Friday, June 29, 2012
Movie review: Ted
Grin and bear it.
Let me allay any misconceptions you might have as to what kind of stuffed-animal-come-to-life situation we find in Ted — written, directed and voiced by Family Guy guy Seth MacFarlane.
This is not one of those contrived first-person fantasies in which only the protagonist experiences the plush toy as a sentient entity, while other characters take him for a psycho. In this (mostly) live-action narrative, everyone sees Ted (the titular stuffed bear) walking around, chatting up the ladies, huffing at the bong, and hurling f-bombs like grass seed in springtime.
Decades before pot smoking and womanizing come into play, the miraculously brought-to-life teddy bear story hits the newswires and Ted becomes a media darling, culminating in a guest appearance on the Carson show. But fame proves to be fleeting — or, as deadpan narrator Patrick Stewart bemoans — "eventually nobody gives a shit."
What starts out as a saccharine-sweet fairy tale about an outsidery young lad with whom even the bullied refuse to associate quickly turns into a contemporary story of a 30-something slacker and his still-plush best friend, who have settled comfortably into a lackadaisical stoner existence. When they're not watching old episodes of Flash Gordon on TV, John (Mark Wahlberg) works as assistant manager at a car rental outlet (when he deigns to show up), while Ted (MacFarlane) somehow scrapes up enough cash to hire a quartet of hookers and bring them back to the apartment for an ill-fated game of truth or dare.
Stir John's devoted girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) into this buddy-buddy mix and the situation becomes uncomfortably volatile, with the two people John loves most pulling him in different directions: Lori wants him to find a career featuring some sort of path to professional advancement, while Ted is happy with the marijuana-scented status quo. A rivalry for John's affections establishes itself as the central narrative theme.
This storyline sounds like something that ought to work in an eight-minute Saturday Night Live sketch, but initially we're skeptical as to whether such a premise can be nourished to the point that it will hold our interest over the course of a feature length film. Thanks to MacFarlane's patented off-the-wall scripting — combined with Stewart's whimsical narrative asides and an abundance of clever sight gags — it ends up working surprisingly well.
Notable supporting and cameo performances are turned in by Patrick Warburton, as John's binge-partying co-worker Guy; Sam Jones, as — well — Sam Jones (aka Flash Gordon); Norah Jones (no relation to Sam) as her sweetly-crooning self; Giovanni Ribisi as (SURPRISE!) a creepy stalker; and, most disconcertingly from a heterosexual point of view, Ryan Reynolds (uncredited) as ... well, that would be telling.
Here's your checklist for things you might expect to see in an R-rated movie made by Seth MacFarlane about an aging pothead teddy bear brought to life by a magical wish:
Furry sex: yep.
Poop gags: check.
Self indulgence triumphing over common sense: you got it!
Over-the-hill Flash Gordon actor hyped on coke punching his fist through a wall: no problemo.
Knock-down, drag-out fisticuffs between Ted and John: easily the hysterical highlight of the movie.
Alien vampires invading Boston in penis-shaped spacecraft: not a bit of it — but I'll bet I had you going there for a second.
After its middle stages orgy of good-natured self-indulgence and debauchery, Ted circles back around to end on a sappy sentimental note. Dour cynics in the audience will just have to grin and bear it.
To find movie showtimes for Ted, click here.