Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Movie Review: Ted

Directed by: Seth MacFarlane.
Written by: Seth MacFarlane and Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg (John Bennett), Mila Kunis (Lori Collins), Seth MacFarlane (Ted), Joel McHale (Rex), Giovanni Ribisi (Donny), Patrick Warburton (Guy), Matt Walsh (Thomas), Jessica Barth (Tami-Lynn), Aedin Mincks (Robert), Bill Smitrovich (Frank), Patrick Stewart (Narrator).

I have to admit that I watch Seth MacFarlane`s Family Guy pretty much every Sunday night – and usually, I see The Cleveland Show and American Dad as well, even though neither are as consistently funny as Family Guy. When South Park did their merciless, two part masterwork `Cartoon Wars’ episode, they were not wrong about Family Guy – there is very little plot to the episodes and what bare bones there is serves only to string together a series of unrelated jokes – some of which are brilliant, some of which are horrible. At best, all three shows are little more than a guilty pleasure – nothing great, but not a horrible way to kill a half hour.  So imagine my surprise when I walked out of MacFarlane`s first feature, Ted having thoroughly enjoyed myself for nearly two hours. As strange as this will sound for a movie which as much juvenile comedy as Ted, but this is actually MacFarlane`s most mature work to date. Unlike even the best episodes of Family Guy, Ted is more than a series of isolated jokes – but actually builds comic momentum. Few comedies this year have made me laugh as much as Ted.

The movie stars Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett, another of those cases of arrested development men that the movies seem so enamored with. He is 35, works at a car rental agency and still gets high nearly every day. Somehow, he has managed to land Lori (Mila Kunis), a beautiful and successful business woman of some sort (no idea what she does, but she works in a high rise and has a nice office, so you know she`s supposed to be mature). They have been together for 4 years now – and she`s starting to think about marriage – while John doesn’t want to rush into anything. For most comedies, this setup itself would be enough. But what keeps Ted from being yet another Judd Apatow clone is the character of Ted himself. Ted is John`s childhood teddy bear, who came to life one Christmas when John wished for it. Ted has grown up alongside John all these years – and is now a profane, pot smoking, beer drinking, crude, prostitute hiring, bad influence on John. Ted is quite literally, a sign of John`s arrested adolescence – how can he possibly grow up if he`s constantly hanging out with his Teddy bear.

Fans of MacFarlane`s TV work will not be disappointed. Ted has more than enough lowbrow humor to keep them satisfied, and MacFarlane certainly takes full advantage of the freedom a R Rating gives him – which basically means this movie says the word Fuck as much as any film written by David Mamet or Quentin Tarantino and he takes his sexual and potty humor well beyond what he could get away with on Network TV. The difference between the toilet and sexual humor in Ted and in most movies is simple – it`s actually funny here (I could have done without the hooker poop scene, but then again I seem to be one of the only people who didn’t think the sight of the entire cast of Bridesmaids shitting all over the place was hysterical).

Wahlberg and Kunis do a good job in this movie, bringing at least some sort of relatable human situation to the table. Both are gifted comedic actors, and they are willing to risk looking silly for the sake of comedy – and it works. But it is Ted, voiced by MacFarlane himself that makes Ted one of the funniest comedies this year. Utilizing state of the art special effects, Ted looks just like you would expect a 27 year old teddy bear to look – a little beat up, a little dirty, yet he still has that cuteness of the best teddy bears. And it is the contradiction between how adorable Ted is, and how profane he acts, that generates a surprising amount of the humor in his character. He should be a one joke concept that doesn’t work for a whole movie – and yet, somehow, it does.
Ted is by no means a perfect film. Like any comedy of this sort, some jokes are hilarious, and some simply fall flat, although the ratio of hits to misses is higher than normal. And there is two unnecessary subplots – one involving Lori`s asshole boss (Joel McHale) and one involving a creepy stalker who has wanted Ted for decades (Giovanni Ribisi). Yes, McHale is great as an asshole, and Ribisi is hilariously creepy as the stalker, but it does seem like MacFarlane was trying to cram too much into one movie for its own good. Still, MacFarlane`s main goal here is to make you laugh, and for me anyway, I laughed a lot.

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