Ted occupies kind of an odd place in summer films. It is an often riotously funny comedy, but it’s not necessarily a very good movie.
If all you are looking for is a reason to laugh, then Ted delivers the goods in spades. Just don’t expect coherence of a story line when coming in. Ted is a TV sketch extended to feature length. The fact that much of it works is a tribute to the idea and the brilliant comic mind behind it. However, the movie’s shortcomings are probably also because of the same two things.
Ted is a terrific deconstruction of pop culture, which makes it very funny in a wink-nudge way, but it also dates the movie fast. It’s interesting, there is an off-hand riff in which a character mocks Adam Sandler’s horrible comedy Jack & Jill. Yet the movie never takes the time to realize that structurally, Ted is not all the far off from that much less funny film. In both, a basically nice guy is having his life, his career and his love destroyed by an obnoxious visitor. The only differences are the Ted is a walking, talking Teddy bear and Jack and Jill is Adam Sandler in drag. Well, that and the fact that writer/director Seth MacFarlane is a hell of a lot funnier than Adam Sandler.
Still, more than occasionally Ted also feels a bit like an extended version of MacFarlane’s TV series Family Guy – with the inappropriately edgy bear Ted replacing the inappropriately edgy baby Stewie – but it is also one that works surprisingly well.
The story is pretty basic. Little lonely boy wishes on a star that his beloved Teddy bear can really talk. Through some miracle, it comes true, Ted can walk and talk like a real live boy. (The bear is voiced by MacFarlane.) They bond due to mutual love, fear of thunder and an odd obsession with the horrible 1980 version of Flash Gordon. The boy and Teddy promise they will always be best friends.
Fast forward twenty-some years. The boy has grown up to be John (Mark Wahlberg), a slacker pothead with a dead end job and a smoking hot (and oddly patient about the talking bear) girlfriend (Mila Kunis). Ted has taken on most of the bad habits of his buddy – drinking, drugs, cursing, loose women – in fact Ted is a horrible influence. Finally the girlfriend drops the ultimatum – it’s me or the bear.
Then there is an absolutely absurd subplot about a creepy stalkerish dad (Giovanni Ribisi) who wants to get Ted for his own son.
Like I said, not much of a storyline, but every time the plot seems close to sputtering out the bear will say or do something gleefully anti-social and you can’t help but laugh. This nearly constant stream of smart jokes mostly makes up for the horribly clichéd storyline – though the manufactured plot nearly overwhelms the levity in the final 10-15 minutes.
When Ted is working, though, it is as funny as any film you’ll see this year.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 29, 2012.