Ed TV (1999)

Directed by Ron Howard
Written by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, based on the screenplay for Louis 19, le roi des ondes by Michel Poulette
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jenna Elfman, Woody Harrelson, Martin Landau, Ellen DeGeneres

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

A nobody named Ed (McConaughey) who is going nowhere with his life is convinced by his brother (Harrelson) to become the subject of a 24-hour-a-day live TV show, since as long as you're going nowhere you might was well do it on the boob tube.  There he meets the right girl (Elfman) and discovers that being an overnight celebrity isn't all fun and games.

Lots of comparisons to The Truman Show are inevitable and not necessarily wrong.  Two movies about two guys on TV all the time--that's what it boils down to: one knows about it, the other doesn't.  But whereas Truman was about modern life and destiny and our preoccupation with the tool of Satan (television), Ed TV has a much less loftier goal: to tell us about the harsh spotlight of being a celebrity in our crazy, mixed-up world.  It's a fine goal to be had, but the film falls far short of actually delivering it in a way that's new or even worthwhile.

But first, let's talk cast: McConaughey plays a loser well, Harrelson turns in a good performance as an even more experienced loser, Elfman gets to provide plenty of pouting that seemed convincing enough, Rob Reiner is a joy to behold as always as a TV executive, Martin Landau as Ed's father is very fun in every scene.  There's no real standouts to mention but no one to just flat complain about. 

What there is to complain about though is the lumbering two-hour running time, which still feels rushed at the close with that "Oh yeah, we needed a resolution to all this" feeling.  And once things start to go awry, the TV network reps are reduced to Bunch of Evil Executive Guy Caricatures (TM) and Ed to a moron who apparently isn't sharp enough to read a contract before he signs it.  And what's worse--the resolution really isn't satisfying in the least.  There are good things to be had in this film, and some genuinely funny moments, but for the most part it's a slightly lackluster comedy that wants to have something to say, but never gets around to saying it.  Or worse, says it, and the audience replies, "And--?"  Do yourself a favor and rent it.

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