Film Review: Ted (2012)
As someone who has never seen a full episode of Family Guy (not because I dislike it, just that it did not catch on with me), I never expected to enjoy Ted (2012) as much as I did, especially considering its mediocre marketing. Seth MacFarlane’s feature film directorial debut should end up as one of the year’s funniest adult comedies; it is at times as hilarious as this year’s best comedy 21 Jump Street (2012), though without as much depth. Although it is extremely vulgar and raunchy, Ted is consistently humorous and entertaining, for the most part, and not just for Family Guy fans; anyone who enjoys a fresh, ludicrous romp of a comedy should have a blast with this furry little flick (just check your political correctness and disbelief at the door!).
The film opens with a short prologue, comically narrated by Patrick Stewart, that details the “birth” of Ted. John Bennett is a loner boy in the suburbs of Boston; one Christmas night, after getting Ted, a fuzzy little teddy bear as a present, he wishes it would become real so they could be best friends forever (“thunder buddies” to be exact). Miraculously, Ted comes to life the next morning, initially much to the chagrin of John’s parents. Overnight, the stuffed animal-turned living being became a celebrity. However, as Stewart amusingly states, after a while nobody gives a s***, no matter how popular you are in the present (a couple of his references here might go over the heads of contemporary teenage audiences, but he still mentions some overnight celebrities for anyone to relate to).
Fast forward to the present where John Bennett, now 35, has “grown” into a man-child. He is stuck in a dead-end rental car job and spends much of his free time with his pot-smoking, alcoholic, party-all-the-time thunder buddy Ted. Yet, he somehow managed to capture the heart of the lovely and successful Lori Collins (a brief flashback to their first encounter is quite funny if a bit jarring). After four years, though, Lori wants John to finally grow up. This clearly means he and Ted must separate, not completely but at least have Ted move out and decrease their hanging out, as Ted is definitely a poor influence on John; after all, he is a teddy bear who does not have to have much ambition or grow up but John needs to. Ted chronicles their relationship as John struggles to reduce his friendship with Ted to a manageable level while maintaining and developing his romantic relationship with Lori. Also, he must overcome a couple outside obstacles that seek to split John from both his best friends (in the form of a crazed stalker and a sleazy boss).
In short, Ted is full of surprises and laughs. To be sure, not every joke is a hit, as several fall flat for most in the audience. Furthermore, certain early scenes feel more like comedy skits than smoothly flowing sequences, but it does not become completely episodic and disjointed (especially since the audience is having too much of a fun viewing experience throughout to care; besides, this isn’t exactly dramatic awards worthy material). Viewers will find more than enough humor to satisfy their comedy craving. Even the “suspenseful” and drama-tinged moments have a sharp or lighthearted comedic edge to entertain the audience. Other critics have noted a few similarities to MacFarlane’s TV show’s style of meta/pop culture references, intercut flashbacks and what not, but to the casual viewer all this seems pretty fresh and somewhat innovative, creatively speaking, for a summer comedy. Similar to 21 Jump Street’s overdrive drug scenes, Ted occasionally shifts into uber-stylized gear for a wicked good time (i.e. driving to and partying at Ted’s party with Flash Gordon/Sam Jones). A couple other cameos occur, but I won’t spoil the fun here as to who exactly the four or so notable actors are, but a couple include Family Guy veterans and one superstar actor; needless to say, they are pretty funny.
The cast of this movie is not going to win any awards for their performances here, but they are more than serviceable in their respective roles. Mark Wahlberg again proves his ability to excel in a straight up comedy (The Other Guys benefitted from his straight-laced persona); his mixture of prolonged adolescent party-boy behavior with his serious personality works well as John. The gorgeous Mila Kunis reteams with her Family Guy friend/boss as Lori; admittedly, she does not have a whole lot to work with as her character is pretty standard in her circumstances and wants/needs. Nonetheless, Kunis and Wahlberg help ground the otherwise oftentimes absurdity of the story. Seth MacFarlane is dependably solid in his voice acting as Ted, though Family Guy fans might hear Peter Griffin’s voice most of the time. It should also be noted that the visual effects and animation work done to bring Ted alive pretty remarkable; not once did he appear cheaply rendered. Community’s Joel McHale and Giovanni Ribisi have small roles as Lori’s well-off but jerk/sleazy boss Rex and Ted’s stalker Donny, respectively; the latter is like you have never seen him before as he channels some of Buffalo Bill’s dance moves at one point.
MacFarlane’s first venture onto the big screen is largely a success and hopefully mass audiences support
this movie at the box office, despite the poor and somewhat mis-marketed previews. It may not have the most original plot, apart from the teddy-bear-comes-alive part, as it is virtually a romantic comedy with a twist. As such, it falls short of delivering the emotional goods, but it at least makes some time to build the two key relationships so that when danger approaches the audience cares about the characters for more than just laughs (besides, how can you resist a dough-eyed teddy bear? Even if it has ruined your life a bit). Overall, Ted is an energetic, oftentimes hilarious raunchy/vulgar comedy that could become a surprise hit of the summer if audiences are willing to give it a chance and forgo the ridiculousness of the premise. Few other comedies will offer such a frank, unadulterated fun time this summer. Check it out in theaters at any cost if you’re a Family Guy fan or comedy guru, otherwise a matinee or VOD/rental release is certainly worth it, as long as you can stand its vulgar/raunchy nature.
Ted – 8/10