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Overall Rating
3.25

Awesome: 10%
Worth A Look: 27.5%
Average40%
Pretty Bad: 22.5%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 16 user ratings


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Ted
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Just Fill In Your Own Damn Bear-Related Pun Headline"
2 stars

For more than a decade, Seth MacFarlane has created a frighteningly lucrative empire based on a series of animated television series ("Family Guy," "American Dad" and "The Cleveland Show") that have attracted a loyal audience of potheads, 14-year-old boys and lovers of bad taste with his fast-paced brand of humor that revolves largely around gross-out gags, non-sequiturs inspired by random elements of the pop-culture firmament and outrageous jokes touching on once-taboo subject covering the gauntlet from abortion to Big League Chew to most of the major religions, including the worship of "Star Wars." With "Ted," MacFarlane is making his feature debut as a writer and director and for many of his fan base, such a move is a time for concern--will the shift from the confines of television to the less restrictive but often trickier world of film work for him as well as it did for Trey Parker & Matt Stone with the fairly brilliant "South PArk: Bigger, Louder and Uncut" or will it suffer the same indignities of any number of the "Saturday Night Live" spinoff films that you have hopefully forgotten about by this time. For MacFarlane's fans, the good news is that although he has softened things up a little bit here and there in order to broaden the film's appeal, "Ted" is such a perfect fit with his previous projects so as to be virtually indistinguishable from them other than the levels of cheerful vulgarity on display. For MacFarlane's equally vociferous detractors, the bad news is that "Ted" is such a perfect fit with his previous projects so as to be indistinguishable from them and the added vulgarity and extended running time do nothing to detract from what is the essential hollowness that has plagued everything that he has done to date

Sort of a Spielbergian fantasy gone to seed, "Ted" opens in 1985 as a lonely 8-year-old Boston kid named John receives a talking teddy bear of a Christmas present. The lad is completely taken with it and one night, he wishes that Ted could come to life so that they could be best friends forever. The mojo is apparently just right and when he wakes up the next morning, Ted is walking and talking all by himself while pledging to be John best pal forever. (For all the area kids who were wondering why their wishes for a World Series victory by the Red Sox were dashed so cruelly the following season, I can only assume that their wishes failed to take precedence over this one.) Ted quickly becomes a worldwide sensation--even appearing on "The Tonight Show" opposite Johnny Carson--but after a while, time passes and when the story picks up 27 years later, John (Mark Wahlberg) is still best pals with Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) but instead of watching television with wide-eyed wonder while lounging on the sofa, they now do it in between bong hits. Outside of his four-year relationship with the super-hot and super-together Lori (Mila Kunis), John has largely failed to move from his long-running arrested childhood into the world of adult behavior and it is almost entirely due to his unshakable friendship with Ted. When the incredibly understanding Lori is finally pushed too far, it is time for Ted to move out and find his own place but it turn out that John doesn't know how to quit Ted and it eventually leads to him risking losing both his best friend and his girlfriend. Adding to John's complications is Lori's lecherous boss (Joel McHale), who wants her for himself, a weirdo (Giovanni Ribisi) who has been obsessed with Ted since childhood and wants to finally possess him and, perhaps inevitably,, Norah Jones (Norah Jones), a sexy chanteuse who, on the basis of her appearance here, is either a really good sport or hell-bent on one day having the single strangest Blu-Ray box set imaginable.

In essence, "Ted" tells the story of an overgrown man-child who is finally beginning to realize that he needs to put away his childish things at long last if he is to have any hope of one day living up to his potential. The trouble is that "Ted" is made by an overgrown man-child who has more than lived up to his potential by playing with his childish things and who doesn't seem especially eager to give them up anytime soon. For the most part, once you take away the novelty of it being in live action and not having to live up to a network Standards & Practices department, the film is basically a typical "Family Guy" episode stretched out to 100 minutes. Theoretically, that might sound like an awesome idea to a fan of the show but it quickly becomes obvious that the brand of humor and storytelling that MacFarlane doesn't translate particularly well to the requirements of a feature film. For the most part, the show is a relentless joke machine that whipsaws between gross-out humor, incredibly arcane cultural references and non-sequiturs bordering on the downright surreal. What little there are in the way of plots are essentially laundry lines upon which to tenuously hang the gags and since the standard sitcom formula, in which nothing really changes from week to week, is being deployed, a scorched earth-policy can be deployed, and frequently is, because the reset button will inevitably be hit by next week's episode. I am no means a fan of "Family Guy" but I will confess that there are times when this brash approach can yield some big laughs here and there, even if they are the kind that you have either forgotten entirely by the next day or wish that you had.

