Mark Reviews Movies

Ted

TED

3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Seth MacFarlane

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Barth, Aedin Mincks, Matt Walsh, the voice of Seth MacFarlane

MPAA Rating: R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use)

Running Time: 1:46

Release Date: 6/29/12


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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 28, 2012

Stop me if you've heard this one: A man with some potential is hindered by a close friend without any, and eventually the man has to decide whether that friend or a career, the woman he loves, and an otherwise normal life is more important. The friend, by the way, is a teddy bear with a potty mouth, a love of marijuana and beer, and a general partying spirit.

The stuffed animal was a Christmas present for the man when he was 8 years old. That night, he wished that the bear would come to life so that he might finally have a friend. The poor little guy was so unpopular that even the kid that the bullies beat up on a regular basis used to laugh and call him names, too. That kid, by the way, is picked on for being Jewish, which might seem in bad taste except that the joke is about the bullies' intolerance; either way, be prepared for plenty of other jokes in Ted of equal or greater questionability, particularly one character who serves a racial stereotype that would embarrass Holly Golightly's neighbor (Yes, that character is from a different country, but the point remains).

Anyway, the next morning, the bear had consciousness (His parents' initial reaction is exactly what any rational person's would be). They've been best friends ever since.

There's a sweet, childlike innocence to the prologue that even the off-color jokes can't deter. Even the narrator (the inestimable voice of Patrick Stewart) gets into the act; he talks about the power of a child's wish before going on and on about how cool a military helicopter is with the giddiness of kid. The opening credits show us how the boy grows up to become a man and the bear becomes a national celebrity (Form your own opinion of the state of special effects when computers can make it quite convincingly appear as if Johnny Carson is shaking hands with a teddy bear), and our trusty narrator reads a list of famous child stars to remind us that pretty much every celebrity becomes an afterthought.

Such is the case for our bear Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane, who also co-wrote and directed the film), who has lived with his best friend for life John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) since the day he came to life. Almost 30 years later, they still live together, even after Lori (Mila Kunis) came into the picture. She and John have been dating for four years, and, in case the fact that she puts up with her long-term boyfriend still having a teddy bear at 35 didn't make it obvious, she's a sweetheart. She doesn't push John to get Ted out of the house; she's actually completely understanding of their relationship. Yes, he didn't have any friends except for his best bear when he was a kid, but he's not a kid anymore, she kindly reminds him.

MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild's screenplay doesn't give these characters any extraneous conflict. There is none of the usual tension between the friend and the girlfriend. Ted gets it, too. His buddy loves Lori; he would never come between them. Instead of rehashing the sort of discord with which we've become far too familiar, the script jumps to the next logical place. Ted has to move on with his own life.

The central gag might not seem like much—the unlikely convergence of a cute child's toy and the mentality of smart-ass who's lived with far too much pop culture over the years (The writers are all over their place with their references—from current trends to an long series of jokes about the 1980 version of Flash Gordon to a redundant parody of a scene from a parody—which, as anyone who knows of MacFarlane's animated TV work (also, by the by, alluded to here), is to be expected)—but the script finds ways to keep it blooming with possibilities for a sizeable portion of the film.

There's a job interview scene where Ted arrives with no intention of getting hired and makes that intention pretty clear to the prospective employer; unfortunately, the guy thinks he's an outside-the-box kind of manager. Ted eventually notices a woman named Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) at his new workplace, and his flirtations become increasingly sexual in nature until he's using props. If you're wondering how a stuffed animal that apparently has no genitalia can have sex, the film perhaps makes the only logical explanation: He doesn't, and he can.

The film slowly drifts away from the central dilemma of John attempting to balance his romantic life and the bond with his best friend by bringing in two characters that threaten each. Lori's smug and slimy boss Rex (Joel McHale) sees her as a conquest and continuously attempts to upstage John. Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is Ted's biggest fan; he wants his son (Aedin Mincks) to have everything. While the latter pair offer some laughs at the extent of their creepiness (If a style of dancing could be classified as that of a serial, it would be Donny's), it's unfortunate that the whole subplot brings the whole film to a standard, extended, and poorly paced chase sequence.

Until that point, though, Ted is a wily comedy that doesn't openly mock a common formula but does twist it enough to surprise us. For all its raunchy and iffy humor, the film is surprisingly sweet, too.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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