Review by Paul Preston
Before reviewing “Ted”, the feature film directorial debut of “Family Guy” creator Seth McFarlane, I feel it’s only fair to give my history with “Family Guy”. Every time something hilarious supposedly happens on “Family Guy”, I have a couple of friends who, it is guaranteed, will tell me about it. Their “This one time, on “Family Guy”” stories have a Band Camp feel about them. Well, everything they tell me is totally hilarious! Sounds great and, man, am I ready for an episode of “Family Guy”! Then I tune in, and I just don’t laugh. I want to. I go to the TV in hopes of finding a show as funny as the bit my friends just explained, but, alas, no.
“Ted” feels like a whole lot of the same at times, but I laughed more than I thought I would. If you don’t know, it’s the story of a Teddy Bear who comes to life after a young kid’s wish, and the Teddy Bear and the boy remain friends forever. The bear has become a vagrant, however, smoking pot, hanging out with prostitutes and swearing up a storm. And mostly getting in the way of a slowly maturing relationship his now grown friend is having with his girlfriend of four years.
On the whole, I can recommend “Ted”. There are a ton of good laughs and if you’re a “Family Guy” fan, the faithful were out at the screening I went to and it was a huge crowd-pleaser. But when McFarlane makes more films, and I hope he will, I hope he gets more refined with his joke choice. Now it just seems like EVERYTHING gets the green light. You can edit, though, and it’s not such a bad idea.
I studied improvisation at The Second City in Toronto and Chicago. Often times, in improvising, when someone says something like, “Oh, yeah, when I was a kid, Don Rickles was my teacher”, the scene can flashback to explore what that must’ve been like, but if you’re going to go back in time to look at that scene, you have to expand on the idea that sent you there. One of the things that makes me nuts about “Family Guy” is how often they cut away or flashback to an idea like that, but often rely on just the reference to the pop culture thing to get the laugh. That’s not enough. You have to do something with the reference, that’s where the funny is.
The worst offense is a scene in “Ted” that spoofs a scene from “Airplane”. But “Airplane” IS a spoof. You can’t spoof a spoof. And they’re spoofing a scene in “Airplane” is already spoofing another movie (“Saturday Night Fever”)! They re-create the scene, but do nothing new with it. If you do that, then you’re that horrible string of movies like “Epic Movie”, “Date Movie” and “Meet the Spartans”. Too often, McFarlane clings to these reference-only jokes. THEN, however, McFarlane expands his reference to the classic cheese-fest ‘80s movie “Flash Gordon” into a ton of hilarious gags that KILL, including a cameo by Flash himself, Sam J. Jones, who is hysterical. So, it’s frustrating, overall, what a mixed bag this is, but the best gags are worth the trip. But it wouldn’t surprise me if McFarlane wanted to reference the ‘80s toy Teddy Ruxpin and thought, better yet, why don’t I make a whole movie about it!
McFarlane does impress with his pacing and feature film comedy skills for his first outing. I like the score, and the walking, talking Teddy Bear special effect is really good to where you take it for granted early on in the movie, to the film’s benefit.
I’ve gotta hit imdb soon to see how many comedies Mark Wahlberg has done. Is “The Other Guys” the only other one he’s done? ‘Cause he’s really built for it. He commits fully to the most ridiculous scenes. Mila Kunis is fine as the put-upon girlfriend, but I remember the first movie I saw her in being “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”. She was gorgeous. Now she’s adopted a kind of Morticia Addams haircut, which is unfortunate. And if you think Ted sounds just like Peter Griffin from “Family Guy”, at least the movie knows it, and makes a funny nod to that fact.
The film tries its hand at having a heart in the final third of the film, and there is a decent the-kid’s-35-and-it’s-time-to-grow-up allegory going on. But the film works best when Wahlberg and Ted are just goofin’ off on the couch, making jokes.
Then again, I might’ve just been going on for paragraphs, analyzing the science of comedy in a talking-bear-comes-to-life stoner comedy. Maybe you just ignore all that shit, turn your head off and laugh like an idiot. Can’t hurt.
Directed by: Seth McFarlane
Release Date: June 29, 2012
Run Time: 106 Minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures