Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ted (2012) – Review

Review: Ted is a very funny mixture of a 1980s style family adventure and a modern crude comedy. The film is about John Bennett, a kid who grew up in New England without any friends so he wishes his toy bear would come to life and be his real friend. It comes true, and they promise to be friends forever. Fast forward twenty-six years, John is a thirty-five-year old loser who still has not grown up, goofing around drinking and smoking pot with his teddy bear Ted. John’s girlfriend Lori is ready to move to the next stage of their life together and asks John to grow up, causing a riff between John and his dearest childhood friend. Writer-director Seth MacFarlane crafts the narrative to be a story about a man child who needs to grow up, and in this the film and the character of John are decent. The story works well enough touching on friendship and relationships, but really the main focus is on the comedy, which is centered on both the silliness of a walking talking stuffed bear and crude humor. As a comedy, the film is brilliant and extremely funny. MacFarlane knows his intended audience well. He has a ton of nostalgic 1980s jokes and throwbacks (Flash Gordon, Tiffany and Indiana Jones to name a few – loved the Indiana Jones hat reference) mixed with Judd Apatow style crude humor (drugs, violence, language, and so on). It works very well. The whole narrative device of a teddy bear who comes to life feels very much like the family adventure films I grew up with (stuff like Mac and Me, Short Circuit, Labyrinth, The Goonies), only mixed with adult humor, since most moviegoers who know the references are in their 30s and 40s now. I actually wonder if younger viewers will get the joke, tonal and cinematic references or will the crude humor just have to carry them through the film. MacFarlane does a good job keeping the tone feeling magical like the 1980s films, despite the crude humor which is a very big part of the film, as the overall narrative needs the magic to feel genuine. Ted is more than just a typical modern crude comedy, which are seemingly abundant (though, still very enjoyable when done well). It is the nostalgic appeal and feel that make the film special.

Technical, aesthetic & acting achievements: Seth MacFarlane has successfully transitioned between TV and feature film. Ted somewhat feels like his Family Guy TV show, but really it shows that MacFarlane can be a force in feature comedy as well. Walter Murphy’s score very much sounds like his work in Family Guy (at least some of the Stewie/Brian episodes), but it fits the tone here. Michael Barrett’s cinematography and Stephen Lineweaver’s production design ground the narrative in reality, allowing the magical tone to stem more from the music. The characters are not that deep in the film, as really they do not need to be. John’s character arc is simple and generic (in that it is one we have all seen many times), and thus the audience can relate because they already know the story and characters to some extent, and more importantly they are there to laugh (and the film achieves that primarily). That said, there is not a lot of great dramatic work for the actors, all they need to do is be funny and hit their comedic timing and have chemistry (which are all things just as difficult in many ways as drama, in different ways). Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, and Sam Jones are all good and funny in their supporting roles. Mila Kunis has some funny stuff as Lori, but has the task of playing the straight-character for much of the film. Mark Wahlberg is much funnier in this than he was in The Other Guys. He plays the typical man-child loser with a good heart well. Seth MacFalane voicing Ted steals the movie though (as we all probably expected). He voice work is perfect and hilarious.

Summary & score: Ted has heart, teaches friendship, has a lot of nostalgic awesomeness, and is very funny. 8/10

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