erik lundegaard

Movie Review: Ted (2012)

WAHNIN’: SPOILAHS

There are belly laughs in Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted” but afterwards I felt depressed and unclean.

“Ted” is a movie about a miracle that gets usurped by the worst 1980s pop-culture crap. It’s about putting away childish things when the main character doesn’t. The two central characters, John Bennett and Lori Collins (Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis), are both nice, good-looking people but most everyone around them is a douchebag, a sap, creepy, or depressingly stupid. A nighttime chase scene winds up at Fenway Park and I thought, “Can’t we have one movie set in Boston that doesn’t wind up at Fenway Park?” Retahded.

But it’s mostly the pop-culture crap, and the waste it signifies, that got me down.

Movie poster for Seth MacFarlane's "Ted" (2012)The movie opens in a nice middle-class neighborhood. It’s Christmastime. Snow is falling gently on the ground, the kids are building snowmen, and it’s that time of year, we’re informed by the narrator (Patrick Stewart), when all the little children ... beat up on the Jewish kids. Little John Bennett is the nice kid in the neighborhood who leaves his house as it’s happening, as four gentiles are beating up on a curly-haired Jewish kid, and he asks, innocently, if anyone wants to play. Everyone pauses in the beating to tell him to get lost—including the Jewish kid. “Yeah, Bennett,” he says, “Get lost!” That’s the first time I belly laughed.

For Christmas John gets a teddy bear, and that night he wishes it could talk to him for real, that it could be his friend for real. A shooting star goes by. Next morning, this miracle has happened.

Initially we wonder if it’s going to be a “Mr. Ed” thing, where nobody will see Ted walking and talking but John. Nope. His parents see and freak. Next thing we know, Ted is on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. He’s a hit. He’s a celebrity. Which is when Patrick Stewart informs us of the first rule of celebrity: “Eventually nobody gives a shit.” And that happens to Ted.

We cut to 2012 and John, now 35,  and Ted are hanging out on the couch, getting high, eating Sugar Pops cereal and watching Sam Jones in the 1980 camp classic “Flash Gordon.” Ted, voiced by Seth MacFarlane, talks about how ugly Boston girls are. He does a bit mocking the Boston girl mid-orgasm: “Hahdah, hahdah.” The two talk about how “Flash Gordon” is the all-American movie: a football quarterback goes into outer space to save the world. What could be better? They both agree Patriots QB Tom Brady could totally do that. Then John realizes it’s 9:30 and he’s already late for work at Liberty Rent-a-Car, where he’s hoping to hang on long enough to make a $37K a year job. Since he’s too high, Ted drives him there.

Can I pause for a moment? I just hate this kind of thing. I hate it when a movie gives us a transformative event but doesn’t recognize it as such. The filmmakers are so intent on their own metaphor, or have so little faith in humanity, that they assume we’ll see the transformative event as akin to, I don’t know, the iPad, or “Home Alone,” and, after a flurry of activity, we’ll forget about it.

So in “District 9,” the transformative event is aliens landing on Earth, the metaphor is “aliens as persecuted minority,” and that’s what they become, and that’s all they become. So in “Ted,” an inanimate object becomes a living, sentient being through prayer. In the real world, entire religions would be built around him. Thousands would descend upon John, demanding that he pray for them, too. The law would get involved (does Ted have civil rights?), as would science (exactly how is he alive?), and the military (can John animate other inanimate objects—like weapons?). But writer-director Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy”) would rather wallow in gags about ’80s pop culture. Ted, a true Christmas miracle, simply becomes a fuzzier version of Gary Coleman: a cute star in the 1980s who struggles to find his way in the 2000s.

MacFarlane steeps us in ’80s nostalgia. During John’s first date with Lori, four years earlier, they watch “Octopussy” together. When he recalls the party where they met on the dance floor, it’s an almost frame-by-frame remake of the “Saturday Night Fever” parody sequence in “Airplane.” “Flash Gordon” keeps getting referenced, and Sam Jones, its star, eventually shows up, and they all party and do coke together, which causes Lori to break up with John, who tries to win her back by crashing Norah Jones’ concert and singing “All Time High,” the theme from “Octopussy,” to Lori in the audience.

There are also references to Sinead O’Connor, Tom Skerrit, “Top Gun,” “T.J. Hooker,” and “Aliens,” while the villain, Donny (an incredibly creepy Giovanni Ribisi), who covets Ted, wants to buy him, and then kidnaps him, dances to Tiffany singing her mall-hit, “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

Ick.

We see the conflict between Lori and Ted coming a mile off, and, to MacFarlane’s credit, he doesn’t draw it out. Lori wants Ted out, John is straightforward with him, Ted gets his own place and a job as a cashier at a supermarket, where he bangs the cute cashier, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth, who has an early Denise Richards thing going) on top of the produce in the back. For which he gets promoted.

