|Posted by Ollons on July 9, 2012 at 6:00 AM|
'Ted' is Seth MacFarlane's theatrical debut as director, producer, writer, and actor. The creator of 'Family Guy' is known for his off-colour humour and vocal versatility. Ted was originally conceived as a television comedy which is rather apparent in the film itself; it seems like 5 or 6 plots written for TV which are crammed into one another and held together by arbitrary pop culture references as well as the strength of the main cast.
The film stars the original owner of the Marky Mark moniker (esoteric reference, sorry) Mark Wahlberg as immature 35 year old John Bennett, Mila Kunis, probably most known from voicing Meg Griffin on MacFarlane's first animated series, as his girlfriend Lori, and also MacFarlane who voices and is motion captured for the sentient eponymous character. Giovanni Ribisi is a standout as Donny, a father who is also psychotic and obsessed with Ted. Veteran voice actress Tara Strong says three syllables for Ted's inbuilt speaking function. Also Patrick Stewart lends his golden chords to narrate the film's prologue and epilogue.
The protagonists play well off each other, with honest emotion being felt through their interactions. Mark Wahlberg is quite good in a comedic role as he fulfils an excellent counterpoint to Ted's outrageousness. Mila Kunis doesn't get equal opportunity for comedy aside from a few scenes of hysteria and some cursing including the ultimate taboo word. Most comedy is generated around Ted's absurd inappropriateness and his antics; in the prologue and montage which bridges into the film's true beginning, he is portrayed as a parody of child stars with a display of meteoric rise to prominence and swifter descent into anonymity (mocked quite well by the narrator "Whether you're Frankie Muniz, Corey Feldman, or Justin Bieber; eventually no-one will give a s**t").
The CG-animated Ted looks incredible; often he looks like he truly exists. It's impressive how his physical appearance appears like it had "aged" like an actual stuffed animal, with his fur becoming gradually more worn and rough.
The main themes explored through the film are romantic and personal relationships, as well as maturation. While anxiety born from the fear of change, especially when leaving childhood, has been addressed many times in film before, there is another stage rarely if ever focused on by other movies: there is a second childhood. John and even Ted both mature from their cumulative years, becoming active participants in adult pastimes; however, the mere fact that one undertakes activities completely unsuitable for children, doesn’t display actual maturity. At 35 years, John is still in his “second childhood”, incapable or rather subconsciously unprepared to accept the responsibilities for the price of adulthood’s privileges and the definitiveness of a serious relationship. Ted helped John through his childhood development; enabling the lonely boy to gain confidence and additional friends, as well as guiding him through his latter teens. However, at this point is where their relationship stagnates, i.e. becomes a rut in which they are both comfortably trapped within a second childhood. The film doesn’t really give sufficient attention to this major issue, but rather glosses over it and then suddenly achieves resolution after the Alfred Hitchcock-esque sections of the Third Act; this reiterates the point that this film is more suited to be a television series rather than a feature film.
It is quite a hilarious movie, with a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments which can be a part of some amusing conversations. Profanity is infrequently used with the Teddy Bear swearing the most. Although a lot of the humour can be woefully esoteric, especially the most memorable pop culture reference to so-bad-it's-good 1980 sci-fi film 'Flash Gordon' which would probably be only known to most audiences by the Queen song of the same name. Star of the (evidently stoner favourite) movie Sam J. Jones actually appears as a spoof of himself in a manner reminiscent to the 'Harold and Kumar' persona of Neil Patrick Harris.
Some gags are shamelessly lifted from other sources: a scene parodying 'Saturday Night Fever' from 'Airplane' (aka 'Flying High!') is briefly mimicked in MacFarlane's film. Albeit this is his style because plagiarising or “paying homage” is frequently done in 'Family Guy'; some jokes originating from the show are recycled in the movie.
Many jokes are quite derogatory: to the women of Boston, Massachusetts; mentally challenged individuals; any female who has one of many names deemed by Ted and John to be a "white trash name"; Muslims and Indians quickly alluded to as not dissimilar, despite one being a faith and the other a nationality; perhaps Asians too, due to an inclusion of a racial stereotype whose race isn’t specified; and possibly overweight individuals. Audiences should expect degrading comedy from Seth MacFarlane; although some jests do just seem petty.
There isn't most substance in the plot with various already utilised models and archetypes which really feel more suitable for division and syndication. Although some unique attributes are present. In the prologue, after Ted is brought to life by young John's wish, his parents' reaction is far more authentic than the whimsical attitude that people hold in other movies in which immobile objects are brought life. This is possibly the only film which includes: a short albeit brutal fight between a man and a teddy bear; a cameo with Ryan Reynolds kissing another man (Family Guy regular Patrick Warburton); and a scene with a teddy bear having intercourse with a trashy woman.
Something which may offend people who enjoy the film’s humour is the light-hearted attitude towards drug use. John and Ted more than once smoke marijuana either through a joint or a bong; while this is a factor in the strain upon the relationship between John and Lori, it isn’t shown to have any long-term consequences. Other references to drugs are ‘shrooms and cocaine, albeit they are not shown on-screen; again, no long-term danger is addressed and even short-term results are resolved. While drug use is mainly utilised for comedic purposes, it may unnerve some who usually share MacFarlane’s “quirky” humour.
Most plot points are not properly concluded, instead with the narrator (speaking in lieu of the clichéd sentences written over static photographs of various characters) briefly stating the fates of incomplete plot threads.
Overall, an entertaining unique fantasy film with memorable performances, somewhat humorous dialogue, and interesting themes explored. While MacFarlane's comic strength is arguably waning, this film is basically equivalent to a good 'Family Guy' episode.
Categories: Let's Get Critical - Movie Reviews by Ollons