Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ted - 2012

"Ted" - 2012
Dir. by Seth MacFarlane - 1 hr. 46 min.

Official Red Band Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I go back and forth on my opinion of Seth MacFarlane and his work.  There have been times where I eagerly watch whatever he's responsible for, and there are times where I despise his work (for a variety of reasons, which I will address later).  But ultimately, you have to take someone and their work for what it is, and not what you wish it was, nor what it could be.  With most of MacFarlane's work, including "Ted," that ends up making the results something of a mixed bag.

John Bennett is an unpopular kid, and during a particularly stressful period of time makes a wish that his teddy bear was alive so that he would have at least one friend.  This wish comes true, Ted (the bear, voiced by MacFarlane) becomes famous (understandably so), and then gets forgotten.  Fast-forward to the modern day, and John (Mark Wahlberg) is working at a rental car agency, inexplicably has been dating Lori (Mila Kunis) for four years, and still hangs out with his teddy bear.  Unfortunately, the bear (and John) have developed some counterproductive habits, which is getting in the way of John and Lori's relationship.  This means that Ted has to move out on his own.

Here's the thing: formulas are formulas because they work.  It would be supremely easy to describe this film in terms of what it rips off.  There's MacFarlane's own work (a cutesy, debauched prominent character, like "American Dad's" Roger or "The Family Guy's" Brian), and there's that probably eighty percent of the plot is from "Clerks."  Seth MacFarlane didn't invent this wheel, but he does make it feel like it's one of his wheels.  If you were to describe "Ted" as three episodes of "The Family Guy" in tone and plot, you wouldn't be far off (part of this is using actors that he's familiar with, like Kunis, Patrick Warburton, a voice-over by Patrick Stewart, or even seeing characters from his shows have cameos, like Ted doing a Stewie voice, or the almost English-fluent club guy).  But, while the lack of originality is sometimes infuriating, this is what a Seth MacFarlane product is going to look, sound, and feel like.  At this point, you're either on board or not, and neither view is going to make one whit of difference.

Once you've accepted that MacFarlane is not the sort of creative force who tries to continually re-invent himself (and after a decade-plus of "The Family Guy," you should have arrived at that conclusion by now), then you have to look at the film in question and decide whether this is a good Seth MacFarlane project or not.  In terms of other cartoon directors who have made the jump to feature films, "Ted" is better than "The Simpsons" film, but not as good as any of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's post-"South Park" films.  It probably falls in the middle of Mike Judge's oeuvre; better than "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America," but not as good as any of his live-action films.  "Ted" is a funny film from people who are talented at what they do, and I enjoyed it.  I don't think that it was particularly ambitious, but then again, that's asking for something that isn't usually present in MacFarlane films.

I am aware that I keep hammering on the fact that pretty much everything to do with "Ted" has to be judged on Seth MacFarlane himself, but when you write, direct, and voice-act one of the lead characters in a film, who else to judge it by?  I'd suggest that if you like R-rated comedies, you could do worse than this one.  It's an opportunity to put a few things that Fox won't let MacFarlane normally do (full-on swearing and boobies, for example) into a film, and if you're a fan of the man responsible for "Ted," it's worth checking out.  Just be aware that, for good or bad, if you're familiar with his work, "Ted" is exactly what you think it's going to be, no more, no less.

3 / 5 - Theatre

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