Ted

What makes a best friend?  I’ve had a few in my life and there really wasn’t anything that similar between them.  We just managed to click and complement each other’s personality.  I shared some similar interests with them; but there were just as many if not more things we didn’t have in common.  It is an unfortunate fact that it is a rare combination of similar and dissimilar personality traits that makes a best friend and that mixture is difficult to find especially as we get older.  That’s why I wish I had held on to my best friends through the years instead of allowing them to drift away.  While we are all married (and divorced and remarried) and some of us have children who are entering college, it would be nice to still have the kind of friendship that we had as kids.  That magical friendship is at the heart of this week’s movie “Ted.”  Of course, none of my best friends was a teddy bear brought to life by an innocent wish.

 
John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) was a lonely eight-year old boy who only wanted a friend.  When his parents give him a teddy bear for Christmas, John wishes the bear he calls Teddy could talk and that they could be best friends forever.  The next morning, the bear is alive, walking and talking.  Ted becomes a media celebrity and product spokesperson for a few years but eventually his fame fades.  Fast-forward 27 years and John is 35, living with his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) and working at a dead-end job in a car rental company.  The bear now called Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane) lives with them as well.  John and Ted are still best friends much to Lori’s chagrin.  The pair sits around most of the day drinking beer, getting high on pot and watching movies.  After Ted hosts four prostitutes at the apartment while John and Lori are at dinner celebrating their four year dating anniversary, Lori gives John an ultimatum:  Either Ted goes or she does.
 
“Family Guy” and “American Dad” creator Seth MacFarlane doesn’t wander too far from home with his first theatrical effort.  Even casual viewers will notice similarities between “Ted” and MacFarlane’s TV shows.  Staying in familiar territory is probably a good idea for his first movie as writer, producer and director.
 
“Ted” pours on the laughs with lots of quick jokes and pop culture references along with cutaway humor and fantasy sequences.  Paying attention is required in order to catch every punch line.  While not all of them are winners, the quantity of jokes means there’s a good chance some of them will work.  It succeeds more often than it fails.  This type of humor (mostly of the adult and offensive variety) is certainly in MacFarlane’s wheelhouse and his comfort level shows.  There are more jokes in 10 minutes of “Ted” than there are in most other comedies.  
 
That both helps and hurts the film as when it shifts gears into the slightly more serious sections involving John and Lori’s relationship issues it tends to grind to a halt.  There’s also a section of the movie where an obsessed fan of Ted’s shows up and offers to buy the bear from John.  The fan is played by Giovanni Ribisi and his effort to buy Ted is rebuffed; but since they used a very well-known actor to play the part you know he’ll be coming back to throw a complication into the plot.  This seemed a bit out of character for the rest of the movie and felt tacked on to provide some conflict and a quick way to the film’s conclusion.  I’d be curious to hear MacFarlane’s thoughts on the DVD commentary about writing the story and this character’s creation.
 
The actors are mostly perfectly cast and include some of MacFarlane’s TV voice talent.  Patrick Warburton is one of John’s co-workers at the car rental office who is a closeted gay man.  His boyfriend that shows up later in the movie is a cameo that also works as a joke.  Alex Borstein plays John’s mom in the flashbacks to John’s childhood.  A name you might not know is Ralph Garman who plays John’s dad.  He often voices secondary characters on “Family Guy” and is on a popular Los Angeles radio show.  Patrick Stewart is the film’s narrator and is given some of the funnier lines in the movie.  His formal British delivery adds punch to the more outrageous bits of dialog.  In a bit of stunt casting there’s Sam J. Jones from the 1980 film “Flash Gordon” who plays himself.  In the story, John and Ted’s favorite movie is “Flash Gordon” and Jones somehow winds up at a party being thrown by Ted.  John being at the party directly leads to a break up with Lori.  Jones acting hasn’t improved any since his “Flash Gordon” days and while he puts forth a game effort his performance isn’t much better than if MacFarlane had used any of the Kardashian sisters.
 
“Ted” is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use.  One woman is shown topless briefly.  Wahlberg’s backside is exposed for a few seconds.  Ted is partially shown having sex with a woman.  There is also a funny scene of Ted mimicking sex to try and impress a woman.  Ted and John are shown smoking pot on several occasions and the pair and Sam J. Jones discuss snorting cocaine.  Foul language is common throughout the movie.
 
While it certainly won’t be used as an example of how a relationship between a woman, a man and his teddy bear should proceed, “Ted” does provide a great number of laughs in a fairly short period of time.  Those familiar with Seth MacFarlane’s TV work will likely appreciate the movie with the content shackles of the Federal Communications Commission and Fox Network’s standards and practices department removed.  MacFarlane needs to work on transitioning the story from the wildly outrageous to the more mundane; but the humor is frequent enough that these minor bits of boredom are forgivable.
 
“Ted” gets four guitars out of five.
 
I’ll be seeing a sneak peak at “The Amazing Spider-Man” this week, so here are the other movies opening this week.  Vote for the second film I’ll review.
 
Katy Perry:  Part of Me 3D—Filmmakers Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz follow wildly popular singer Katy Perry during her yearlong California Dreams tour.
 
Safety Not Guaranteed—A disaffected magazine intern (Aubrey Plaza) befriends an unusual guy (Mark Duplass), who is looking for a partner to accompany him on a trip back through time.
 
Savages—Pot growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres or On Demand.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
Questions or comments are welcome and can be sent to stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.