Wednesday, July 25, 2012
The crude but clever Mark Wahlberg comedy “Ted” (*** out of ****) resembles something you’d expect from Adam Sandler. Cretinous heroes, gross out humor, wanton drug abuse, and offensive profanity constitute the primary elements of this witty satire. Indeed, this far-fetched, off-beat, politically incorrect farce is the last thing you would expect from a mainstream actor who specializes in straightforward action thrillers. While it doesn’t qualify as the kind of movie Wahlberg typically makes, “Ted” is precisely what you might expect from cheeky “Family Guy” creator Sean MacFarlane who penned the outrageous script with “Family Guy” co-scribes Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. This amusing but brazen, 115-minute nonsense veers from bromance to romance with our hero caught between his pot-smoking, potty-mouthed teddy bear and his drop-dead gorgeous brunette girlfriend. Aside from its impudent title character, “Ted” doesn’t look like a run-of-the-mill summer movie with its $50-million budget about a walking, talking teddy who delivers the best lines. Not only do Wahlberg and Mila Kunis hold their own against the cuddly CGI hero, but also this unusual threesome generates tangible charisma. Wahlberg and Kunis make their relationship with the eponymous character appear believable even though we know they were not interacting spontaneously with Ted as they do in the finished film. Moreover, MacFarlane and his writers keep things breezing along in this contentious relationship that generates suspense about whether our hero and heroine will survive as a couple. One thing is unmistakable; “Ted” has nothing comparable to compete with in the genre of supernatural characters. The closest thing to “Ted” might be the extraterrestrial comedy “Paul” about an E.T. type alien who lands on Earth and befriends two British tourists in the American Southwest. Some critics have compared “Ted” to the Mel Gibson movie “The Beaver,” about a depressed, suicidal fellow who wears the puppet of a beaver on one arm and becomes its pawn.
Basically, Wahlberg plays a physically grown-up but mentally immature adult who has put his life on hold to raise hell with his party-animal teddy bear. What sets “Ted” apart from other comedies is the unconditional love that a 35-year old loser shares with his childhood plush toy. Our hero leads a sheltered life as a youth in a town just outside of Boston. The neighborhood kids refused to play with John Bennett. When eight-year old John interrupts several kids in the middle of beating up a Jewish boy, all of them—including the victimized Jewish child—send him packing without a qualm. Since he had no friends, John makes a wish on Christmas Eve in 1985 that his teddy would be his best friend. Little does John know that when he made his wish that a falling star plunged from the night skies. Miraculously, John’s wish is granted, and the teddy bear talks to him the next morning. Overnight Ted turns into a national media sensation. At one point, he appears as a guest on the Johnny Carson late night talk show. Ted enjoys his fifteen minutes of fame before he resumes living life as usual with John. Eventually, John has reaches a turning point with his long suffering girlfriend, Lori Collins (Mila Kunis of “The Book of Eli”) who urges John to kick Ted out so they can have a life alone. Evicting Ted proves to be virtually impossible for our hero. Surprisingly, Ted makes the transition from staying with John to landing a job in a supermarket as a check-out clerk and getting an apartment of his own. Nevertheless, although he has given Ted the boot, poor John cannot resist Ted’s invitation to visit him daily. Everything isn’t fun and games for Ted and company when a creepy admirer, Donnie (Giovanni Ribisi of “Contraband”) and his weird son Robert (Aedin Mincks of “Faster”) show up and try to buy him for John. These two characters are obnoxious and their appearance ushers in a grim and unsavory air of reality to the action.
Rookie writer and director Seth MacFarlane has forged the funniest cinematic character in a long time with the wise-cracking, title character. Ted looks cute, but he is rude, crude, and lewd. He curses like a sailor, smokes a bong like a chimney, and likes to date prostitutes. “Ted” qualifies as an unforgettably funny, live-action/CG-animated comedy. Happily, the “Ted” character is seamlessly integrated into the action, and his shenanigans are consistently hilarious. Whether he is driving his best friend to work with extensions so his short legs can reach the brake and the gas pedals or performing T.J. Hooker leaps from the rear of a station wagon to the hood of our heroine’s car, Ted looks as life-like as a CGI character can. The motel room fistfight that he has with John where he pummels him into submission and his amorous stockroom assignation with a sexy cashier emphasizes Ted’s rowdy as well as randy antics.
While teddy bears have been fodder for children’s movies over the years, “Ted” is nothing like “Winnie the Pooh.” When MacFarlane isn’t having fun with Ted and company, he appropriates a cult science fiction film and integrates it as an essential element of this whacky fantasy. Ted and John grew up watching the movie “Flash Gordon” (1980) with Sam J. Jones and have enshrined it. However, MacFarlane isn’t content merely to insert excerpts from the film. Since both Ted and John worship Sam J. Jones, the “Flash Gordon” star winds up making a cameo for two rip-roaring scenes. MacFarlane borrows a mocking scene or two from the spoof masterpiece “Airplane” when our hero meets the heroine on the dance floor of a 2008 disco and mimics the movements of John Travolta’s “Saturday Night Fever” romance. Patrick Warburton of the “Rules of Engagement” television series and “Green Lantern” lead Ryan Reynolds have a scene where they play two gay guys who kiss.
“Ted” is never tedious.