Ted (2012)

by - June 29th, 2012 - Movie Reviews


MacFarlane’s Ted a One-Joke Comedy

Ted is a one-joke movie. Not that this is as a surprise. Writer, director and voice actor Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy”) has come up with a concept revolving around a young boy’s Christmas wish that his teddy bear could talk. When that happens, the filmmaker then posits what would happen next. Fast-forward almost two decades, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (MacFarlane) haven’t exactly matured all that much, adult human and stuffed bear foul-mouthed best friends who aren’t exactly doing great things with either of their lives.

Ted (2012) | PHOTO: Universal Pictures

That’s it. That’s the joke. Thankfully said joke is a semi-decent one, and for at least some of the movie’s running time there is plenty to laugh at. The dialogue between John, his girlfriend Lori Collins (Mila Kunis) and Ted is humorously quick-witted, the rat-a-tat-tat patter moderately intoxicating. If taken as a series of shorts, much of what transpires does hit close to the mark. As someone how can’t stand either “Family Guy” or “American Dad,” there was moment early on in the film where I was honestly starting to feel like I was going to walk out of Ted more or less satisfied which all things considered would have been a massive surprise.

Didn’t happen. I left the theatre angry. Why? The first issue is the actual plot. When it finally kicks in the movie is forced to follow a predictable pattern and a lot of the crazed energy that was so amusing all but disappears. I don’t necessarily have a problem with MacFarlane constructing a sitcom-like scenario where John is forced to choose between growing up and keeping Lori by his side or remaining an adult man-child and continuing to party with Ted. That’s fine. What I do take issue with is how maudlin it all is, things happening with about as much vitality as a game of shuffleboard played on a third-rate cruise ship.

Then there are the series of homophobic and racially-charged gags that MacFarlane enjoys throwing out for consumption. He presents them proudly as if to say his political incorrectness is a badge of how open-minded he is. But they are the same gag recycled again and again, their overuse more annoying than it is humorous. At a certain point I wondered if a line was being crossed or if because the characters kept spouting the same ill-conceived nonsense I only imagined it was. This left me in a state of offended bafflement I found distinctly uncomforting.

Ted (2012) | PHOTO: Universal Pictures

But the stuff I laughed at? That had me rolling in the aisles. When the weird, off-kilter madness happens it’s pretty darn amusing. There’s a great bit with Sam Jones at a party. It’s freewheeling and crazy in all the ways that matter. More importantly, this scene helps move the plot forward in a character-driven way that’s pretty great. I also found numerous bits at John’s car rental workplace to be suitably silly, while Joel McHale steals a handful of scenes spouting all sorts of uncouth nonsense that produced its fair share of unexpected giggles.

Yet Ted left me wanting. A subplot involving Giovanni Ribisi is a disaster, while a high-flying finale at Fenway Park is a total snooze. The runs its one joke into the ground and does so to the determent of the movie as a whole. MacFarlane shows he might have more going on creatively than his animated programs have led me to believe, but he’ll have to develop better plots if he’s going to deliver on that potential. As funny as the film can be the magic of the early moments quickly dissipates, making this one-joke comedy borderline unbearable.

Film Rating: 2 (out of 4)

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