Film Review: Ted

Ted headerSeth MacFarlane’s feature debut, Ted, doesn’t take the risks it thinks it does and it would have been nice to see him stay away from his comfort zone a bit more than he does here.

Ted is a fairy tale about a young boy, John, who wishes to life his teddy bear, Ted, at a young age, but instead of seeing their adventures as you boys, the film surmises what would happen if they both grew up.  Flash forward twenty some odd years and Ted has come and gone as a pseudo-celebrity and his buddy John is in a dead end job and dating a successful and always on the edge of leaving him woman in Lori.  Obviously the ultimatum of, “it’s either me or him,” arises with Lori and the apparent crux of our film kicks in.

The first and third acts of this film don’t really work and provide little laughs unless you think a cursing teddy bear is hilarious.  I guess I should re-phrase that, they work exactly the way they are supposed to, but they are so stereotypical and by the numbers that I found myself borderline board outside the random scatter shots of humor that actually hit.

MacFarlane even tries to throw in some live action cutaways, ala Family Guy, and none of them are as memorable as the best bits in the film. It also seems to be quite a waste we didn’t get more of a glimpse of Ted’s fame as I think that would have been far more interesting than the first act of the film.  MacFarlane goes for a throw everything at the wall and see what sticks approach (not a lot) and it doesn’t help that he doesn’t get the best work he could out of his lead actors.

Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis play our romantic leads and they never really have much of a chemistry nor deliver their best work by a long shot.  Both of them have been far funnier in other films and I am not really sure what went wrong here.  In fact, the supporting roles in general are all rather underused and the film’s big “cameo” is actually probably pretty close to being the film’s third lead; though I think this might have been MacFarlane’s intention.  The cast is more than adequate though, the real problem is that no one has anything to do.  The film’s villains feel so shoe horned into the picture that the third act feels like a completely different movie; and unfortunately one completely devoid of thrills.  The way the treat Joel McHale’s Rex is also wildly inconsistent and I think they wasted the very talented star.  When two acts of the film come close to borderline failing you can’t help but think the movie is an all out dud, but somehow the second act makes the film recommendable.

The second act of the film finds the characters acting genuine, has a lot of heart, and hits almost every laugh it goes for.  Why MacFarlane wasn’t able to translate this to the whole picture is beyond me, but he makes the middle of his film shine.  It all starts when John gets sucked away to a party with Ted that has a surprise guest of honor and runs until the villains of the movie make their big move.  The party is hilarious and features some great references (even if you haven’t seen the film it is having fun with), the characters (Ted especially) act in reasonable, interesting and honest ways, and the Ted and John relationship is wonderfully realized.  Seriously, where was this the rest of the film?  Also, MacFarlane, like in Family Guy, knows how to stage a hell of a fight and there is a fist fight here that is almost worth the price of admission alone.  The second act stands so far above the other parts of the film it is almost disheartening as MacFarlane had a really great premise and kind of dropped the ball.  Still, I gladly enjoyed this part of the film, but was pretty disappointed with everything else.

When it’s all said and done, Ted doesn’t succeed at a whole lot.  If you think a foul mouthed teddy bear is funny then I am sure you will find a lot to like, but I wish the film showed a bit more of the intelligence it puts into the film’s heart which is surprisingly strong.  The premise was rich but MacFarlane wastes it on cheap raunchy bits and a really weak thriller premise in its third act.  It’s a shame because I think this film had a lot of potential (as the middle act shows) to be great, but it came up quite short.

Ted is a C-

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