- Movie Rating -

Ted (2012)

| July 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

In a year in which the best movies have been dead serious, Seth MacFarlane’s Ted comes as a breath of fresh air.  Here is a cheerful and very raunchy comedy that makes us laugh out-loud by building the comedy in inventive ways. The content earns the film a very hard R, but the movie never feels dumb or simple-minded. Only very creative people could have made this movie.

MacFarlane, of course, has made his name on television, juggling three animated series – Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and American Dad! – that are consistently among the funniest in an arena where most shows are tired, dull and satisfied to repeat the same formulas over and over.  This is his first feature, and if this is an indication of his creativeness as a director, I think this is the beginning of a brilliant film career.

Ted is the story of a magical friendship between a grown man named John Bennett and the teddy bear that he was given as a child for Christmas.  The movie opens with a narrator (Patrick Stewart) telling the story of how the two came together.  The narrator’s dialogue sounds like something out of a happy Christmas movie until he breaks the spell with four letter words and a reminder that Christmas is the day in which good Christian boys take it upon themselves to beat the snot out of the Jewish kids.  John has no friends and is told by the neighborhood kids to get lost – even by the Jewish kid who is in the middle of his annual pummeling.

That same Christmas, John’s parents gave him a teddy bear that became his best friend.  For reasons left somewhat unclear, the teddy bear came to life and became his best buddy.  Ted briefly became a global celebrity, even appearing on the Johnny Carson show, until he fame ran out.  “I feel like one of the ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ cast” Ted explains, “They must feel pretty bad . . . at least, the ones who are still living.”

As he grew into adulthood John (now played by Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (with the voice of MacFarlane himself) still share things like a fear of thunderstorms and a near-obsession with the 1980 movie Flash Gordon.  They also partake of ball games, wild parties, beers and bongs.  Some of the best moments in the movie have the two sitting on a couch passing the illicit device between them. Now 35, he is stuck in a nowhere job at a rental car company. Even with a nowhere job, he has managed to maintain a four-year relationship with his gorgeous girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis).

The glue of the friendship begins to unravel when Lori suggests that Ted might be stunting John’s maturity.  Living with a man and his living, breathing, talking teddy bear can’t do much for romantic development, so she reasonably suggests that it might be time for Ted to find his own place.  Lori isn’t a nag, however, she’s understanding and actually kind of likes Ted, except for his influence on her boyfriend.  She’s also none-too-fond of coming home to find Ted on the couch with four hookers and her floor occupied by a disgusting leftover from a game of Truth or Dare.

The story here isn’t exactly original.  It is your basic Your-Buddy-or-Me plot, but MacFarlane finds ways to punctuate it with perfect little asides and characters that come and go, like Lori’s boss who keeps hitting on her by showing her his high school diving photo.  Most of the movie deals with John’s attempts to do right by Lori, but falling right back into the same partying patterns he once shared with Ted.  The best moment occurs when he ditches a party with Lori to go back to Ted’s apartment where his party is being attended by no less than Sam Jones himself – the actor who played Flash Gordon (he still has the same blond haircut!)  Jones, we learn, is now a full-blooded party animal whose adventure with the boys builds in comic intensity leading to a moment in which drug-addled Sam mistakes an Asian neighbor for Ming the Merciless.

What is original here is Ted.  He is computer-generated character brought to life by the Tippet Studios, whose computer wizards deserve an Oscar nomination for visual effects next spring.  Ted is a fully realized soul, whose movements don’t feel jittery like most animated characters.  There are details to his movements that seem almost like an afterthought.   He is placed into this realistic world so flawlessly that he really seems to exist in it.  He really seems to be in the room talking to the actors.  There is an extended fist-fight in a hotel room between John and Ted that is a wonder of special effects.  I am giving the comedy of the film three stars, but the special effects bump it up an extra half.

Much of Ted’s appeal comes from MacFarlane who provides the voice.  With a heavy Boston accent, he makes Ted into a wild-haired party animal.  At one point, he has sex with his co-worker in the backroom of a grocery store, then later admits that he has written dozens of letters to Hasbro complaining that he never received genitals.  Yet, even though he is foul-mouthed and does unscrupulous things, we like him.  He’s a shade below obnoxious.  MacFarlane doesn’t make the mistake of trying to make Ted into a fantasy character, but makes him seem like just a normal guy who happens to be a teddy bear.  It was a masterstroke to establish that Ted was once a celebrity so that everyone’s reaction to him is completely natural.

Is the movie funny?  You bet.  It is also dirty, raunchy, foul mouthed and definitely not for kids.   The movie is pitched at a level of low-brow humor but MacFarlane knows how to keep the comic momentum going.  If you’ve seen his television shows, then you know kind of what you’re in for.  In lesser hands, this could have been a dim, one-joke idea, but MacFarlane is smarter than that.  He hits his first theatrical effort out of the ball park with a movie that is entertaining, touching and very funny.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2012) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy