Friday, June 29, 2012

Review of TED (2012)

- Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use.
- Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, and featuring the voices of Seth MacFarlane, Patrick Stewart
- Story by Seth MacFarlane;  Screenplay by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
- Directed by Seth MacFarlane
- Running time: 1hr 45min.

I have been a fan of Family Guy since the first episode premiered in 1999.  I absolutely love it!  The humor is full of 70's & 80's pop culture that I swear that the show is aiming every joke at me specifically.  Seth MacFarlane is the creator of the show, and now, he has finally made his long awaited directorial debut.

TED begins in the 80's, when a kid named John gets a Teddy Ruxpin-type plush bear for Christmas.  He makes a wish that he could talk for real.  Well, his dream comes true, and after he gets over the initial shock, John and Ted (which he names the bear) become best buddies.  And the talking bear isn't kept a secret either as Ted became a bit of a celebrity.  Now it's 2012, and John (Wahlberg) is now 35, still living with the Ted.  But instead of doing kid things, they swear a lot, drink, smoke weed and watch cheesy old movies (like 1980's FLASH GORDON).  John also has a girlfriend named Lori (Kunis), who has put up with Ted for 4 years, but is now ready for her relationship with John to take the next step.  John must make a choice between Lori or Ted.  There's also some subplots involving Ted getting a job at a supermarket, Lori being pursued by her boss (Joel McHale), and a creepy stalker/fan who wants to buy Ted from John (Ribisi). 

To tell you the truth, I guess I was expecting the plot to be a bit more fresh from someone as humorously brilliant as MacFarlane, but I understand why he did what he did.  He wanted to make the story simple so he could just focus on coming up with some of the most hilarious, offensive and bizarre gags of the year.  Also, the plot is so cliched that it practically becomes a parody within itself, complete with obvious musical cues and convenient plot twists.  I'm sure this was all intentional, and it works as both an homage and satire of buddy, romantic/comedies. 

Of course, being a film by MacFarlane, it's loaded with pop culture references.  Some of them are so obscure that only a handful of viewers will get them.  I was surprised by how many FLASH GORDON references there were.  Even Sam Jones (Flash himself) has an extended cameo and it's hilarious!  But there is also inspired sight gags, raunchy sex jokes, juvenile bathroom humor and plenty of racial slurs.  Most of the humor works.  When I wasn't laughing, I was smiling.  But I laughed out loud quite often.  A highlight for me was a far out parody of AIRPLANE.  I mean, seriously!  It takes balls to parody a parody.  Very unexpected.  And if you're a fan of Star Wars, Star Trek and Indiana Jones, get ready to laugh your ass off at some of the references here. 

After being a serious poopy pants for the past few years, it was a genuine treat to see Mark Wahlberg let loose in a fun, silly and dopey performance.  Seeing him drool over Sam Jones, or rattling off white trash names to a talking bear was a pure delight.  I sure hope he makes more comedies (I guess he was in THE OTHER GUYS, but I didn't care for that too much).  Mila Kunis doesn't have a whole lot to do other than play the straight man (or lady), but she's such a good sport about the gross jokes she's involved in.  She did a good job.  Patrick Stewart is the narrator of the film and it's a perfect way to move the story along.  He has such a great voice, and of course he says stuff that you normally wouldn't hear him say.  That was a smart move.  Giovanni Ribisi made me want to take a bath.  He's deliciously sleazy here as the sort of villain in the flick.  But the best performance comes from MacFarlane himself, who voices Ted.  Sounding pretty much like Peter Griffin, Ted definitely has all the best lines.  The special effects team have done a breathtaking job making Ted come to life.  After only a few seconds, I totally forgot that he was a special effect and just accepted him as a character.  It's usually convincing visual effects like this that get overlooked come Oscar time.  But it's worthy of one.

If the movie has a weakness, it would probably be Seth MacFarlane's over-confidence in the material.  He tries really hard to make the greatest comedy of all time, and sometimes it seems like he's trying too hard (especially in one scene where he references Family Guy, which was more of a distraction than anything).  But I can't fault the guy too much.  His effort did make me laugh my ass off quite often.  Fans of Family Guy aren't going to be disappointed.  It's pretty much the same stuff.  Lots of 80's jokes and since it's rated R, we get even more inappropriate humor than you could get away with on television. If you don't like Family Guy or MacFarlane, well then, you have no business seeing this movie.  You'll probably be scratching your head at all the obscure references.

Ted isn't perfect, but it really doesn't need to be.  I'm just happy that MacFarlane didn't pull any punches on his first feature film.  I mean, it's about a talking teddy bear who says "fuck", does cocaine and has dirty sex with chicks.  Throw in some Temple of Doom jokes, and you got a comedic winner.

*** (out of ****)


  1. Best review I've seen so far, well put. I agree with the "trying too hard" at some level, and it did start to drag in the last act... but even when the movie gets serious it's done in such an homage/parody sort of way that I still found myself smiling at how well it all came together. Probably one of the better recent buddy/romantic-comedies in my opinion.