'Puzzle' is Well Made, but a Few Pieces are Missing

Based on the film Rompecabezas, Puzzle is one of those little-known independent films that sneaks into theaters with little to no fanfare, although the fact that it is being promoted “from the producer of Little Miss Sunshine” should help it get noticed somewhat. Puzzle is a quiet, little film about a woman who discovers that jigsaw puzzles are the key to changing her life. While the subject matter doesn’t sound all that exciting, the film really isn’t about puzzles but instead about one finding their voice, or so it appears. It’s also a message film that has its own agenda expecting the audience to agree with the choices of the main character and applaud her “brave” behavior. Frankly, it just feels manipulative.

Directed by Marc Turtletaub, Puzzle’s most impactful scene comes within the first few minutes. We see Agnes (Kelly MacDonald) cleaning up the house and they decorating it for a birthday party. Then we see her serving appetizers while being ignored by the guests. …

‘The Good Place’ Could Be a Better Place

Review of Ted Danson and Kristen Bell's "The Good Place."
Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in The Good Place. (NBC)
With what passes for comedy on TV these days, I often find myself wondering if I am even a fan of comedy anymore. I’m often stunned by the success of shows like Two Broke Girls or the latest iteration of The Odd Couple. But then, when I watch shows like Modern Family, The Middle and even the classic I Love Lucy, I remember that yes, I do like comedy. I like comedy a lot. It’s just that a lot of today’s comedies are either offensive or too simple that they need a laugh track to remind the audience to laugh.

I’ve heard a lot of great things about NBC’s new fantasy comedy, The Good Place and after watching two episodes of the Ted Danson/Kristen Bell show, I’m wondering why. It’s not a terrible show and the concept is sort of intriguing, but it really isn’t all that funny. In short, if you find yourself laughing out loud during the commercials where Bell is trying to swear and ends up saying things like “bull shirt” or that someone had royally “forked up,” then you’ll love The Good Place.

Here’s the concept of the show: Kristen Bell plays Eleanor Shellstrop (already a red flag) a woman who found to be such a wonderful woman on earth, that when she died in a bizarre grocery store parking lot accident, she was sent to “the good place” the show’s version of heaven. (Actually, the terms “heaven” and “hell” or not used but rather implied and are only known as “the good place” and “the bad place.”) She is immediately welcomed to her new home by Michael (Danson) who is the master architect of Eleanor’s new neighborhood. Apparently, in The Good Place, there are lots of similar neighborhoods all designed by other people. This is Michael’s first and he’s thought of everything including many frozen yogurt shops.

In a matter of short minutes, Eleanor is shown her new little house that sits between two giant mansions. Each home represents the personality of the people living in them. Someone got the message that Eleanor likes clowns. 

Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper - review of "The Good Place."
Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and Chidi (William Jackson Harper) (NBC)
Michael introduces Eleanor to Chidi (William Jackson Harper) her soul mate, her neighbors Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jianyu (Manny Jacinto) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden) a sort of “Siri” that pops in and out like I Dream of Jeannie when called upon. Everything is perfect except for one thing. Eleanor is convinced that the heavenlies grabbed the wrong person. So, while she avoids being found out and getting sent to the "Bad Place," Eleanor, with Chidi's help, learns how to be good. And then some giant shrimp come flying by at it starts to rain garbage on the neighborhood and the show gets weird.

Some will no doubt be concerned that somehow The Good Place will be making fun of Christians, or God or heaven, etc. It doesn’t really, at least not in the first two episodes. And the casting is pretty good. Danson is perfect as the giddy Walt Disney-like creator of this good place whose personality turns to insecurity when things begin to turn strange in this land of Oz. Bell on the other hand seems out of place. Nothing against the actress, I think she’s great. However, with her cheery smile and attitude with just about everything that she does (she voiced Elsa’s sister in Frozen for crying out loud), I just can’t buy that she was ever a bad person. Finally, I think the jokes are weak and a little too on-the-nose for my taste. At least it isn’t offensive. The Good Place is nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. (See what I did there?)

Check out The Good Place for yourself. A preview of the first to episodes will be shown back-to-back on NBC on Monday, September 19 at 10:00 p.m. The “official” start of the show happens on Thursday September 22 at 8:30 p.m. Let me know what you think.


promote my blog