Saturday, July 14, 2012

Movie Review: "Ted"

Toy Story.

There's a teddy bear in this movie, but you better keep your kids at home!  Ted is strictly a movie for grownups even as its stars are Mark Wahlberg as a 35-year-old Bostonian with a severe case of Peter Pan-ism and a sentient teddy bear as his sidekick and enabler.  Ted is the product of the fevered imagination of Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy.  Seriously, I could end my movie review right here.  If you appreciate the madcap, snarky, pop culture-savvy, and often gleefully profane and purposefully offensive humor of that cartoon, you'll probably enjoy Ted.  If you're a prude, you should go watch something else.  Everybody who likes some occasional sophomoric humor mashed into an intriguing one-off premise, read on.

The story begins like a children's fantasy tale, complete with a narrator (you should find that voice familiar, but I won't spoil it by telling you just who it is).  It's 1985, and a little outcast boy named John Bennett receives a big cuddly teddy bear for Christmas.  He makes a wish that his toy would come to life and be his friend, and - given that Christmas is a time of magic - that's exactly what happens.  The pair become instant celebrities ... and then things get weird as they grow up.  

For one thing, they're like child stars who have outgrown their childhood cuteness and are now flailing around in eternal goofball adolescence.  For another, Bennett (played by Mark Wahlberg with an admirable straight-faced sincerity) is now a 35-year-old guy who owns a teddy bear, and that bear is as infuriating as any human friend who's a bad influence enabling Bennett to go on being a slacker (and endlessly frustrating John's long-suffering girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis)), because Ted's no longer the adorably innocent toy.  The cute teddy bear (delightfully rendered in excellently believable CGI and voiced by Seth MacFarlane) has "grown up" to become a trash-talking, beer-swilling, skirt-chasing reprobate who has a vocabulary like a sewer and a taste for weed.  No, really!  Personally, I found that part of the insane hilarity of the flick - the sheer contrast between the innocence implied by the shape of Ted and his actual personality.

The movie takes off from there, and as one critic said, "It contains dialogue and depicts situations that cannot be described in a family newspaper—including the ones that are read only by the Addams family."  I'll just say that the lunacy flies as MacFarlane in characteristic fashion throws everything at the wall in the hope that some of it will stick.  Not all the jokes work and not all of the narrative bits do either, but the parts that do had the audience in the theater - myself included - laughing out loud repeatedly.  One of the surprise celebrity cameos, for instance, nearly made me choke on my popcorn.

Ted really is a flick that you see once, and it's uproariously funny once because of its surprises.  It shouldn't get a sequel, because the magic only works once.  But when it does, it's hilarious, and it's perfect for a lazy, hazy summer afternoon.

Mad Minerva gives this film a grade of B.

Rotten Tomatoes gives Ted the Fresh rating of 69%.

Ted runs 106 minutes and is rated R for language, drug use, crude humor, sexual situations, and classic MacFarlanian raunchy silliness.

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