Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Ted

I have never watched an episode of Family Guy or American Dad and I missed the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen so I am unfamiliar with Seth MacFarlane’s work.  In fact, I would have no idea what he even looks like had someone not told me a few years back that I had just seen him in a karaoke bar in Koreatown.  Initially I had little interest in his directorial debut in Ted as the traditional trailers and TV spots did little to pique my interest.  It was not until I saw the red band trailer (or R-rated trailer) on YouTube that I took an interest in the movie as it became evident they weren’t going to pull any punches in this comedy.  My one trepidation about the movie was whether or not the live teddy bear gag would wear thin within the first fifteen minutes of the film. 

Thankfully, it does not.

The plot of the film is a where-are-they-now story set twenty years after a lonely ten- year old boy wishes that his teddy bear would come to life.  What ensues is a brand of vulgar yet lovable idiocy.  The premise is ridiculous and the jokes profane and vulgar, but despite the best efforts of the raucously foul mouth teddy bear to misdirect, this film is a very much the amalgamation of romcom and buddy flick that has proven to be a big box office winner.  So what makes the movie all come together?

It starts with Mark Wahlberg.  I am in no way a fan of Mark Wahlberg - the serious actor, but as I mentioned in my review of Contraband, I am a huge fan of Mark Wahlberg - the comedic actor.  In my opinion, his best work leading into this movie is in the vastly underrated The Other Guys.  What makes him good at inducing laughter is the ever-so-slight awkwardness that underlies his machismo that translates easily into a punch line.  As John – the man-child owner of Seth MacFarlane’s Ted, he is such a likable character because he delivers line after line of absurdity with a high level of sincerity.  To say that he and MacFarlane have a strong chemistry trading barbs and engaging in sophomoric repartee is a huge understatement.

As for the aforementioned MacFarlane, his voice work as Ted is equally important to the success of the movie.  He perfectly complements Wahlberg’s more methodical verbal pacing with his quick delivery and sharp one-liners, which fire off faster than the punch lines at a Chris Rock standup set (circa 1999) and are just as funny.  As I watched the movie, I was amazed that no matter how raunchy or borderline offensive the jokes were, the mask of a fuzzy teddy bear worked miracles in dulling any sense of impropriety.  But make no mistake about it, underlying the boatloads of vulgarity that spew forth from Ted’s mouth, is a ton of heart.

Almost as good as Wahlberg and MacFarlane is Mila Kunis, who has mastered the art of playing the incredibly attractive yet utterly approachable woman who is almost too cool to really exist.  She has the difficult task of playing the part of the unsatisfied girlfriend who acts as the foil to the juvenile chicanery, without losing favor with the audience.  This is no easy fete to achieve – one that Katherine Heigl has failed to master in just about all of her movies, but Kunis pulls it off perfectly. 

As for the rest of the cast, the work is spot on.  Giovanni Ribisi excels at playing an uber creep - likewise for Joel McHalePatrick Warburton (Puddy from Seinfeld) and Ryan Reynolds are awkwardly funny in very small doses and even Laura Vandervoort – who is brought on to be just another pretty face, fits that bill perfectly.  But to me, Sam Jones, who is best remembered as Flash Gordon in the 80’s cult classic, turns in the breakout performance from the supporting cast.  His appearance in the film is a great gag that delivers huge returns.

I would definitely recommend this movie.  In fact, I myself am planning to see it a second time, as there were almost too many jokes to digest.  Without a doubt, this film is right there with 21 Jump Street as one of the funniest movies I have seen this year and that it is filmed against the backdrop of Boston, Massachusetts is a huge added bonus.  See this movie ASAP and see it with a friend, a sibling, or a significant other.  Ted is a hilarious movie that has a nice balance of romance and raunch that ensures a good time will be had by all. 

Standout Performance: Sam Jones from the cult classic Flash Gordon – a campy movie that is perfectly described in Ted as "so bad and so good” – steals the show.  If you haven’t seen that film, you should see that one too.


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