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'Ted' marks promising film career for McFarlane

By Jordan Wright
On July 16, 2012

 

Seth McFarlane is a name that I have long stopped associating with quality. After years of watching "Family Guy" drag out its tired gimmicks to cover up a lack of creative humor, along with the pointless green lighting of a mediocre spinoff, there is no name attached to the production of "Ted" that I could even remotely attach myself to. Therefore I have no real reason for enjoying said film beyond the fact that it's actually a surprisingly fun comedy that harkens back to McFarlane's comedic heyday.

Mark Wahlberg plays John Bennett, who in his lonely childhood makes a wish to bring the teddy bear that he received for Christmas to life so that he'll always have a lifelong friend. The wish comes true and Ted -voiced by McFarlane- stays by John's side throughout his entire childhood. What he didn't quite take into account when making his wish however, was that eventually, children reach adulthood and as an adult, his relationship with his living teddy bear and best friend, which had become a national phenomenon only to later fade into obscurity, is at odds with his relationship with his girlfriend Lori -Mila Kunis- who he wants to spend the rest of his life with.

McFarlane's formula of situational comedy with exaggerated and fantastical twists is in full effect in "Ted." The majority of the film is following the daily life of John as he tries to balance his professional career and his relationship with Lori with his long time friendship with Ted, who is treated like a washed up celebrity, who is distracting him from the more important things in his life. The pace of the movie is very much suited to his television sensibilities, as I spent a grand majority of the film wondering if "Ted" isn't or was at some point, pilot for an actual weekly sitcom. That isn't to say that it's a sitcom that I wouldn't watch but the best way to sum the film up would be to call it the best "Family Guy" episode ever made, extended to an hour and a half in length and without the cutaway gags.

Where McFarlane doesn't quite stretch himself in terms of formula, the level of restraint serves the film incredibly well. As exaggerated as "Ted's" world is and despite being built on a premise of pure fantasy, the story is ultimately about a man's self realization on the fact that everybody needs to grow up and how to prioritize responsibilities over desires. Wahlberg manages to essentially play a manchild without the obnoxious tendencies that make characters of his archetype feel like something out of a cartoon. You genuinely want to see him better himself, while his relationship with Kunis' character is executed in a refreshingly believable fashion, preventing the film from portraying any person in the wrong. In a lesser film, one or both would be portrayed obnoxiously but I praise the film for striking a balance between the both arguments.

Of course, what is ultimately the crowning achievement of "Ted" is just how pleasantly and consistently funny the movie is. The film uses rapid fire comedy, peppering the audience with as many jokes as possible hoping that something sticks, resulting in several missed jokes but more than enough genuine laughs to drown at the few duds of the film.  Many of the jokes are set up by the relationship between John and Ted, which is the absolute highlight of the film. Despite all of the visual gags played with, it becomes really easy early on to forget that Ted is a talking teddy bear. The relationship between the two is played so straight that most of the film could have easily been rewritten to be the misadventures of Mark Wahlberg and Seth McFarlane, without the fantasy gimmick. Their relationship is consistently touching, hilarious, and easily the selling point of the entire film.

Unfortunately, the comedic misfires of the film, in addition to a third act that feels overall uninspired and rushed, hold the film back from achieving the payoff that it should have. These faults, along with the frequent hit and miss celebrity cameos hurt "Ted" in the long run but don't cripple it or prevent it from being the most pleasant surprise that I have come across all summer.

B-


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