Friday, October 19, 2012

Movie Review: Ted

Genre: Comedy
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Rating: *** (3.5 out of 5)

Seth MacFarlane is a true Renaissance Man – he is an actor, cartoonist, screenwriter, comedian and singer. The multi-talented funny man is best known for creating animated sitcom Family Guy and providing the voice for the main character Peter Griffin. Now in its eleventh season, the television series is a billion-dollar enterprise with two spin-offs, a live show, a music album and even a video game. All that has made MacFarlane the highest paid television writer in the world.

Ted by Seth MacFarlane

This summer, MacFarlane added “movie director” to his long list of showbiz credentials. His directorial debut Ted is about a man-child named John Bennett (played by Mark Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear Ted (voiced by MacFarlane). John is a 35-year-old under-achiever who works at a car rental and smokes pot in his living room. The delightful Mila Kunis (That '70s Show, Black Swan) plays his loyal girlfriend Lori. Then there is Ted. The furry third wheel is unemployed, foul-mouthed and a bad influence on John. Together the three characters form an anthropomorphic love triangle that leads to fist fights, breakups, kidnaps and dismemberments.

Ted is 106 minutes of non-stop punch lines. Because the main character is a cuddly soft toy, the screenwriter can make him say or do anything without offending the audience -- or at least that's the idea. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, such as after Ted begrudgingly puts on a suit for a job interview and says “I f**king look like Snuggles' accountant,” or when John tells the chubby villain Robert to “back off, Susan Boyle.” Perhaps because MacFarlane is a staunch gay rights supporter, the movie is not without homosexual subtext. Beneath their macho façades, John and Ted speak of love and "thunder buddy-hood" for life. Their bromance eventually boils over and culminates in a motel room brawl that leaves John with his pants down and the two lying on top of each other. At times it isn’t clear who the third wheel in the relationship really is: Ted or Lori.

One of the funniest and most successful animated sitcoms

MacFarlane’s humor is razor-sharp, politically incorrect and sometimes downright obnoxious. If you find the movie outrageous, that seems to be precisely the point. In the age of home foreclosures and double-digit unemployment, a bit of slapstick escapism can go a long way. That’s why other R-rated comedies like The Hangover do so well in the box office these days. But not everyone will find Ted equally funny. The many '80s pop-culture references such as Flash Gordon, Corey Feldman and Teddy Ruxpin are certain to be lost on the younger audiences. Whether you roar in laughter or scratch your head at any given moment during the movie may well give away your age.

Ted is light-hearted, good-natured entertainment. It is Garfield meets National Lampoon. But the jokes are hit-and-miss and the writing is not as clever as what we expect of MacFarlane. The ending is also somewhat sloppy, as the director scrambles to wrap things up with a fairy tale ending. Audiences around the world, though, beg to differ. The movie has made over US$500 million in the box office so far, making it the highest grossing film for Universal Studios in 2012 to date. A sequel is already in the works. As for MacFarlane himself, he is about to add still another title to his Hollywood credentials: Oscars host. The Renaissance Man is slated to host the 85th Academy Awards this coming February. Something tells me a talking teddy bear will find its way to the Dolby Theatre that night.

The odd couple

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