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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Every year, we get that one, memorable summer comedy. Last year we got Horrible Bosses. Previous years gave us The Other Guys, The Hangover, Tropic Thunder, and Superbad. Though I have my reservations about Seth MacFarlane, I really felt Ted would fill that gap for 2012. And I think it largely succeeded.
MacFarlane is an effective director. He uses his trademark humor of offensive one-liners mixed with nostalgic references in a fresh way. Nothing about it seeming forced the way it might on one of his TV shows. Ted, surprisingly, gives audiences a complex story which largely avoids many of the movie clichés that a film of this nature might have.
The premise centers around Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), a teddy bear who came to life based on a young boy’s (John, played by Mark Wahlberg) wish. Years later, John is grown up and still incredibly close with Ted. This is causing problems with John’s long-time girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). Hijinks ensue as Ted attempts to now live on his own. It is an absurd premise, but one that works. By having Ted be a stuffed animal (instead of a human friend or family member), the movie is able to play with the concepts of leaving the comfort of youth and entering adulthood. The movie was surprisingly deep on that level.
As mentioned earlier, this movie intentionally avoids the clichés of a bromance hindering a romance. It would have been really easy (and lazy) to make Lori give John the “him or me” ultimatum. While she is understandably frustrated, she recognizes the deep friendship between John and Ted and that kicking Ted out is not the best option. I am glad the movie did this, because it humanizes her and does not allow the audience to turn against her (which is something the movie does not want to happen).
Though the relationships, characters, and themes were fairly well established, not everything works. As much as I liked this movie, I did not love it. For starters, the pacing is really slow, and I felt it drag at times. There were also plot lines that were dropped and forgotten and others that were shoe horned in (the climax of the film honestly feels like it came from a different movie). MacFarlane also employed a large use of celebrity cameos. Many of them fall flat. However, there is one extended cameo that works incredibly well, and I refuse to spoil it. You will know what I am talking about when you see it. And, with the exception of a completely out-of-place tirade against Superman Returns, most of the humor works well. Most of these are little things, but they added up (especially the pacing) in me not enjoying this film as much as I wanted to.
All that being said, I would recommend Ted. It is funny, with a mostly solid story and well-defined characters. It has some juvenile humor in it, but it is played with charm. For a first-time film director, MacFarlane does well. Many of the problems I had with the film are easily correctable. If he continues as a director, I can see his future movies being much more polished.
Addendum: The one thing that surprised me about Ted was the anticipation. I went to see it yesterday with a friend, and we wanted to go to the 8:15pm showing, but it was sold out. This was unexpected as we were 30 minutes early. We ended up going at 9:40, and that was a completely packed theater. Fortunately, I did not notice any kids, which is good, because this movie is most definitely not for kids