Wednesday, January 23, 2013


2012's TED hooked me in on premise alone: a 35 year old man who still pals around with his childhood teddy bear that magically came to life when he wished upon a star back in the mid '80s. Not matter how badly the idea could be botched (and there must certainly be 1001 ways), just watching Mark Wahlberg interacting with a potty mouthed, a bit soiled in the fur toy was just too irresistible to miss. The comic possibilities!

Unsurprisingly, it would prove to be crass. The trend in contemporary comedies is to up the ante on profanity and sex and gross-out gags beyond any good sense. I avoid most of them, occasionally catching a few minutes of BRIDESMAIDS or HORRIBLE BOSSES on cable, and being reassured that I would be wasting time I could be using to clean the lint trap in my dryer or something else productive. The movies I have seen in recent years like HOT TUB TIME MACHINE and TROPIC THUNDER floored me at times with their boundary pushing.  I am far from being a prude but the vulgarity gets wearying. Being crude alone is not the makings of great comedy. I wish the overgrown adolescents churning these films out got that. But if they make $$$$.....

I skipped TED's release last summer; the film turned out to be a huge box office success worldwide (imagine this movie dubbed into Russian?!). But I  finally gave in and watched it this past weekend.  I wasn't sorry, discovering that a film that I knew would at least be smirk inducing was laugh out loud hilarious a good deal of the time. And not just the moments that earned the film its R-rating. Though to be honest, most. How many talking stuffed animal movies have you seen where its hero makes it with prostitutes?

Wahlberg, in a nice change of pace role, plays John Bennett, the underachieving Boston protagonist who works the counter at a car rental agency and has somehow maintained a 4 year relationship with beautiful exec Lori (Mila Kunis), even though John's living teddy bear, "Ted" (voiced by writer/director Seth MacFarlane) lives with them. Lori is itching for an engagement ring and concerned that her beau's longtime friend is arresting his development beyond repair.  She has good reasons - John and Ted spend hours doing little besides smoking dope and watching the 1980 version of FLASH GORDON.  That film, and its lead actor Sam J. Jones (who appears here) will become integral to the story in ways that will absolutely tickle anyone who remembers that old campy gem.

TED has added menace from Lori's lecherous boss (Joel McHale) who constantly propositions her, and an ultra-creepy man (Giovanni Ribisi) who with his son plots to kidnap Ted. This being a MacFarlane production, there are a fair amount of fart jokes and the pop culture refs are near non-stop, if not as much so as on Family Guy. For example, Tom Skerritt, playing himself, is referenced several times. Even singer Norah Jones (also playing herself) shows up in a sizable role. Ted Danson appears in fake Cheers DVD bonus material that John and Ted watch. And never has '80s pop star Tiffany been used to such great comic effect.

MacFarlane provides the familiar voice of Ted, and a majority of his dialogue is quite rude, occasionally jaw dropping. One good example is Ted's scene with his grocery store boss. Why does a talking teddy bear need to work a minimum wage gig? TED's prologue shows how Ted's overnight celebrity (he even appears on Johnny Carson's program) dimmed over time; the novelty wore thin. He's like any number of  former childhood stars sulking around Hollywood. To wit, there is a quick Diff'rent Strokes gag.

TED remains consistently funny, right to the end, though when you fling this many jokes around you're bound to have several duds. This is true of any such movie, including when Woody Allen made his silly early '70s comedies like BANANAS. I was surprised to find that TED found a lot of mileage out of a one joke premise. Quite inventive at times.  There are good examples of both verbal and physical shtick - like when the Chinese neighbor busts in with a butcher knife and a duck to complain about all the noise coming from Ted's party.

If my descriptions entice you, a new guilty pleasure awaits.  Others, beware.


Steve Finnell said...

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redeyespy said...

Appreciate the invite. But....relevance to this post? Did you see this movie? Any thoughts?