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Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: TED

It is going to be hard to convince you -or anyone for that matter - that Ted, a movie about a foulmouthed pot-smoking teddy bear, is a relevant work of literature that should have your critical consideration. But, please, indulge me as I try to do so. 

As you would expect from the creator of Family Guy, Ted is an avalanche of raunchy comedy, politically incorrect humor, and four-letter one liners that could put any other comedy of the kind to shame. But aside from its superficial humor, Ted is also one of the most honest movies about buddy-bro-hood and arrested adolescence out there. Add these together and you realize that Ted is mostly funny because its true. 

For a movie that opens with a narration by Patrick Steward reminding us that “Christmas is the time when the kids in Boston gang up to beat the s#*t out of the Jewish kid”, being wholesome is a serious accomplishment. And I don’t think it was the filmmakers primary intention. But a happy accident nonetheless. 

Anyhow, the film is about John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a kid so unpopular that he envious the attention the Jewish kid receives during Christmas. John is a lonely, sheltered soul who in order to find a friend wishes for his teddy bear to to be his best friend forever. Without much scientific explanation - aside from a Christmas wish being the second most powerful force out there just behind an Apache helicopter - the teddy bear (voice by Seth MacFarlane) comes to life and promises to be John best friend forever. 

Twenty five years later, John and Ted have both grown up to be a pair of pot-smoking slackers with the ambition to open a restaurant someday but no real drive to accomplish it or skill to back it up. How many times have we felt like that? In reality John works at a local car rental and Ted - being a washed out celebrity - is unemployed. How they can afford their luxurious apartment is a mystery until Lori (Mila Kunis) is introduced. 

Lori is John’s girlfriend; somehow, against all odds, this insecure slacker who still has a teddy bear for a best friend has a girl that looks like Mila Kunis and works at as a junior-something-executive at a bank. If it were not for the fact that John and Lori clearly have chemistry, and that he looks like Mark Wahlberg, I wouldn’t really believe this relationship could happen. But he seems genuinely funny, caring, and continues to surprise her four years into a relationship. No matter how little effort he puts in life, John is putting quite a bit of effort into this relationship hence I believe it. But there comes a time when a man has to choose between growing up with the girl he loves or stagnating as an arrested adolescent with his pot-smoking teddy bear. 

Sure, the plot follows the standard bro-mantic comedy formula. And there is a relatively bland subplot about a creepy dad (Giovanni Ribisi) who to kidnap Ted for his pudgy son (Aedin Mincks). However you never need to suspend disbelief to be convinced the characters would behave in the way they do; honestly, there is more humanity in the CGI Ted than in half the human characters of your average rom-com and blockbuster. Furthermore, MacFarlane’s humor and one liners never seem to run out of oomph. All cliché is buried under these qualities. 

The success comes from the fact that Seth MacFarlane gives himself the freedom he has in animation. South Park Bigger Longer and Uncut proved that animators can get away with doing and saying this that live action could not. Ted puts this theory to the test by blending the CGI teddy bear with live actors. The result is uncanny - you can still get away with most things - and incredibly funny. Furthermore, unlike Family Guy and the rest of MacFarlane’s TV work, Ted is unrestrained by the FCC regulations; we are seeing MacFarlane unleashed for the first time and it is good. His fans will certainly love it more than the rest, but if your open to bold humor so will you. 

Special recognition also has to go to Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, who had to act and react against nothing. This is common in films now-a-days but aside from James Franco in Rise of The Planet of the Apes and everyone in Lord of The Rings, I can't recall another instance where it seemed somewhat silly. For Kunis, who has worked with MacFarlane in Family Guy, and has serious acting chops, I do hope she gets to star in her own comedy one day soon and for executives to realize she is more than supporting material. 

I have to note that there were a few families at the theater during this movie. And by families couples with children under the PG-13 age. I warn: just because I reviewed the movie as honest and wholesome and it features a talking teddy-bear doesn’t mean it is appropriate for little ones. Hollywood is not irresponsible for making a movie about a pot-smoking, hooker-loving, foul-mouthed teddy bear the parents who take their kids to an R-rated movie are. Now having said that, I do recall Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a movie about two “best-buds” that was PG and targeted at children with a true asshole for a protagonist. If I had to choose between my kid hanging out with the stoner teddy or that kid, I choose the stoner teddy bear. Then agin I don’t have a kid. 

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