Film Review – Ted
It begins as an ultra-cute fairy tale. John Bennett, a young boy with no friends, wishes on a star for a best friend. Through some sort of unexplained magic, he is granted one in the form of a living teddy bear. And the world is amazed that his toy has come to life. But as the narrator of the story (Patrick Stewart) points out, eventually, after a while of being famous, no one cares anymore. Cut to the boy, now 35 years old, winningly played by Mark Wahlberg, and still living with his toy best friend. This is the ripe premise for the new comedy Ted.
John and Ted now spend most of their time smoking pot and watching the 1980s Flash Gordon on their couch (John rightly states that his favorite movie is so bad, yet so good). Meanwhile, John has been in a four-year relationship with the lovely and understanding Lori, played by Mila Kunis. Though she finds Ted fun, she wishes John would grow up and spend more time in the adult world so they can finally start their life together. Wahlberg’s character realizes this as well and tries repeatedly to be more responsible. But the lure of fun with Ted, along with Ted’s penchant for hookers and hanging out, is often too strong.
First and foremost, this movie is funny. Dang funny at times. Whether Ted goes on a politically incorrect riff about his Asian neighbors or tries to seduce a coworker at the grocery store where he’s employed, he essentially comes off as a particularly charming insult comic. And the cardinal rule of a comedy is to make the audience laugh. This one does. Ted is voiced by Seth MacFarlane, who both co-wrote and directs here. Yes, this movie is largely a feature-length live action Family Guy episode. If you find the MacFarlane’s Sunday night animation domination on Fox hilarious, then this film is for you. Ted is kind of a combination of Brian and Stewie. And yes, there are even a few quick cutaways depicting a flashback that one of the characters references, à la Family Guy. (For instance, at one point when John is asked how he and Lori first met, he flashes to a reenactment of the Saturday Night Fever parody from Airplane.)
Understandably, there are criticisms of MacFarlane’s humor as well. I know that he can be seen as kind of a one-trick pony. Family Guy is essentially a Simpsons ripoff. And both The Cleveland Show and American Dad are derivative of Family Guy, making them a copy of a copy. Also, justifiably all of those shows can be criticized for not having the heart or depth that The Simpsons has. Those same critiques can apply to Ted as well. The mechanics of the relationship plot are a bit predictable and not wholly moving. These comparisons are also helped by many of MacFarlane’s regulars showing up in the film, including Kunis, Stewart, Patrick Warburton, and Alex Borstein. However, I happen to find more hits than misses in his brand of humor.
If nothing else, Ted really is a grand good time. There are few amusing celebrity cameos that I won’t ruin here. In recent years, we have had a lot of examples of famous people playing fictionalized versions of themselves. Probably greatly popularized by Curb Your Enthusiasm, we have also had in other shows and movies the likes of Bill Murray, James Van Der Beek, David Hasselhoff (who’s done it twice that I know of), Rick Springfield, Lou Ferrigno, and William Shatner (multiple times) all playing heightened versions of their public personae. Well, Ted carries on this tradition a couple of times, to hilarious effect.
The animation of Ted himself is strong and believeable. This time around when creating an all-digital character, the filmmakers were able to leap over the uncanny valley by making him a toy. The eyes in these characters are usually the hardest to animate, but since Ted is a stuffed bear, his eyes are supposed to be kind of lifeless anyway. It ends up feeling much more real than if they had tried to make a human. And Wahlberg does fantastic work interacting with the oty. You firmly believe these two are sharing the same space and have been besties for decades.
Will Ted cure cancer or advance the realm of film from here on out? No, probably not. But will it make those who watch it titter and guffaw? Almost assuredly. Quite simply, it makes for a good time at the movies.
Final Grade: B+