Allow me to present you with three quotes from reviews by big name critics on Seth Macfarlane’s comedy extravaganza (and last weekend’s box office king) Ted:
“Ted is hysterically, gut-bustingly funny.” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)
“Not too many films serve up laughs that just keep on rolling with regularity from beginning to end, but MacFarlane’s directorial debut does so and without any feeling of strain.” (Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter)
“A crass, foul-mouthed, mostly hilarious, surprisingly sentimental bromance…” (Ty Burr, Boston Globe)
I gave you these positive reviews to show you that there are people out there who quite enjoyed what Macfarlane and Co. are selling. There’s even another review out there (I believe it was an anonymous reviewer for CBS TV) that calls it “one of the funniest movies ever.” Let me go ahead and nip this in the bud right now…
Ted is disappointingly unfunny, slow, and as my man A.O. Scott said, “the sin of Ted is not that it is offensive but that it is boring, lazy and wildly unoriginal.” Amen.
You know the concept of the film already and if you didn’t, well, the poster above pretty much settles that. Ted is a teddy bear that came to life when little Johnny Bennett wishes for that to happen on his 8th Christmas. The film begins with narration from Patrick Stewart (Get it? It’s funny because he’s a serious actor and he says things like “Nothing is more powerful than a young boys wish… except an Apache helicopter… those things have machine guns and missiles.”) and continues to tell the story of John and Ted as adults, if you will.
John is played by Mark Wahlberg (doing his absolute best at keeping a straight face while he acts across from a stuffed animal – there are times when he looks like he’s absolutely enjoying himself and then others when he looks ready to move on to his next film) and he is the most solid definition of a man-child that there is. He “works” at a car rental place but makes a habit of taking long breaks to meet up with Ted to smoke pot and watch “Cheers” DVD commentary. It sounds like a pretty simple and not-too-threatening of a lifestyle, but when you have a four-year relationship with a woman like Lori (Mila Kunis, continuing her penance she must owe to Macfarlane; she’s beautiful as always and sells her jokes well but she was much more convincing, and funny for that matter, in Friends with Benefits) then you can’t always act like what a stoner with a walking, talking teddy bear of a best friend might.
And that’s where one of the larger problems with the film lies. There would appear at many moments that we are supposed to truly care that not only that the two love-birds stay together, but that they’re actually happy. We are told that he “loves her more than life itself” and that she thinks that one of the perks of being with him is that he is the “hottest man in all of Boston.” Well, golly, it looks like these two have truly hit the jackpot. Despite this apparent love John has for Lori, he continues to screw things up. His behavior isn’t even the least bit redemptive either, as he continues to make these mistakes when all that he really has to do is act like a goddamn adult and she will be happy.
And I understand greatly that a movie like this is not a character-driven study, and believe me, I wasn’t looking for the most memorable characters with significant change ever. I was looking for humor and there was very little to be found here. The script is inconsistent, modeling itself after an episode of “Family Guy” in that there are clever (kinda) pop culture references, both obscure and otherwise. There’s also an extended “Flash Gordon” reference that permeates a good portion of the second half of the film. I can see how if you have a vast knowledge of “Flash” and his goofy New York Jets history then maybe that scene would have landed. But instead, I didn’t, and it completely fell flat. And I’ll put it this way… I’m willing to bet that even if I had seen an episode or two, I still wouldn’t have laughed all that heartily while Wahlberg drives through the city of Boston with a red and yellow streak behind his car.
Ted turned out to be not all that different from the show that made its creator famous. “Family Guy” has made its mark as being off-the-wall, animated, and ultimately, funny. Ted is certainly off-the-wall, from its bizarre Giovanni Ribisi plot-line (it’s really something special to take such a fantastic character actor like that and turn him into a stupid caricature that is more difficult to watch than funny) to its over-indulgence in pot humor (and I don’t want to hear that my lack of desire for all-thing marijuana is why I missed the humor – in my opinion, the first and third Harold and Kumar movies are on the short list of comedies that I would take with me to a desert island). Ted is also animated of course in the literal sense. The effects on the bear itself are quite good and it’s impressive to see it eat, drink, and have sex, although the latter is something I’d rather soon forget I ever saw.
Lastly is the idea of Ted being funny. And unfortunately, at the end of the day, the laughs aren’t there. For example, the theater I was in was about as quiet as a screening of Schindler’s List during the big Marky Mark-Ted fight in the hotel room. The two characters throw punches louder than you’ll likely hear in The Dark Knight Rises and it all ends with a resounding slam when a TV pancakes Wahlberg’s most precious of regions. But through the duration of both the fight, and many other scenes, laughs were indeed scarce and that is quite the polar opposite to fantastic comedies like 21 Jump Street. For me, I’d say that instead of going out and giving Ted your money, you would be better served spending time with your own Thunder Buddies doing just about anything else.