With "Ted," unfortunately, MacFarlane seems to be struggling with to pull off on film what he seemingly does in his sleep on television because all the flaws inherent in his shows seem to be multiplies here. There is a barrage of jokes throughout and some of them are quite funny indeed but the relentlessness of them grows wearying after a while--unless you have happened to make the funniest movie ever made a la "Duck Soup" or "Airplane!," a film comedy cannot simply consist of one gag after another because even if they all work (and that is definitely not the case here), most people will be all but laughed out around the 60-minute mark or so. MacFarlane also tries to replicate the rapid-fire pacing of his shows but the pacing is off for the most part and things are delivered either too fast or too slow, killing a lot of potentially funny material in the process. MacFarlane also demonstrates an apparent inability to recognize when a joke has been properly deployed and instead milks certain gags long past the point of any amusement and well into the area of outright tedium. For example, there is a running gag about the 1980 film version of "Flash Gordon" that has gone on tho become a cult favorite in the subsequent decades because of its campy visuals, hammy performances and the bombastic music score provided by Queen. When it is initially introduced at the start of the film, it is pretty funny (especially if you are a fan--it is unlikely that a "Legend of the Lone Ranger"-related jape would have been as effective) and when it is reintroduced later in the story, it still inspires some laughs but from that point on, MacFarlane beats the joke to death by repeatedly coming back until most people will be wishing that it was never brought up in the first place. Along the same lines, the screenplay also displays a rather irksome tendency to drop a joke and more or less retell it a minute or so later in an apparent effort to make sure that everyone is on the same page. While the overuse of the running joke can be explained away as one of MacFarlane's trademarks, underlining references to such not-especially-obscure concepts as "The Wall," Ryan Reynolds and yes, even "Family Guy," will more than likely serve to alienate both his savvy fan base and newcomers alike.

There is one area of "Ted" where MacFarlane breaks from his past approach to comedy and it turns out to be the weakest element of the film by far. For the most part, "Ted" is meant to be an exceptionally perverse variation of those fantasy films that Steven Spielberg produced en masse in the Eighties in which ordinary suburban people found themselves in the presence of magical creatures and whatnot--sort of a version of "Harry and the Hendersons" with just a few more rape jokes on display than appeared in the original. The trouble is that when the film reaches the late stages of the game, MacFarlane suddenly decides to shift gears and give us an absolutely straight-faced and ironic version of the endings generally found in those films, complete with such familiar elements as a chase scene, a seemingly unstoppable villain, an apparent tragedy and a last-minute change of fortune that allows everyone in the audience to theoretically go home happy. If MacFarlane were using these tropes to savagely spoof how an entire generation of youngsters was essentially brainwashed into believing that there was no problem that couldn't be solved with a chase, a plot contrivance or two and a splash of FX magic from Industrial Light & Magic, that might have led to something interesting. Alas, MacFarlane sincerely wants us to care about what happens Ted & John and while I am certain that there is a filmmaker out there with the ability to make viewers care about a teddy bear whom we have already seen snorting cocaine, miming a number of sex acts and making wisecracks in which the word "anal" is deployed more often than one might imagine, it is clear from the available evidence that MacFarlane is not that filmmaker.

"Ted" does have some very funny moments scattered here and there--with the enormous number of jokes dropped along the way, the simple law of averages suggests that at least some of them would have to hit--Wahlberg and Kunis fully commit themselves to performances that might have come across as silly in less skilled hands and Giovanni Ribisi somehow manages to play a villain even more ridiculous than the one he portrayed earlier this year in "Contraband" (which also saw him going up against Mark Wahlberg, now that you mention it). These elements help to a certain degree but they are unable to overcome the fact that this film is a one-joke premise that might have made for an amusing half-hour after-Christmas special but as a feature-length film, my guess is that many audience will find themselves wishing that John's parents had just shelled out for the Nintendo on that long-ago Christmas and prevented a lot of tedium all around.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=23719&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/29/12 12:34:23
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User Comments

2/27/13 David Hollingsworth Raunchy, but the good kind. 4 stars
12/30/12 mr.mike By the end it was gasping for air. But then you knew that. 3 stars
10/23/12 Stephanie Raunchy hilarity. 4 stars
10/02/12 Dr.Lao Jeez Hoillywood, if you're going to make a one-joke movie at least make it a good joke! 2 stars
8/29/12 Delcia Pena The movie was good. 3 stars
7/24/12 Mick Gillies Oh dear-bad jokes, bad story, bad idea 2 stars
7/15/12 Jeff Wilder Lots of laughs. But 20 minutes too long and the joke wears thing quickly. 4 stars
7/10/12 Man Out Six Bucks So completely focused on bodily functions and angst that it's an ethnic Jewish film 2 stars
7/10/12 Andy Very funny and enteraining movie 4 stars
7/09/12 Ming Very funny movie but with a fithly mouth 3 stars
7/08/12 Monday Morning I hate political correctness, so loved this. SMacF's brand of humor is outstanding! 5 stars
7/06/12 Jenni FYI the voice of Ted and Peter Griffin is Seth Macfarlane 4 stars
7/03/12 James Thomas loved it made laugh my ass off 5 stars
7/02/12 Marty Extended Family Guy episode. Funny parts. Cared a little too much about its theme. Raunch. 3 stars
7/01/12 ron instant classic! 5 stars
6/30/12 stu funniest movie ever made 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Jun-2012 (R)
  DVD: 11-Dec-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  29-Jun-2012
  DVD: 11-Dec-2012




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