Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Ted

Version I Watched
: VOD rental, theatrical edition.

History: This is the feature length debut of Seth MacFarlane who is previously famous for shows like Family Guy and American Dad. The film was made for approx. $50 Million and in return it earned over $500 Million worldwide, roughly half of which was earned in the states alone. This currently is the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time. While nothing is currently in the works Seth MacFarlane has expressed interest in a sequel.

Personal History: This was my first viewing. Can't say I knew a whole lot about it before this, but my interest was high knowing MacFarlane's history.

Review: I don't know how hardcore of a Family Guy fan I am anymore. Like most males between middle school and college aged over the last decade I have watched a lot of it so I am very familiar with it. I have also enjoyed the show immensely on again and off again. There was a period when I didn't really watch it at all because I was tired out of the direction it was going. But time spent away from it allowed me to appreciate it more. However I guess I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of the show anymore. It still has enough that makes me laugh despite having a bunch of stuff that annoys the hell outta me.
Why am I talking about Family Guy? Isn't it obvious? While I think Seth MacFarlane is a talented guy he doesn't have a ton of variety in his work. At least what he does and what he's good at is really good. I can't count how many times he's made me laugh uncontrollably, practically falling over. This goes for Family Guy and American Dad, but not for Cleveland Show because... fuck that show. It's terrible. So Ted is expected to be a lot like Family Guy. History has repeated itself multiple times already and it's bound to happen again. Really it's hard not to compare Ted to Family Guy unless you've never seen Family Guy before. Is this bad? No. Actually quite the opposite cause TED IS HILARIOUS!

I'll get it out of the way first, Ted sounds a lot like Peter Griffin. I actually felt like he fluxuated between Peter and Brian with most of the time sounding like Peter. Hard to get out of your head unless, like I previously stated, have never seen Family Guy. I will also touch on how many Family Guy veterans are in this movie as well. A big one is Mila Kunis (Meg on Family Guy). I always felt her role on Family Guy was really ironic, too, as I'm sure most people do. Here's this amazingly gorgeous woman playing a homely, chubby, hated young girl in a cartoon. Oh well, that's the power of writing. Then also in Ted there's appearances by Patrick Warburton (Joe), and even Patrick Stewart who has played multiple roles on the show. In this case it's just similarity in voices and that's it. Good way to cast your regulars.

Ted does do a lot of things on it's own, though. I don't want it to sound like it's nothing but a live action version of a Family Guy episode (which it essentially does most of the time). For starters, Mark Wahlburg is a knockout in his role. His performance as an insecure man-child who is overly attached to his childhood teddy bear is excellent. I actually believed throughout a lot of the movie that he loved Ted more than he loved Lori (Mila Kunis). But while we're on the subject I briefly want to touch on the relationship between him and Lori. I just don't get it. Her character strikes me as the type who would have dumped him a long time ago because of the way he acts. If after four years your girlfriend still puts up with you sitting around most of the day smoking pot with your buddy, showing up to work late, and being a general bum then you better MARRY THAT WOMAN! Otherwise she is going to dump you any day now. Then again we're talking about a movie where a wish brought a teddy bear to life so I'm willing to let a lot of stuff go.
One nice attention to detail pertained to Ted's history. I liked how the fantasy of the story meshed with the reality of the story. A teddy bear coming to life is something that would not stay in secret for very long. So when Ted became an instant celebrity. He of course had the inevitable downfall like many celebrities who are famous for what they literally are. But at least it was addressed that he was famous for being a living teddy bear, if not briefly, which included an excellently edited piece like he was on Johnny Carson (I love it when movies do this. Much like Forrest Gump or the brilliant Death of a President). However I do wonder how there were no instances of people running into Ted and freaking the hell out cause he's literally a living teddy bear in modern times. There's no way the entire general public could know who he is especially if he was a brief celebrity. The only other thing I can think of is that living plushies is now a new norm in this world or he's a local celebrity. But since neither of these details are established it just seems odd how normal everyone acts around him. If anything I imagine every so often someone would react the same way John's (Mark Wahlberg) parents did when Ted first came to life.
Speaking of, I loved the intro to this movie. I had a special appreciation because in it John's father was played by Ralph Garman of Hollywood Babble-On fame (and Sharktopus). Still I thought it was a great back story about an outcast kid who can't even make friends with the kid who gets beat up all the time. Finding a friend in a toy is a common occurrance for a child especially when they're lonely. It's the perfect concept. And I think it transitioned into adulthood for John brilliantly. If someone where to joke around with me how a kid like this would be grown up and still attached this is exactly as I see it. I especially liked Thunder Buddies. I'm just imagine a young boy laying in bed alone with no one else but his teddy bear (alive or not) scared out of his mind chanting the Thunder Buddies chant. I get it. I see it happening. It's very young boy-ish.

So far so good! It's got a great set up, realistic in a way for what it is, has me laughing within moments of the movie starting, we're good to go. As it continued I did realize how crazy predictable the script got. I mean, like really predictable. It had just about every trope from a buddy comedy where a girl is in the mix and the lead role needs to grow up. Even the average viewer will be able to see where the story is going two steps ahead. Of course John is going to make a stupid mistake despite good intentions which will cause him and Lori to break up/have problems which will then lead down a path to something bad happening to Ted allowing it all to come together in an ending where everything is just peachy and wonderful. This didn't ruin the movie. It just limited it to what it could have been. Is it structured because it's a safe bet? This is MacFarlane's first feature so I guess it's understandable that it would structured in such a way. But he has such a big fanbase that it seems like he could go nuts with a full movie and it'd be successful. It's already R-rated so why not go a little nuts with the plot outside of what's expected? Or was it's because that's just how it turned out? Certainly a possibility. It's just really strange that he would write such a straight forward script when Family Guy tends to be a lot crazier in it's execution.
Another BIG problem I had with this is something I can't stand with most comedies in general. There's a time period where everything becomes super serious and it's usually a really awkward jerk in that direction. This is no exception and I CAN'T STAND IT WHEN COMEDIES DO THIS! Now there's just as much a place for drama in comedy as there is comedy in drama. The difference is that I don't remember the drama in There Will Be Blood dropping suddenly in the third act so Daniel Plainview could get stuck in a slapstick routine where he's constantly slipping on a banana peel and other assorted objects. When you make a comedy you should make it funny through and through, not force drama down the throats of unsuspecting viewers. Keep little pieces of drama in there for the sake of character development. However the people who paid to see your movie paid to see it and laugh as much as possible. Now Seth, when you ****SPOILERS**** decide it's time to make it seem like Ted may be gone for good after he is torn in half only to have it turn out well in the end anyway like the rest of us predicted ****END SPOILERS**** then it's an awkward turn for the style you were going for.

Despite these downfalls Ted still made me laugh more than most comedies I've seen recently. Even though it has all the low points of the Family Guy humor it had all the high points of Family Guy humor and then some. One of my favorite scenes was essentially a copy/paste of a Family Guy scene, but it was so fantastic! Watching Ted and John fight in the hotel room with the cartoon-ish sound effects and over the top throws and blows was incredible! Then of course there's the scene early on when Lori comes home to find that Ted hired four hookers and there's a literal piece of shit on the floor because of a game of truth or dare. Ted does more right than wrong. I can imagine sitting through this wonderful piece of comedy over and over again. I also look forward to picking up the DVD one day and see what the extended cut is like.

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