Friday, June 29, 2012

In Theaters: TED (2012)

(US - 2012)

Directed by Seth MacFarlane.  Written by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild.  Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Sam J. Jones, Matt Walsh, Jessica Barth, Laura Vandervoort, Alex Borstein, narrated by Patrick Stewart.  (R, 107 mins)

FAMILY GUY creator Seth MacFarlane's live-action directing debut, co-written with show collaborators Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, is a lot like most FAMILY GUY episodes: moments of incredible hilarity offset by long, drawn-out, laborious gags, but nothing as long as say, an Ernie the Giant Chicken appearance or a Conway Twitty song. 

TED tells the raunchy and occasionally heartfelt and insightful (yes, really) story of 35-year-old John (Mark Wahlberg) and his best friend, a talking teddy bear named Ted (voiced by MacFarlane).  John was a lonely child who had trouble making friends, and he made a wish that his large teddy bear could talk and be his best friend forever.  And that's what happened.  The quick-witted Ted even became a flash-in-the-pan celebrity in the late '80s (and as narrator Patrick Stewart intones, "Much like Corey Feldman, Frankie Muniz, and Justin Bieber, the time came when nobody gave a shit"), but now lives a relatively obscure life with John in Boston, occasionally coasting on his long-gone fame to get women or weed.  John works for a car-rental service and has a loving, committed girlfriend in Lori (Mila Kunis), but Lori wants to take the relationship to the next level, while John seems content to get high with Ted and rewatch their favorite movie, 1980's FLASH GORDON, over and over.  Eventually, Lori demands that John make Ted move out on his own, but John repeatedly demonstrates that he isn't ready for a move that drastic.

Ted and John doing shots with FLAAAAASH!
What MacFarlane and his co-writers have fashioned here is essentially a very R-rated look at perpetual adolescence, with John unable to put away his childish things.  He loves Lori and wants to eventually marry her, but even when he gets his own place, Ted is always there to pull John in the opposite direction, be it cutting out of work early to come over, get baked, and watch the bonus features on a CHEERS DVD set, or to ditch Lori at her boss' party to head over to Ted's place, where he's having a loud, destructive bash and FLASH GORDON star Sam J. Jones happens to show up with cocaine (Jones is admirably self-deprecating here, even putting on his Flash outfit at one point).  Amidst the constant profanity and offensive humor, there's an undeniable heart to TED and John's dilemma is one faced by all boys when the time comes to be a man. 

Ted entertaining four hookers: "You know, somewhere
out there are four terrible fathers I wish I could
thank for this great night."
But all that seriousness aside, TED is often tears-down-your-face hilarious, whether the believably-CGI'd Ted, forced to get a job as a cashier at a supermarket, is having hot sex with co-worker Tammy Lynn (Jessica Barth) in the stockroom (Ted: "Oh yeah...now stick your finger in the loop of my tag!"), doing lines of coke with Flash Gordon, or just in the many scenes of Wahlberg and MacFarlane doing a lot of verbal back and forth.  With zingers aimed at nearly every ethnicity and religion, homosexuals, washed-up celebrities, white trash, the decline of America, fat kids, Adam Sandler movies, and pretty much everything in between, there's something here to offend everyone, and on an even grander scale than the comparitively-clean FAMILY GUY.  TED starts to lose itself in the back end, with a completely unnecessary subplot involving a crazed Ted stalker, played by Giovanni Ribisi.  It doesn't really gel with the rest of the film, and seems to exist only so Ribisi can do some crazy shit while dancing to Tiffany's version of  "I Think We're Alone Now."  Likewise, one cutaway to a 2008 flashback at a dance club ("Chris Brown can do no wrong!") is funny, but another pointlessly recreates almost the entire "Stayin' Alive" flashback in AIRPLANE! (1980).  Not only is it a cutaway to what amounts to a parody of a parody, but it's very much like something thrown into a FAMILY GUY episode to get it to 23 minutes.

TED isn't perfect and runs out of steam before the end, but it's on its game most of the way, and it's very funny, with some surprising heart and depth to it, as well as several cameos by some celebs who are obviously good sports about spoofing themselves.

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