Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ted (2012) - Movie Review

A lonely boy makes a Christmas wish that comes true.  That's just the opening moments of Ted, the big screen directorial debut of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.  I've been looking forward to this for a while, but was worried how the concept would come off.  How would a walking, talking, over-sized teddy bear play in a live-action movie?  On the surface, it's a pretty ridiculous idea that could be a disaster if not done right.

The narration (by Captain, I mean Patrick Stewart) sets up the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a boy that had difficulty making friends.  His parents give him a very large teddy bear that John wishes could be his real best friend forever.  Magically, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) comes alive and agrees to be his best friend.  In a sequence that's oddly similar to Adam Sandler's That's My Boy (which is ironic since the movie makes a point to make fun of Sandler), Ted coming alive doesn't go unnoticed by the world and he becomes a celebrity.  However, as the narration points out, eventually all celebrity or fads fade and Ted is forgotten about.

We fast forward to a 35-year-old John, who's still best friends with Ted, but neither of them have really grown up. John's not all that ambitious and spends every chance he gets getting high or partying with Ted.  His girlfriend of four years, Lori (Mila Kunis), has been patiently waiting for John to grow up and starts to question if he can ever do this while Ted is around.  This sets up an 'it's either him or me' ultimatum.  John is torn, obviously, because how do you choose between the love of your life and your best friend?  It's a story we've seen many times before.

But is it funny?  Well, have you ever wondered what an extended Family Guy episode without all of that annoying censorship would be like?  Well, I guess if you own any of the DVDs or the Family Guy "Star Wars" episodes, you'd have an idea, but for the rest of you, this would be it.  It really does play like a Family Guy episode, from the style of humor, the musical score, and the use of the much of the Family Guy cast.  Ted is rated R and they really go for it as far as the language and raunchy humor.  This is definitely not for kids.  Most of the time it works, but it does miss here and there.  I laughed out loud throughout the movie, and there are many times where the laughter from the audience was so loud that you couldn't hear the next line of dialog.  It doesn't let up for a minute and Ted doesn't pull any punches.

One of the things that makes Ted work is how great Ted ended up looking.  I'm not sure if they used strictly CG or a combination of animatronics and CG, but they really pulled it off.  Between Seth MacFarlane's voice acting and the animation, Ted really does feel alive and has real chemistry with Mark Wahlberg and the rest of the cast.

I've been hard on Mark Wahlberg in the past, but I thought he was really great here.  He's primarily the straight man to Ted, but it played to his strengths and it was nice to seem him do something a little different than the stoic or tough guy characters he usually plays.  He's so serious all the time, that I've often wondered if Walhberg had any sense of humor at all.  Mila Kunis has always had good comedic timing and did a good job of being sympathetic, as well.  It would have been really easy to come off as bitchy and then you'd understand why John would want to spend more time with Ted.

The rest of the cast has their moments as well.  Joel McHale plays a great, creepy boss who's main goal is to steal Lori away from John.  Patrick Warburton has a small, but very funny role as one of John's co-workers. Sam J. Jones (from the 80's Flash Gordon, a running gag throughout the film), shows up during a great party sequence towards the end.  Givoanni Ribisi also shows up at various points in the film and has a part in the unusual direction the story takes towards the end.

This was an impressive directorial debut by Seth MacFarlane.  For someone that's only done animation, he really was able to translate his style of humor over to live action well.  If he continues to make movies, I hope he continues to take chances and doesn't fall into a formula, but so far he's off to a really good start.  MacFarlane is joined by fellow Family Guy writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, so you can definitely see the influence on the writing on humor.

While Ted is not a perfect film, it's a consistently hilarious movie that gets the most out of it's concept and it's great cast.  It doesn't require you to be a Family Guy fan to enjoy and it's simply a fun, raunchy comedy for the Summer.  If you just want to a good laugh, I recommend checking it out.

4 out of 5 Death Stars


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