoirse, live in a lighthouse with their widower father (Brendan Gleeson). Their mother wandered into the sea shortly after Saoirse's birth, and the little girl also has a mysterious connection to the ocean that unleashes ancient, warring forces when she and Ben are moved away to the city to live with their grandmother.

Tomm Moore's film blends Celtic mythology with a nostalgic evocation of 1980s Dublin, and is wonderful to look at, if a little too busy for its own good at times.

First shown here at last year's Dublin Film Festival, Anna Odell's Reunion is an astonishingly intense and well-crafted drama with more than a few arthouse tricks up its sleeve. Ms Odell plays a fictionalised version of herself, a chippy conceptual artist who turns up like an avenging fury at a 20-year school reunion to which she was not invited. After drinking more than she should, Anna starts having pops at some old enemies, and a nasty history of bullying and exclusion emerges, culminating in her violent ejection.

But this turns out to be a kind of film within a film, and Odell is intent on having the last laugh. It's a short but compelling, psychologically gruelling drama and, once seen, will not be quickly forgotten.

The Choir, on the other hand, I'm already forgetting, and I've only just seen it. Not that it's bad or anything: it's a perfectly watchable, formulaic coming-of-age story, a rough cross between Billy Elliott and Dead Poet's Society starring Dustin Hoffman as a tough private school choirmaster who reluctantly takes a troubled student under his wing.

Hoffman is really good as the fastidious but secretly soft-hearted Anton Carvelle, and without him and the rousing support of principal Kathy Bates, The Choir simply would not work.

Coming soon...

Irish Independent

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