There are funny bits. Ted tells off the grocery store manager, who admits he’s not used to being talked to that way. “That’s because everyone’s mouth is usually full of your wife’s box,” Ted replies.

There are sweet bits. Lori says, “I know I’m not a talking teddy bear but at least you didn’t have to make a wish to get me.” John replies, “How do you know?”

Wahlberg is, again, quite good as another sweet, laid-back dude who can throw a punch when he needs to. And the look of pure joy on his face when he first sees Sam Jones is adorable. But he’s playing a guy who eats Sugar Pops and gets high all the time and he still looks like Mark Wahlberg? Please. Plus I wouldn’t mind seeing him show the fire he showed in “The Departed” again. At least once. In a leading role.

Ultimately “Ted” is a celebration of stupid people liking stupid shit. One assumes that MacFarlane, as funny as he is, is one of these people. He has the chance to say something about miracles, or the emptiness of nostalgia, but we don’t even get the “putting away childish things” lesson. During a chase, Ted gets torn, and dies, but he’s brought back to life by Lori, who makes her own wish on a shooting star. Apparently this is the only wish God grants: Bringing Ted to life. So he can make pussy jokes. Plus jokes about Mexicans and the Chinese, who are, like, totally hilarious. The way they talk.

If it’s any consolation, I don’t like “Family Guy,” either.


Posted at 07:02 AM on Mon. Jul 30, 2012 in category Movie Reviews - 2012  
Tags: , , ,

COMMENTS

Jordan wrote:

It sounds better than The Watch!

Comment posted on Thu. Aug 02, 2012 at 05:33 AM

vnnnvonvlkdnvl wrote:

Weird, disturbing, pointlessly racist, has mark wahlberg in it, and is strangely aimed a target audience of racist toddlers and doesnt even try to shoot the very adult stuff over the heads of the masses of minors who will watch this thing al la southpark- makes matt parker and trey stone look like very responsible schoolteachers in comparison.

It Is full of references to itself and boston and seth mcfarlane to the point of trying to pretend a culture that loves a “shit on the floor joke” and some rather unpleasant wide spectrum racism is somehow quirky and humorous as it ticks off first a distasteful “bullying jews is normal joke, an ”all brown people are muslims joke and the iconic classic “angry chinese kungfu chef stereotype just for good effect.
Wait for ted 2 where we make arbitrary attacks about black people being drug dealers and mexicans mowing the lawn, introduce your children to joys of heroin abuse, drink driving and sodomy.
Seth mcfarlane is the type of ”funny“ you want to pummel with a bat.
Its vile from the very start where the narrator cracks a joke? was it a joke? about apache helicopters being death dealing and absolute killing machines? yeah fucking hilarious that is...,
” this... children... is a landmine, it will decimate youre entire body from the waist down leaving you in agony and with bloody stumps for legs for the rest of your life, an absolutely awesome weapon that...“
Id rather watch an adam sandler film, seriously...
When the American empire finally chokes its last ,this film could be held up as a cultural artifact as to why it had to happen.
Anyone who can watch this and not be simply thoroughly disturbed as to what thismovies intentions might be,
A casually racist, misogynistic, bad taste movie aimed with its humour styled to appeal to ten year old boys and a subject matter at times thats only suitable for someone strictly over 21.
If this movie were a person it would be outside a primary school, trying to get the kids to take drugs, giving them candies and feeling them up.

To add to it being totally self referential crap, woefully misguided (”" oooo a cgi thing that appeals directly to children and is full of drug use scenes , how funny!“” )
Someone should be dragged down a murky alley and chopped up for making this unexplicable, unfunny, highly irresponsible, racist, misogynist, disturbing, creepy turd of a film.

Comment posted on Fri. Aug 31, 2012 at 03:15 AM

You may bypass the ID fields and security question below if you log in before commenting.


 
 





Receive notification of further comments via e-mail

« Quotes of the Day: Ichiro and 'The Throw'   |   Home   |   Smashing Film Crit Hulk's Review of 'Dark Knight Rises' »
 RSS    Facebook

Twitter: @ErikLundegaard

ARCHIVES

All previous entries

LINKS
Movies
Jeffrey Wells
The Film Experience
Roger Ebert
Baseball
Rob Neyer
Joe Posnanski
Cardboard Gods
Politics
Andrew Sullivan
Alex Pareene
Hendrik Hertzberg
Friends
Cloud Five Comics
Copy Curmudgeon
Deb Ellis
Andrew Engelson
Jerry Grillo
Tim Harrison
Eric Hanson
Ben Stocking
Jim Walsh
dative-querulous