Movie Review – Ted
July 8, 2012 1 Comment
God damn. For all my posturing as a refined film watcher, loving the high brow approach to comedy with the subtle tact of ninja like jokes, watching a film like this reaffirms that I still have that humor of a 6 year old that revels in the absurd dick and fart joke genre. I watched the trailers for Ted, Seth MacFarlane’s first foray into big feature directing, and thought, “the fuck is this?” It seemed like it was just a 90 minute long, live action Family Guy episode brought to life and I just dismissed outright. It was going to play up the whole shock angle of a teddy bear being utterly crude, which it does, but never really offering something more than a bear swearing and doing drugs. I am just going to come out and say this, but Ted was/is one of the funniest R-rated comedies to come out this year.
Taking the age old childhood connection of a boy and his teddy bear, MacFarlane opens the film with a “Jew beating joke” and you know right then and there that this won’t be a fuzzy, huggable teddy bear adventure. We learn about little John Bennett, a kid who is an outcast with no friends and low self-esteem, who gets a teddy bear named Ted for Christmas. One day, the little kid wishes upon a star and makes Ted into a real-life talking teddy bear, whom will be his best friend forever. In order to establish a world in which we and the people in that world won’t question the fact that a bear is alive and talking, Ted becomes an overnight star, rising to fame on talk shows and in the public eye, before taking a poignant child star turn of drug use and abhorrent behavior. Bet the two grow up together, with little John Bennett turning into an adult, played by Mark Wahlberg, who begins a relationship with Mila Kunis’ character Lori and Ted hanging on for the ride. The movie focuses on the odd couple situation where general relationship problems take their toll and the emotional heart of the story develops.
The movie uses the old relationship angle of having to choose between the bear or the girl. With Lori wanting John to grow up and start being a man and slowly loosening that relationship he has with Ted. But this all feels so fresh, maybe cause of the inclusion of the rude bear, but I would say because of the quick fire jokes and non sequiturs that is the hallmark of MacFarlane’s writing skills. The strange thing is, you hear all the sides of the arguments from John, Lori and Ted, all within reason and sound, then you remember, “this is a movie with a fucking CGI, foul-mouthed bear.” It all works on every level. Ted seems so naturally placed in the movie that you buy into the relationship that the group has and it feels right. I can’t say enough how much I loved seeing the budding relationship between Ted and John, as MacFarlane and Wahlberg are perfectly in-tuned with each others abilities that their ribbing, laughter and arguments feel organic. You get the feeling that you are watching you and your best friend sitting around getting high and joking all day long.
While the acting is great and the comedy is as lewd as it can get, the story of Ted has a big heart. It isn’t just about coming with off the wall, pop culture jokes and the foulest of language possible, but rather it tells a heartwarming story about growing up and letting go. It’s a perfect little parallel to our culture of our perpetual refusal to grow up as adults. Now I am not saying that there is a lot of deep insight into this movie and our current culture, but it is a nice thing to draw some inspiration from. The movie uses this notion and the childhood connection of making an inanimate object your friend, to its advantage as it has a fondness for friendship and growing up. Ted, through all the dick and fart jokes, does have a engaging story and compelling characters that create sympathetic portraits for us to see ourselves in. Making tough life choices but also sticking by your friend through thick and thin while you get older.
But just when you think that this movie has your by the heartstrings, it turns around and calls you a “Motherfucker” or disparages multiple races in one sweeping comment. MacFarlane is a talented writer, capable of offering up sentimental moments of clarity with welled timed “fucks”, racial jokes, or even pop culture references, much like his television show “Family Guy”. The brilliant placement of these jokes doesn’t weigh the film down, but keeps us at a constant pace of wondering what the next outrageous thing will come out of this bears mouth. From ridiculous voice over narration from Patrick Stewart, to long running jokes that are set up in the first act and paid off in spades, Ted manages to keep the jokes coming, raunchy and fresh, which is one hell of a task at 106 minute running time.
From Flash Gordon references, Teddy bear fights, fat kid jokes and the liberal use of profanity that would dwarf inner city high schools, Ted is the sort of R-Rated comedy that doesn’t pull punches on the jokes, but still manages to give us a touching story. The appeal of the movie is going to come from word of mouth about this movie. If you aren’t a fan of MacFarlane and his comedy, you might not enjoy it. For those loyal fans, you are going to love his self-referential humor and call backs to Family Guy style setups. The cameos and secondary characters are brilliant and completely work in this movie, never fully taking you out of the element, especially considering it’s a movie about a loud mouth teddy bear. Wahlberg and Kunis are very good in this movie, which is surprising since Wahlberg hasn’t been my favorite actor as of late. He can play very good comedic roles when he want to. MacFarlane though takes the cake in this film, carrying the brunt of the comedy and brings a lot of life to the bear Ted.
For all its fucks and shits, there is a lot of heart and warmth in this movie if you can believe it. This is a quality R-Rated comedy for those who just want to laugh.
Rating: 4.5 Teddy Ruxpins out of 5
*images via RottenTomatoes