Appellate Judge Tom Becker once had a Teddy bear named Meatloaf—don't fork with him.
From the creator of Family Guy!
I guess this is the time of Seth MacFarlane. He's got three animated series currently running—Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, and American Dad!—and he's slated to emcee the 2013 Academy Awards. Plus, in 2012, he gave us Ted, a comedy that grossed half a billion dollars worldwide in its theatrical run.
Now, Ted comes to Blu-ray via Universal.
Facts of the Case
Eight-year-old Johnny isn't a particularly popular kid in his Boston neighborhood, so he's delighted when his parents get him a Teddy bear for Christmas. Johnny finally has a friend he can talk to! One night, he wishes that Ted could talk back to him. Coincidentally, there's a falling star that night, and when Johnny wakes up, he finds Ted blabbering away.
Word travels fast about the miraculous talking Teddy, and soon Ted is a minor celebrity.
But fame is fleeting, and Ted goes the route of so many curiosity celebrities (and child stars), drinking, partying, and getting into trouble with the police.
Years later, Ted is living with a now-35-year-old Johnny (Mark Wahlberg, The Departed). While chronologically, Johnny might be a man, he's still living like a boy—blowing off work (at a rental car agency) to party with Ted (voiced by writer/director Seth MacFarlane), who, like Johnny, has grown into a foul-mouthed stoner.
But Johnny also has a beautiful, upwardly mobile girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis, Black Swan). She loves him, but after four years together, she wants more.
And "more" is not sharing her guy with a hard-partying, trash-talking, perpetually horny stuffed toy.
Ted is the ultimate male fantasy: It's about a guy with a crappy, disposable job who does nothing all day besides getting drunk and stoned with his imaginary childhood friend, but is still built like Mark Wahlberg and has a goddess girlfriend panting after him. Anybody else here want this guy's life? Even without the talking toy bear conceit, it makes no sense, which is fine—but it's not half as funny or inventive as it should be, which is not so fine.
I like Wahlberg, and the idea of a talking Teddy bear that stays around for the guy's entire life sounded like it could be funny and charming, an off-kilter buddy comedy.
But Ted lost me almost from the get-go. Beginning with Patrick Stewart's labored mock-whimsy narration, which references people like Corey Feldman and Frankie Muniz as examples of fleeting fame, the film aims low—really low—powered by junior high-level sex, anatomy, and body fluid jokes, and pop culture references that make it seem already dated.
In a half-hour format like Family Guy, the steady stream of pop-culture references can be clever and endearing, and the raunchy stuff has to be artfully suggested; in Ted, which runs nearly two hours, it all becomes oppressive—though you could probably make a good drinking game out of calling out the endless pop culture comments (The Outsiders! Diff'rent Strokes! Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill! Jackpot!).
The low-ball humor in Ted wears thin pretty quickly. It's not just that it's crass, it's gratuitously crass. I wasn't offended by the arbitrary racial jokes, the barrage of profanity, the insistent politically incorrect humor (including references to 9/11 and child abuse), but I was really stunned at how unfunny it all was. MacFarlane seems to be in such a lather to be shocking that he's forgotten how to simply set up a situation and deliver a punchline; it's like watching a 6-year-old reading The Cat in the Hat and throwing in poop jokes and body-part comments to jazz things up, because, you know, on his own, Dr. Seuss isn't funny or clever enough.
A foul-mouthed Teddy bear who sounds like Peter Griffin from Family Guy is an amusing idea, but it's an idea that doesn't hold up for more than 15 minutes, let alone two hours. MacFarlane ultimately shoots himself in the foot (or up the ass! Ha! Ha! Ha!), because things that could be funny-with-an-edge end up getting lost in the pig pile—so, a clip of a mock DVD extra from the box set of Cheers, with an apparently stoned Ted Danson talking about getting high on the set, becomes "just another" drug joke; a scene in which Ted invites a bunch of prostitutes over is kind of clever—until we find out that one of them has defecated on the rug. The film is pocked with dragged-out, ugly punchlines; here and there, MacFarlane doesn't trust his audience to get the joke, and so offers an explanation, as in a pointless but extended reference to actor Brandon Routh's failed attempt to restart the Superman franchise.
If MacFarlane had focused more on story and character and less on ham-fisted shock humor, Ted could have been a great comedy. Instead, we get a barely-there plot about Kunis wanting Johnny to choose between her and Ted—although, even without the bear, the guy hardly seems ready to take on the world—and some late-game business about Ted being kidnapped. It's little more than an excuse to watch a toy bear say and do outrageous things.
Wahlberg has a real flair for comedy, as he showed in the uneven but decent The Other Guys, and the dim but likeable man-child Johnny is the kind of role he was made to play. Whatever heart this film has is provided by the actor, not the script. Wahlberg's sweet and simple character rings true even when everything that's going on around him doesn't. Kunis is sympathetic as the patient—to a point—Lori, and Joel McHale and Giovanni Ribisi have supporting parts as, respectively, Lori's wealthy and amorous boss and a Ted-obsessed stalker.
Universal has been putting out some good-looking Blu-rays lately, and Ted (Blu-ray) is no exception. The 1.85/1080p transfer is solid, with good colors and excellent detail; likewise the DTS-HD Master Audio surround track is clean and clear. It's all what you'd expect from a recent film.
The disc offers the R-rated theatrical release, as well as a seven-minute longer Unrated cut. For supplements, we get a commentary with Wahlberg, MacFarlane, and co-writer Alec Sulkin, which is available only on the theatrical cut; a "making of" featurette; "Teddy Bear Scuffle," which examines a fight scene between Wahlberg and Ted; deleted scenes and alternate takes; and a gag reel, along with a DVD copy and instructions for a digital download.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
OK, so I shouldn't exactly have been expecting Molière, and at times, Ted is undeniably funny. The best scenes feature Ted and Johnny getting stoned and talking about "important" things—like the '80s version of Flash Gordon with Sam Jones, who provides a cameo here that ends up being one of the highlights of the film. Buried under the excessive iterations of the "F-word" and "F-sounds" (that's "F" for "fart") are some very funny lines and a few terrific moments—including Johnny's horrified reaction when Lori uses a particularly nasty slur toward a trashy woman in a restaurant; a phone conversation in which Ted convinces Johnny to cut out of work to get high ("five minutes, I promise, then I'll kick you out"); a scene in which Johnny tries to guess the "white-trash" name of Ted's new girlfriend; and the cleaning up of the prostitute's turd bit.
These scenes, and some of the dialogue, are funny because they resonate in an unforced way; they're relatable, and don't feel as though MacFarlane is trying to shock us.
The year 2012 saw a pretty great buddy comedy in 21 Jump Street. While it featured its share of crude humor, it also contained some genuinely funny scenes and stars whose rapport was evident and enduring. I think I was expecting Ted to be more in this vein—more heart and wit, and less puerile gross-out stuff.
Certain things are just funnier when they're said and done by a cartoon character, and that's the situation in Ted: what might be a laugh riot coming from Stewie and Peter on Family Guy—cleaned up for TV—just comes across as tasteless from live actors and an animatronic Teddy bear.
A good Blu-ray from Universal of a film a lot of people liked, but I didn't.
I'm not going to call it guilty, but I can't really call it good, either.
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Scales of Justice
• Theatrical Cut
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