Ted review

Last year animation fans such as myself were alternately outraged and exuberated when Family Guy writer Seth MacFarlane announced his forthcoming reboot of The Flintstones – though Fred Flintstone is essentially The Honeymooners’ Ralph Kramden, who MacFarlane argues is the basis for his Peter Griffin, previous MacFarlane attempts to capture the essence of Fred and Wilma amount to little more than “I enjoyed rocking you up the rock last night.” And though it is difficult to locate recent professional reviews of Family Guy which avoid reference to its alleged jumping the shark around the time of Season 4 (Kevin Smith and Entertainment Weekly being among the elite few who despised Family Guy before it was cool to despise Family Guy), MacFarlane’s new box office smash film Ted, proves to be significantly more consistently funny than its director’s claim to fame.

The storyline follows John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) a struggling Boston Rent-A-Car salesman caught between his workaholic love interest Lori Collins (Mila Kunis) and the eponymous teddy bear, an innocuous Christmas gift for a friendless ten-year old Bennett.  In an irreverent parody of A Christmas Story narrated by Patrick Stewart, Bennett’s wish for Ted to come to life is granted, and their childhood friendship gradually evolves over 25 years into a crude, overgrown bromance mainly consisting of pot-smoking while watching dismal movies such as Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill and Flash Gordon, the latter of which proves to be MacFarlane’s newest nostalgia overindulgence.  In addition to directing and co-writing the film, MacFarlane voices Ted in a thick New England accent which fluctuates between that of Peter and Brian Griffin; this similarity at one point lampshaded by Ted himself at a party).  Kunis, who has voiced Meg on Family Guy since Season Two, is one of many collaborators in MacFarlane’s animation work to appear in Ted, but the rest are all cameos. Viewers will recognize Patrick Warburton (credited only as “Guy”) and possibly realize that Alex Borstein plays Bennett’s mother, but hardly anyone will spot Mike Henry, co-creator and star of Family Guy spin-off The Cleveland Show or especially writer Danny Smith.  Even Tammy-Lynn, the Jersey Shore expatriate in Quincy, Massachusetts who provides frequent casual sex to Ted while they work together at a supermarket, is played by a little-known FG voice actress, Jessica Barth.

In contrast to previous 2012 comedies which failed to live up to their hype such as The Dictator, American Reunion, and to a lesser extent in both ways, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, the hilarious moments within Ted are not at all limited to the ones which went viral.  The movie’s villain, a Ted-obsessed stalker only known as Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), whose childhood failure to receive the bear results in him ultimately “kidnapping” him for his morbidly obese son to mutilate in a way which Sid from Toy Story would admire, would have the potential to be the next Hannibal Lector had there not been a scene where Ribisi’s character is shown drunkenly dancing to the music video of 1980s pop singer Tiffany’s horrendous cover of Tommy James & the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now” in the comfort of his bedroom.  Even critics’ tedious accusations of MacFarlane’s lack of creativity (plagiarismo, as one Simpsons episode put it while the washed-up FOX animated series had joined forces with South Park in a “cartoon war” against Family Guy) have little veracity here, such as when Ted begins to speak and Bennett presents his parents with their amazingly altered gift.  I was expecting the cliché mastered by Chuck Jones for his short One Froggy Evening where Ted refuses to come to life for anybody other than his “master,” but MacFarlane immediately averts it.  But on second thought, this is to be expected from a man who had previously animated Elmer Fudd violently murdering Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote contemplating suicide once his sole aspiration of catching the Roadrunner is achieved.    Despite its reused character voice, Ted is ultimately one of MacFarlane’s most original creations, and probably the funniest comedy of the first half of 2012.

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