From the creator of Family Guy, comes the story about a boy’s childhood wish come true that his favorite teddy bear comes to life. Seth MacFarlane writes, directs, and stars in Ted, a live action, CG animated comedy from Universal Pictures also featuring the talents of Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis. Is this movie proof that Seth MacFarlane isn’t a one trick comedy pony, or is it basically “Peter Griffin as a Bear?”
In a small town just outside of Boston during the winter of 1985, an eight year old boy named Johnny Bennett is having a hard time making friends. In fact, no one wants to even be his friend. That Christmas he receives and large, cuddly, tan bear that he names Teddy. Because Johnny is such a lonely boy, he makes a special wish on that holiest of days that Teddy would be his special friend forever.
The next morning, Johnny wakes up to a miracle. Teddy is alive. News breaks world-wide and Teddy becomes a celebrity. He is on magazine covers, in newspaper articles, and even talk shows as famous as Johnny Carson. Life is great for Johnny and Teddy. They go on adventures. They play dress up. They protect each other from thunderstorms. They swear to each other that they will be “Thunder Buddies” for life.
Years pass and John is now 35 years old. As he aged, so has Ted. Now while Ted may look soft and cuddly on the outside, trapped inside is a pot smoking, booze drinking, foul-mouthed, womanizing frat boy. Women have come and gone in John’s life, but Ted was always there through thick and thin as his Thunder Buddy.
But Ted isn’t the only person in John’s life. For the last four years, he has been dating the love of his life, Lori. They live together with Ted. And while things may seem happy in their little household, tension builds between John and Lori over his constant irresponsibility and inability to grow up. Can John prove to Lori he can be a mature adult while still fulfilling the promise he made to Ted when he was eight?
When I first saw the trailer for Ted, I knew I had to see this movie. What’s not to love about a foul-mouthed, pot smoking teddy bear? Let’s face it, it is comedy gold to see something go the polar opposite of the norm. That’s why it’s hilarious to hear Betty White drop F-Bombs. But I did go into the theater with expectations and reservations. Could Seth MacFarlane (creator of the Fox television series: Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show) prove that he could write and direct his first ever live action comedy? Would Ted be more than dick and fart jokes mixed in with nerdy pop culture references? Would Ted be funny and hold the audience’s attention from beginning to end?
To answer those questions, I have to say… Yes and No.
Let me explain. Ted is an apple that doesn’t fall very far from Family Guy’s family tree. The film is filled with racial, sexual, and raunchy humor to the beat of a big band musical score. Thrown into the mix are pop culture references galore. One being so huge that the cameo of one particular actor is a game changer to the film’s plot. There are Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., and other movies that Ted either uses a visual, musical score, or straight rip off. But it’s all done out of homage to the original source material.
Another thing to compare, is that Ted is voiced by Seth MacFarlane himself, who also does the voice of Peter Griffin from Family Guy. This is a factor you cannot ignore. So much, that people have called Ted by another title: “Peter Griffin as a Bear.” And it is indeed that, except fully uncensored. The way to compare this is to the South Park creators: Matt Stone and Trey Parker. They got started by making cut up paper dolls and animating them and turning it into a stepping stone to make live action movies like BASEketball, Team America: World Police, and Orgazmo. Now while the story and characters have changed, the jokes and gags are the same.
What MacFarlane does with Ted that breaks the norm from his other characters is that he makes Ted a completely lovable character. No matter how foul-mouthed he gets, he is still adorable. This is mainly accomplished with the live interactions with Mark Wahlberg (Contraband/The Fighter) who plays John Bennett. Because John loves Ted unconditionally, the audience follows suit. Walhberg plays the thirty-five year old version of John almost child like to maintain his reliance on Ted as his Thunder Buddy. Rounding out the pseudo love triangle is MIla Kunis (Friends With Benefits/Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as Lori. Lori lives in a world where she has to share John with the attention hog Ted. And that’s really the point of the movie. How many women out there have to share their husbands or boyfriends with fantasy football, Call of Duty, or guy’s nights out? Ted is really just a visual manifestation of the loneliness that men have growing up and who turn it into an obsession. Whether it be comic books, video games, or sports, Men use these things to combat their social awkwardness. This is what Ted is to John. Lori, like every other woman in society, has to either make John miserable by making him choose between them thus potentially ruining her own relationship due to resentment.
Rounding out the cast is Joel Mchale (NBC’s Community) as Lori’s sexually harassing millionaire boss and Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar/Contraband) as Ted’s overly obsessed childhood fan who has grown up. Now while both characters add to the development of the plot, they also drag the movie down in momentum thus adding a bit of unnecessary screen time. There are some other major cameos throughout the film, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
I feel Ted is going to be hit or miss with theater goers who I will classify into three categories: fans of Family Guy, haters of Family Guy, and people who have no idea what Family Guy is. Fans will love it and haters will add this to their fuel of hatred of Seth MaFarlane. This leads to the last demographic, who in my opinion will be entertained. The audience laughed out loud at all the funny parts and even got teary eyed towards the film’s ending. Ted brilliantly pulls at your cute and cuddly heartstrings while tickling your crude and raunchy funny bone. Ted’s CGI effects were amazing and life-like as if Teddy Ruxpin or the Snuggle Bear came to life. The live actors interacted with Ted as if he was really there without relying too much on the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
Ted is to comedies what Chucky is to horror films. I hate to keep bringing up Family Guy in my review, because the movie is not about a dysfunctional family, but the jokes, gags, and even fights come from the same Seth MacFarlane comedy cookie cutter. So as a fan, I totally enjoyed Ted, but was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t 100% original. Even though MacFarlane keeps going to the same well over and over, if it’s not broke then don’t fix it. Ted is an intelligent and clever analogy of friendships and relationships that I highly recommend.
In Theaters: June 29, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 45 minutes
Rating: R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use)
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi and Seth MacFarlane as Ted
Genre: Live Action/CG-Animated Comedy
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Official Site: http://www.tedisreal.com
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