Monday, August 27, 2012

Ted

It's a two hour "Family Guy" episode. That's all you need to know about Ted, Seth MacFarlane's tale of a little boy who gets his wish for a real-live talking Teddy Bear, who then grows up to be a man-child still palling around with a childhood toy.

OK, it's only an hour and forty-six minutes, but the last 20 minutes really drags.

But really, that's all you need to know: It's not much like, say, Mike Judge doing Office Space or Idiocracy, where you wouldn't necessarily realize this is the guy who does "Beavis and Butthead" and "King of the Hill".

Ted's voice is Peter Griffin. (Even referenced at one point.) There are "Star Wars" jokes and constant references to '80s cultural icons, including special guest star Sam J. Jones (who played in 1980's Flash Gordon) and fart jokes and sex jokes and penis jokes, as well as lack-of-penis jokes. And of course the extended comedy fight scene, and the Airplane! rip off.

I didn't expect much, so I had a kind of mixed reaction to the film. On the one hand, it started strong. Lots of fast jokes that are familiar, sure, but still funny. Mark Wahlberg is appealing as the man-child, and Mila Kunis seems to have cornered the niche of world's coolest girlfriend.

And since it's Wahlberg and not, say, Seth Rogan or Jason Segel, it's way more believable. Amirite, ladies? Even if he is 41, he plays a convincing 35 and doesn't look like an anthropomorphous Pilsbury dough-boy.

The plot is unfortunately more formulaic than you would think a plot about a walking-talking teddy bear could be. The movie pivots on a scene where Kunis brings Wahlberg to a business party only to have him skip out because Sam J. Jones has shown up at a booze-and-drug filled party Ted is throwing.

But we'd already established how cool Kunis is. She knows Sam Jones is Wahlberg's hero. There's no reason for us to believe she'd be upset if he left, and particularly no reason for him to sneak out without telling her.

Worse, though, is the sub-plot that is required to tie everything together, featuring Givoanni Ribisi as a creep who kidnaps Ted—this is not a spoiler, it's obvious from moment one that Ribisi is the villain and that's what he's going to do.

When that happens, of course Kunis and Wahlberg drop their relationship problems as if they'd never happened, and work together to save Ted.

Also, Ted beats the crap out of Wahlberg in one scene and in the next big sequence, Ribisi throws a bag over his head and he's powerless to stop him.

Am I nitpicking a movie that's about a talking teddy bear? Yeah. If you aren't going to do it right, don't do it all. As a series of funny random gags, it works pretty well. As a rom-com-thriller, the gags destroy any continuity and feel crudely manipulative. (Maybe that's the ultimate '80s homage.)

I actually rolled my eyes at one point when Ted is escaping and they played the Indiana Jones theme. There's a "Family Guy" episode where a character says to Stewie "You are the weakest link. Good bye." Stewie then proceeds to go on a five-minute rant about whether she has any other fresh material like stuff about the movie Titanic.

Using the Indiana Jones theme as a reference was tired within weeks of that movie coming out. And it's just been beaten to death ever since. It hasn't even had time to rest for a comeback, it's such a cliché.

But you don't go see this kind of thing because it's fresh. You go see it because you like it.

Much like a "Family Guy" episode, I liked a lot of the gags, but some of them are positively naive for such an "edgy" show.

There was one way that the movie differed from the show, and that's in trying to achieve a kind of emotional connection. ("Family Guy" always disrupts any kind of emotionalism with a really horrible joke.) So the very talented McFarlane may have a weakness after all.

Well, two weaknesses. One of his weaknesses is ripping off Airplane! exactly and in whole, I guess as an homage, but it always feels like "Dude, write your own jokes." In this case, it's the scene in Airplane! that parodies the scene in Saturday Night Fever.

I'm griping, and it really doesn't matter much: You know if you like this sort of thing. Prepare to be unsurprised.

4 comments:

  1. Someone urged me to watch this recently. I used to be a fan of Family Guy, but I lost interest after it became Bush Derangement Syndrome: The Animated Series, so I went into Ted with pretty low expectations... and I liked it about as much as I figured I would.

    If I want to see drug humor and dick jokes and all that, I'd much rather watch something like Grandma's Boy where it was done right.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I actually saw the live "Family Guy" show they did right before bringing the series back.

    Bringing series' back is just a terrible idea.

    ReplyDelete

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