A Belated Review of Ted

I could spend the entire article talking about how much I dislike Seth MacFarlane. It’s nothing personal – I just dislike him personally. I also dislike how MacFarlane transformed his Family Guy from a wonderful piece of television anarchy into a soap box for his closed minded left wing views. The show doesn’t even subscribe to those views; MacFarlane devotes episodes to supporting gay marriage (noble, certainly) but then makes the worst sort of homophobic jokes.

I was worried that Ted would be more of the same;; humor for the masses that sacrifices such subtleties as plot and characterization. It’s not. I would be lying if I said I did not laugh. Ted the character is particularly funny and comes armed with an intelligent quip for every single experience he has. Plus, I believe that there is something intrinsically funny about a bear singing Hootie & The Blowfish songs at a party.

But does making it different from Family Guy make it good? Not really. The plot of Ted (and I should praise MacFarlane for crafting a plot) is flimsy and unoriginal. I don’t even want to count how many films have been released about thirty year old man children and the women who want to make them grow up. But Ted wants to insist it’s a fresh idea. But adding a teddy bear to the mix, and then constantly forgetting that he’s a magical teddy bear and not a Seth Rogen character does nothing to help make us forget we’ve seen this sort of thing before.

You probably already know what happens in this movie, considering how much it’s grossed. Ted is about a talking teddy bear named Ted (voiced by MacFarlane), who demonstrates Victor Frankenstein currently works for Gund, and his best friend John Bennett (Marky Mark – I couldn’t resist. I’m going to call him Marky Mark or Dirk Diggler no matter what he does). John made a wish one Christmas morning that Ted should be alive so that John would have a friend. The wish came true, and Ted becomes a minor celebrity for a brief time in the 1980s. But in the present, John is now a 35 year old man working at a car rental shop, and Ted is a stoner who lives on John’s couch. But John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) is desperate to turn John into a man and realizes how much Ted is holding both of them back. But John is a little reluctant to let go, especially after a strange man named Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) threatens Ted.

A child’s toy coming to life would certainly be a noteworthy cause. In some respects, I am glad that people in the film acknowledge this fact and don’t try to hide it. It is said several times that Ted became a celebrity, only to fade away once the novelty of his existence wore off. I have no doubt that this is what would happen. What I am not pleased with is the fact that Ted’s rise and fall (save for one interview with Johnny Carson) is never shown. Nor is the fact that his miraculous I wanted to see more of Ted hobnobbing with celebrities and trying to crawl back into the limelight. Had it been played as serious drama, the result would have been hilarious.

You know what? That would have been a much better plot than the formulaic one Ted presents to audiences. The scenes that break the formula (those that concentrate on Ted’s life) are fantastic. His partying, pawing at his female fans, and attempts to adjust to the world are where the film really shines. One more rewrite at the scripting stage could have helped this material find its ground.

But MacFarlane decided more people cared about John and his man child demeanor and regulated the bear to a supporting role. This was the wrong decision. Nothing that happens to John or Lori is particularly funny or noteworthy. Without the talking bear, no one would care about these characters and how they relate to each other. It’s to Mark Wahlberg’s credit that he actually does manage to make John a sympathetic character. But who cares? There’s a teddy bear that has somehow gained life. Shouldn’t anyone care about this little miracle?

So why am I not trying to completely destroy the film? Because, as I said, I did laugh. But it was only at the segments I described; those that focused on Ted and his adventures trying to make something of himself. The scenes with the super market manager and Ted’s desperate attempts to get fired are among the funniest I’ve seen all year. I don’t dare give away what happens in those moments, but you will see why they work. You will also see why the disturbing scenes with Donny work. Either way, I laughed, so as a comedy, Ted accomplishes something. But it’s still flawed and not what MacFarlane needs to redeem himself in my eyes.

Also, there is a scene in here that parodies a parody; in this case, the dance scene from Airplane! which was just a riff of Saturday Night Fever. I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but they are so drastically wrong that it hurts the film in ways I cannot begin to describe.

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