Movie Review: Ted (2012)

Runtime: 106 minutes
Rated: R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language,
and drug-use)
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Writers: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane
Comedy | Fantasy

Ted is about a boy named “John Bennett” (Bretton Manley) who, at 8 years old, wishes for his teddy bear to come to life. His wish is inexplicably granted when this cute stuffed animal is animated with the soul of...well, as best I can describe it, a bong-craving incarnation of “Brian the Dog” from Family Guy, only this is a bear instead of a dog. So there goes any remote hope of some viewer by chance seeing a boy with an enchanted bear and thinking this will be a cute little kid’s movie. Please don’t make that mistake!

The voice of the bear, “Ted” (MacFarlane) varies widely between “Peter Griffin” and “Brian the dog” throughout the film. As we see John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted growing up together, great lengths are gone to in order to show us their boos and whore-obsessed lifestyle of immaturity, with Ted being much worse than John with John’s beautiful girlfriend, “Lori” (Mila Kunis).

And here, unlike in movies where only the child seems to notice the stuffed animal coming to life, John’s family and the freaking whole world notices it, too. Ted becomes more than a celebrity—he becomes a phenomenon, even a miracle! He appears on The Johnny Carson Show and becomes a worldwide sensation.

Of course, we’re not supposed to wonder why he isn’t kidnapped by the government and analyzed to see what makes him “tick.” We’re just supposed to laugh, and we do, especially when Ted goes the way of Feldman and so many super-celebs and becomes a has-been, and pretty soon, is just getting by like the rest of us. This is where the movie really takes off when we find still highly immature John and Ted trying to find their place. No matter how famous you are, nobody gives a shit about you after a while. So says the narrator (Patrick Stewart) at the opening, and it’s true.

And as expected, Lori begins to take issue with John’s gross lack of personal accountability and immaturity, which is only encouraged and made worse by Ted. With Lori’s creepy jerk of a boss (Joel McHale) at work and fighting for attention from John at home, the fractured drama in this relationship really needs no explaining.

But let’s back up and consider what we’re actually laughing at; it’s a movie about a boy who wishes for a bear to come to life and it happens. One need not be that bright to realize that this would ruin a boy’s life were it to ever actually happen, and poor John’s life was ruined and had to be ruined to give us this film. But given the premise of the film, why hasn’t it happened a lot more? Why only once?

The movie raises so many other less-important questions that we can’t help but ask, like how Ted holds glasses at the dinner table, or how he consumes (and processes) drugs and food and drink, or how he hasn’t fallen apart in the 27-year time-span between when John was 8 and finally 35 (a long time of getting dirty and worn and being washed over and over. We want to look past it all, but the questions keep tugging at us, like how can a teddy bear without a social security number get a job? And for a furry dude with no penis, this guy sure desires sex a lot.

We can just laugh it off like we’re supposed to, but nothing really makes sense enough to fully allow us to appreciate it (such is not surprising with this being directed by MacFarlane). We are required to feel for John and his relationship with his bear, and we do, but only as we relate to our old stuffed animals from olden times.

In a film like this, we welcome a good runtime and most of the generally predictable plot. These, however, begin to try our patience when we are bombarded with clichés that are at first buried in clever parodies from heavy doses of 80s nostalgia, but by the end, begin to do nothing but just deliberately wrench out emotion. Ted is an incredibly funny film in nearly every way possible, just not by any means a great one. And at least most of it is intelligent humor, even those portions that shamelessly wring dry the rag of “trash” humor.

To work, smut comedy has to capitalize on immature people who haven’t grown up yet. Somehow, it makes us feel better inside to watch others make stupid decisions. What this film does that sets it apart from so many other attempts at being just nastily funny is that it turns the montages into disturbingly funny spins on everything from Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones himself makes more than one appearance) to, well, you name it.

And it even incorporates a psychotic fan-base for Ted in a sub-plot when a nut father (Giovanni Ribisi) and his son (Aedin Mincks) come looking for something outside of healthy family affection from Ted. But these psychos seem utterly unprepared for housing and keeping a living teddy bear who can open doors and run away as easily as a person can. And that seems to be a norm in this film; growing up with a level sense of adjustment is a hard thing to acquire in a world where everything is supposed to be valued for being funny only because everyone is maladjusted in some way.

Coming from MacFarlane’s usual Family Guy styling, this film has so many elements, themes, and under-themes that it tries to accomplish too much and lacks focus, giving out so much energy trying to shoot down and touch on modern trends that to say we needed some honing down here is an understatement.

If you think about it, Ted could have been a horror movie with just a bit of tweaking since a man’s “soul” in a teddy bear body (that gets filthy and is subject to being repaired with crude measures like stapling and stitching) can be quite unsettling. But the relentless laughs will get us through those senseless and ridiculous bits that we weren’t suppose to focus on in the first place. Maybe this movie is MacFarlane's penance for bringing us that abomination called The Cleveland Show.