TED (Dir. Seth MacFarlane, 2012)
“I don’t sound that much like Peter Griffin!” protests the profane protagonist of Seth MacFarlane’s first full-length feature film, but obviously that’s a hollow claim.
MacFarlane, of course, voices Ted, the teddy bear that magically comes alive to a little boy that grows up to be Bostonian man-child played by Mark Wahlberg, and, yes, he sounds exactly like his famous Family Guy character.
That does a lot to call out what this movie essentially is: a collection of gags that were too R-rated for basic cable, decorating a flimsy plot.
It’s a plot everyone should recognize from many movies and sitcoms - a man-child’s girlfriend, in this case played by Mila Kunis, begs her beau to grow up, but he’s too attached to a lifestyle of juvenile high jinks, in this case embodied in a stuffed plush talking toy.
Come to think of it, it was a scenario even used in last year’s THE MUPPETS, with Jason Segel asking himself the musical question is he a “Man or a Muppet,” after being left by Amy Adams.
But at least in that film it was just a silly subplot, and not the full narrative as it is here. An attempt to create conflict between Wahlberg and Kunis by having Joel McHale (Community, Talk Soup) as Kunis’ slimy corporate boss constantly come on to her, doesn’t raise any stakes because of how her character is set up we never believe she would go for him over Wahlberg.
But back to the talking Teddy Bear part, I mean it’s his movie, right? Ted is an aimless comedy archetype – a hard drinking, drugging, foul-mouthed party animal just like last year’s PAUL (which was stupid, sure, but much funnier than this).
With the sheer volume of jokes, one-liners, and pop culture pot-shots, there can’t help but be some humorous moments, but TED gets tiresome really quickly (two 9/11 jokes, really?). The CGI used to animate the bear is flawless, but to what avail with this lazy material?
That is, I suppose, unless you’re a die-hard Family Guy fan, or a big American Dad fan, or even just a casual The Cleveland Show fan (I'm none of those things), and you’re way into folks making fun of crappy movies, celebrities, and music mostly from the ‘80s.
For some reason there’s a lot of focus on the infamous 1980 sci-fi flop FLASH GORDON (it’s the movie Ted and Wahlberg watch the most while getting high, you see), including a lengthy cameo by Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones in a wildly typical party sequence.
At the screening I went to, plenty of people laughed, but how many folks in the audience really knew that 32-year old film? Sure, it’s got a classically kitschy theme song by Queen and it may qualify for the so bad it’s good factor (like Wahlberg says at one point), but is it really worthy of this kind of satiric attention?
MacFarlane takes what feels and looks like a warmed-over Farrelly brothers project, and interjects it with his distinctive smarmy tone. However there is little a bit of a heart within purely because of Kunis’ invested performance. But next time she does a movie like this, she really ought not to waste so much energy.
Oh yeah, there’s also the third act action climax involving a creepy Giovanni Ribisi kidnapping Ted for his rotund son (Aedin Mincks), but, hey, it’s an ending consistent with the uninspired rest of the film.
The not terrible but tedious TED is really a film for MacFarlane fans only, but even they might want to wait to get the inevitable unrated DVD or Blu ray, because I bet it and all the bloopers, gag reels, and outtakes will be much funnier on the small screen.
And as cheap as the humor is in TED, people should really get their money’s worth.