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Monday, July 09, 2012  

M. Ovie Reviews: Ted

John Bennett is a grown man still attached to his teddy bear, Ted. The fact that Ted is an entertaining hang who moves and talks and has a sincere, fuzzy face that belies what a foul-mouthed, hard-partying bundle of bad influence he is only mitigates things slightly. One doesn't need to have done a lot of textual analysis in graduate school to unpack the deep symbolism that John clearly needs to grow up. Which is odd given that this story comes from writer/director/Ted-voicer Seth MacFarlane. Who, arguably more so than any other figure in current pop culture, has built an entire media empire based solely on juvenile humor.

I don't actually have anything against Seth MacFarlane. I know he gets a lot of crap for his freshmanic style, but I have to admit that the first couple of episodes of Family Guy (the last ones I watched) cracked my shit up. However, I haven't seen enough of his work over the intervening decade-plus to have formed a negative opinion of my own. Well, that's been rectified.

So did you like The Muppets, but thought it should have been darker, dirtier, and aimed at the first generation of Muppets fans rather than our kids? Then this is the movie for you. Both films have a blank slate of a leading man-child (Mark Wahlberg rather than Jason Segel in this case) with an out-of-his-league, unaccountably patient girlfriend (Mila Kunis taking Amy Adams's place here) and a short, fuzzy sidekick he probably should have outgrown decades ago. Now make Walter a miniature, ursine Shakespearean vice figure and throw in a lot of offensive jokes and you've got Ted.

Don't misunderstand me, I think there's a lot of humor to be mined from crossing lines. But, you know, after an hour and a half of first-draft drug jokes, sex jokes, ethnic jokes, gay jokes, an angry Asian neighbor literally wielding a hatchet and a live duck, and not one but two 9/11 jokes, one begins to forget the line ever existed. MacFarlane establishes early and often that he's ready and willing to "go there," but once you're "there" you still have to be funny.

And it's all hung on the flimsiest possible framework of a story. MacFarlane obviously loves to have incongruously inappropriate dialogue coming out of the mouths of the most unlikely characters (hence the popularity of Stewie, and the attempt to milk laughs from making a Patrick Stewart-sounding voice-over narrator say "shit"), but as a result the movie takes way too much time establishing whether Ted really loves John unselfishly as a friend, or is deliberately sabotaging John's life to keep their relationship alive. Or maybe it's my fault, and the fact that I even entertained the latter possibility meant I was giving the movie way too much credit.

So how did I even end up at this movie? Well, my plan was to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, since BuenaOnda and I didn't get around to it while we were in California like we'd planned. But again, circumstances (and my favorite movie site being a filthy liar) conspired to leave me stranded in the theater with nothing to see. I called Trash to see if she wanted me to bring anything home for a late dinner, but she suggested I see Ted instead. Which is nobody's fault but my own, because from the first moment she saw the trailer and couldn't believe the movie was even real, I'd been pretending like it looked awesome and couldn't wait to see it. Now she was calling my bluff, and I finally knew what that kid in the lunchroom felt like when he actually had to follow through on the dare to eat everything on his tray all mixed in together.

There seems to be one other axe MacFarlane likes to grind, if Ted is any indication, and that's former celebrities. Several of them pop up here, possibly as some kind of half-baked commentary on Ted's own child-star history, now long past its sell-by date. Or, as seems more likely, maybe former celebrities are simply something else MacFarlane thinks are funny, just all by themselves, without any more work on his part. It'll be interesting to see if he still feels that way when he is one.

posted by M. Giant 12:06 PM 2 comments

2 Comments:

Good review. I'm not a fan of Family Guy, so when I saw this and realized how freakin' clever Seth MacFarlane really can be, I was taken aback and had a great time with this flick. Ted is such a great character, too, and Wahlberg works so well with him.

By Anonymous Dan O., at July 9, 2012 at 2:09 PM  

So did you like The Muppets, but thought it should have been darker, dirtier, and aimed at the first generation of Muppets fans rather than our kids? Then this is the movie for you.

I'd go for "Meet the Feebles" myself. Dark, much, much dirtier and completely screwed up.

By Anonymous lsn, at July 17, 2012 at 6:20 AM  

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