MOVIE REVIEW: Ted
TED-- 2 STARS
To watch a movie like Ted, about a foul-mouthed, drug-using, sex-starved, and talking teddy bear that belongs to a guy like Mark Wahlberg, you have to check your reality card at the door. You can't do what this critic did and nitpick every little implausible thing in the world (read the review, it's worth it) just because you didn't think the movie was funny. If you didn't like the movie, stick with that, but don't pile on indefensible things. That's like complaining that The Hangover didn't have enough alcohol at the same time as critiquing Zack Galifianakis's beard. What did you expect?
If you've seen the marketing for Ted, especially the red-band restricted trailer, "Thunder Buddy" song and all, you know not to expect high-brow cinema. If your brain can't handle the scenario where a toy has come to life to talk to its owner without exploding from the need for absolute rightness in the world, don't go see Ted. For that matter, don't go see Toy Story either. That said, I really didn't want this to happen, but that sad little critic I linked above, unfortunately, was more right than wrong.
Narrated with regal profanity by Patrick Stewart's Dickens diction, Ted introduces us to a young outcast Boston kid named John Bennett who wishes one Christmas night that his new teddy bear could come to life and be his best friend. With a twinkle of holiday magic, the wish comes true and "Teddy" walks, talks, and hugs with unconditional love. The kid and bear are instant celebrities, but notoriety fades and the sweet-voiced bear and nerdy kid grow up to be slackers Ted (voiced by director Seth McFarlane of Family Guy fame) and the 35-year-old mid-level car rental employee John (Mark Wahlberg).
Best buds for life sharing a weed habit, a fear of storms, and an unhealthy obsession with 1980's Flash Gordon, their lazy ways continuously get in the way of John's four-year relationship with the beautiful and successful Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). While she's game for shenanigans and can hang with the boys, Lori still longs for John to grow up, clean up, and be a worthy possible husband. He loves her, but is constantly held back by Ted and dumb mistakes. Go figure.
That's where the predictable cliches hit in too firmly. Of course John's going to blow his one "last chance," make poorly-timed mistakes with Ted, have competition more successful that him (Lori's vane boss played by Joel McHale), fight and break up his friendship with Ted, and yet still be in necessary position to have to earn Lori's trust and love back. Let me guess. A "go-our-separate-ways-move-out" scene is framed by a sad pop song. Nothing is ever in jeopardy and it's all stuff we've seen before. Just because that familiar set is played out with a talking teddy bear armed with Seth McFarlane's jokes instead of a live Adam Sandler-like actor doesn't make it new.
Ted, while extremely funny in individual jokes here and there, suffers from that lame and predictable story, especially for something that advertises itself to be as daring as Bridesmaids and The Hangover. Ted can't compete with the outrageous and unpredictable comedy from those two. It's not quite "all the funny parts are in the previews," but close. Nothing is ever fall-out-your-chair funny.
Even when it tries to throw its curveballs, like a weird kidnapping plot with Giovanni Ribisi, too few hit the strike zone and the gross-out humor is surprisingly tame. Mark Wahlberg is always game for appealingly making a fool out of himself and fans of McFarlane will probably enjoy his jokes and pop references, but the cleverness Seth honed in years of Family Guy just isn't here. Daring is surprising an audience, not just saying something shocking or inappropriate. You have to try harder than this.
LESSON #1: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR-- This lesson is as easy and obvious as where the story itself is always going. Childhood wishes are always fanciful, innocent, and made without thought of the consequences. I like that Ted, whether believable or not, plays a childhood wish out to adulthood, showing that not everything is bubble gum and candy like you thought when you were 7.
LESSON #2: NOTHING IS STRONGER THAN A YOUNG BOY'S CHRISTMAS WISH-- ...except for an Apache helicopter. Damn straight. Thanks Patrick Stewart!
LESSON #3: THE NOVEL IMPORTANCE OF STUFFED ANIMALS IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT-- Yes, parental websites and magazines label teddy bears and stuffed animals as filthy germ collectors, but I will argue their positive value in child development. The unconditional love and attachment that a child develops for a "thunder buddy" is a good thing and foreshadows their social capability for friends, future love for others, and even parenting.
LESSON #4: THE POWERFUL INFLUENCE OF "FLASH GORDON"-- Dismissed as a box office bomb in 1980 and achieving cult classic status since, Flash Gordon, as misplaced as it sounds, teaches John and Ted right from wrong, good from evil, and how to be a stoic stud. While not everyone is going to get that out of Sam J. Jones' blond hair and Queen's bitchin' soundtrack, we all had our own Flash Gordon-like moral-molding fantasy as kids, whether it was books, comics, dolls, action figures, TV shows, or other movies. I'm betting there are still girls in this world that call a fork a "dingle-hopper" and comb their hair with it. Thanks Little Mermaid!
LESSON #5: GROWING OUT OF IMMATURITY-- This other cliche and easy lesson from Ted is every man's inevitable and necessary growth from man-child to adult. Women don't seem to have this problem in life or in movies. In fact, it's commonly their domestication of the modern caveman that perpetuates this growth. Their powerful draw tends to cause us men to eat, drink, smoke, cuss, fart, and fornicate less by removing the vices, like bad influence friends, and other triggers from our lives. It's all a necessary process and sacrifices men make for love. Say a big "awwwww" all together!