I suppose I should start off by informing the reader that I'm not going to spend too much time on this one. I've already wasted 107 minutes of my life that I can never get back. But Seth MacFarlane’s debut comedy, Ted (2012) is a pretty abysmal affair. Buried somewhere beneath all the truly unsavory sexual profanity and infantile bathroom humor is a quirky, but not terribly convincing message picture about delayed adolescences infringing on the moral, social and sexual ambiguity facing a frustrated middle-aged male. Well, sort of. Ted is the story of John Bennett (Mark Walberg); an emotionally stunted adult who cannot get past his childhood fear of thunderstorms and whose best friend just happens to be his favorite play toy from childhood – Ted, a stuffed bear that came to life because of a wish John made when he was five.
It’s been 24 years since that miracle occurred. Since then, Ted and John have been inseparable. But their friendship isn’t the warm and cuddly kind. In fact, Ted’s a street savvy, bong smoking, horny little bugger who takes considerable delight in ripping on John’s various romantic disasters, inviting trailer trash hookers over to his apartment and generally mucking around with John’s current involvement with Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). John and Lori met at a nightclub after he accidentally belted her in the forehead with his flailing arms, attempting to impress another potential date by bustin’ a pretty pathetic move on the dance floor.
Lori’s a grown up, something John is not. This doesn’t seem to bother Lori at first, presumably because like all women of her ilk she sees John as a fixer-upper who just needs her love and understanding to mature him into the sort of guy she wants him to become. But Ted is not about to let go of John so easily. And so the struggle for John’s ultimate future happiness begins.
It’s hard to take Mark Walberg seriously in this regurgitated Failure to Launch (2006) premised R-rated movie, designed to appeal to some niche market who enjoy snorting “Snuggle” fabric softener; more difficult still to accept him as the emotionally retarded thirty-something boy in a man’s body, perhaps because at 41 Walberg is well past his prime to partake in this sort of clueless badinage. Walberg is trying way too hard to channel his own youth from the ‘Funky Bunch’ days and be the ‘cool’ cute dude that once made him the envy of underwear models with their dangling participles all buff and larger than life in Time Square. But that ship has sailed and Walberg isn’t on it anymore.
Walberg’s pedestrian performance alone is enough to sink the film. But the comedy simply isn’t funny – just crude; as in the scene where Ted, who works part time, performs simulated sex acts on a bar code scanner behind the register to impress fellow cashier, Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). She’s modestly amused until Ted attempts fallacio on a chocolate bar. Really? That’s what passes for comedy these days? How sad – and raunchy – and raunchily sad!
MacFarlane who, in addition to writing and directing the movie provides the voice for Ted fails to grasp the concept of good humor – odd, because his Family Guy TV series is a potpourri of risqué and raucous repartee that never veers into the ‘gross out’ tastelessness that fills the bulk of Ted’s run time. I can still hear that damn ‘Thunder’ song Walberg and Ted sing to alleviate John’s angst over thunderstorms. I can’t repeat the lyrics herein, and frankly, they’re not really worth repeating anyway. But they stick in the mind like candy between one’s teeth and just as corrosive to one’s I.Q. as creating a cavity elsewhere that, no doubt, Ted and McFarlene would be more than happy to fill.
Nearly three decades ago comedian Eddie Murphy (no stranger to profanity), while addressing his audience during his standup in the film Raw astutely pointed out to his audience that he could not simply come on stage and perform “a curse show” – spewing four letter words with no context and expect to get the prerequisite laugh while garnering their respect for his performance. Point taken.
Unfortunately, MacFarlane’s sense of humor in Ted never goes beyond such obligatory and obvious verbal perversities. We aren’t entertained, simply indoctrinated with a slew of ‘T’ and ‘A’ stupidity run amuck that most sitting in the audience probably haven’t found quite as amusing since puberty hit. Yet, if Ted’s R-rating is any indication, then kids are decidedly not the film’s target audience. Too bad Ted talks down to adults as well; anyone who hasn’t been educated with an air hose and inner tube will not be amused. Ted will undoubtedly find its appeal among those who secretly wish they could behave as irresponsibly as John or as badly as his alter ego.
But Ted isn’t a movie you’ll want to ever see again, if, in fact, you choose to see it at all. Its ‘kick in the crotch’ comedy isn’t even trying to be clever; just woefully debauched, making it a genuine turn off. Comedy doesn’t have to be ‘clean’ per say, as long as it makes us feel good. This one just made me want to take a very cold shower. Overall, I give Ted a solid ‘F’ – and it doesn’t stand for fantastic or that other ‘F’ word!
Ted hits hi-def in an adequate looking transfer from Universal. Colors are subdued but accurately rendered and fine detail is as it should be. A lot of the scenes take place in dimly lit hotel rooms and smoky nightclubs, accurately reproduced without impacting contrast levels. I detected no ‘hot’ whites or crushed blacks. Fine detail is pretty startling throughout and the CGI Ted is exceptionally integrated into his human surroundings. Ergo, visual believability is preserved. The DTS 5.1 is extremely frontal sounding, very much like a TV sitcom and less of a movie experience. Is this deliberate on McFarlene’s part or just sloppy remixing? Can’t say. But the sound field didn’t do it for me or my surrounds.
Universal gives us a ‘gag’ reel as part of the extras. Why? The whole film is a joke! We also get McFarlene’s audio commentary and a 25 minute making of in which we learn that McFarlene interacted with his human counterparts on the set so the ‘comedy’ would be more spontaneous. Deleted scenes and alternate takes round out the fun pack. Bottom line: I can’t imagine Ted as a holiday offering. It does for the intellect what errant dog crap does for one’s shoes. Don’t step in this one. It stinks!
FILM RATING (out of 5 – 5 being the best)