ted – 2012
Directed by Seth MacFarlane
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, MacFarlane (voice), Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale, Patrick Warburton, Matt Walsh
Screenplay MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellsley Wild
I have seen, perhaps, 2 episodes of The Family Guy. When it came out, I was caught up in The Simpsons and the humor seemed derivative. Then I got married, had 2 girls and from that point, even though the show gained in popularity, it was never going to happen in my home. Of the friends I have who watched the show and then watched the movie, half loved the movie and half felt like it was another episode. Thankfully, given my relative lack of exposure I found the ted to be one of the best comedies I have ever seen.
The reasons for this are mainly two: Wahlberg and MacFarlane. A third, Mila Kunis, has made a career for herself as the love interest. It is one thing to stare incredulously at bad behavior. It is a bit harder to present oneself as more than a two-dimensional being in the context of the annoyed girlfriend. Kunis has the ability. She makes herself accessible by giving the appearance to enjoy herself in the moment. Her interactions with ted’s girlfriend at the double date as well as the “brewski” scene (below) are great examples of this.
Her investment is kindness and a reluctance to play anything close to shrill. Too often, we find people in the girlfriend role to be someone we wouldn’t want to even know in the first place. She seems reasonable, and that is important when playing straight in comedies.
Mark Wahlberg has made a career making us believe preposterous situations in his movies. This is, plainly, due to the fact that he looks like he believes the situations himself. As John, he has this child like notion of innocence that allows the average viewer to completely suspend disbelief. This is most prominently shown in the following scene, which, like the movie, is not intended (even in the slightest) for children to see or hear:
His total commitment to being pals with an animated bear is astounding and feels real and fun. I have never been into drugs, but if that’s what it takes to enjoy the Cheers box set extras, maybe I should reconsider.
Seth MacFarlane as ted is one of the great animated pleasures in movie history. His manner is lewd and his education is limited to whatever was on television for the entirety of his life. There is a moment during a wild car chase where ted jumps onto the hood of another car. In the midst of this, he takes a moment to recognize the brilliance of T.J. Hooker. His one liners are incomparable. The discussions he has with his boss at the grocery store, the line he has about the child of his girlfriend and his ideas (with Wahlberg) about the restaurant they want to open are as fresh in my mind as if I saw it today.
There are some drawbacks to the film, but each one of them are tied directly to one source: Giovanni Ribisi. I have given it some thought, and I think it’s time that we put Ribisi out of work. His work is mundane and routine in every film. Let me give you a breakdown: he always plays a morally ambiguous freak. That is it. Except, of course, Avatar, where he played a morally ambiguous weenie. I can’t remember a movie he has been in that has been made in anything but worse with his presence. Here he plays a sleaze who wants to own ted. This leads to one of the biggest contradictions of the film. There is a great scene where John and ted get into a fight in a motel. This last for a good long time with much wonderful violence, showing the teddy bear can really hold his own. Not ten minutes later, there is Ribisi, all 98 pounds of weakness, grabbing ted and throwing him in a bag, as if he is a rag doll. Great, now we get to see Ribisi through most of the rest of the movie.
Were it not for Ribisi, this film would be in my top 5 on my comedy list. Even with his stain, the movie plays kind of like Stripes, where everything is perfect until they go to Austria.
(****1/2 out of *****)