Seth MacFarlane may be one of the busiest people in show business.
He is the creator or co-creator of not one, but three animated comedies on Fox ("Family Guy," "American Dad" and "The Cleveland Show"). He’s roasted Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump and David Hasselhoff on Comedy Central. He’s even released an album where he sings classic big band songs – "Music is Better Than Words."
Now MacFarlane has released his first foray into feature filmmaking, "Ted." By all measures, it’s a resounding R-rated success for MacFarlane, who directed and co-wrote the film. He has successfully brought his brand of no-holds-barred comedy to the big screen, which is sure to please his fans and create new fans. The movie not only topped the box office during its opening weekend, but it’s sure to have a rabid following that will ensure that the film’s dialogue will be heard spilling out of dorm rooms for years to come. On top of all of these achievements, MacFarlane delivered a story about growing up that has a lot of heart.
"Ted" is the story of lonely young boy, John Bennett, who wishes in 1985 that his only friend – a teddy bear named Ted – would come to life. John gets his wish. The bear comes to life and becomes a celebrity, even appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
But celebrity fades, even for miraculous teddy bears.
By 2012, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) is no longer a celebrity and John (Mark Wahlberg) is 35 years old. They share an apartment where they smoke pot, worship the classic 1980 movie Flash Gordon, and have a lot of immature fun together. Despite this frat boy friendship with Ted, John has managed to have an almost four-year relationship with his girlfriend, Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). She’s ready for marriage, but it doesn’t look like it will ever happen with Ted living with them.
Ted eventually moves out, kicking the plot into motion as it focuses on what happens as John and the bear attempt to grow up.
Ted relies on the same style of humor that has made MacFarlane’s animated shows a success: pop culture references, flashbacks to silly scenes and bawdy humor that knows no bounds. It also features several of the other voices behind MacFarlane’s animated shows, including Kunis, Alex Borstein and Patrick Stewart, to name a few. And though Ted has the same voice as "Family Guy’s" Peter Griffin (a fact that is one of the movie’s punch lines) "Ted" doesn’t feel like it’s a storyline borrowed from one of the animated shows.
"Ted" can stand on its own because it has its own story to tell. It’s a story about becoming an adult and the struggle to balance the past with the present. Of course, in this movie, it’s depicted through one man’s struggle to figure out how a horny teddy bear with a foul mouth fits in his life.
It all makes for plenty of laughs. The punch lines are plentiful and relentless. MacFarlane never lets up, nor does he allow any of the jokes to wear out their welcome. "Ted" is consistently funny, unlike other recent comedies.
The movie is also a technical achievement for its use of computer effects to bring the bear to life. Ted is a fully realized character interacting with the people and world around him. This success was obvious when the moviegoer sitting behind me gasped during a scene where Ted’s life was in danger. You don’t gasp at computer graphics. You gasp when characters you care about are in danger. A brief scene where Ted appears on the Carson show is also remarkable.
In this sense, "Ted" is one of the pioneering comedies taking sophisticated special effects normally reserved for action movies and using them for laughs. "A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas," which used 3D technology for comedic effect, is another example. But "Ted" is an even greater achievement because of the demands it likely put on the actors. There’s never a moment where it’s apparent the actors are pretending to talk to a living teddy bear. It’s a testament to the acting chops of the cast, particularly Wahlberg.
During one scene, Wahlberg’s character gets into a brutal fist fight with Ted in a hotel room. His character, John, made the mistake of saying he wished he’d received a Teddy Ruxpin years ago. MacFarlane has said he wanted this scene to be as realistic as a fight scene from the Jason Bourne movies. He succeeded, but it wouldn’t have happened without Wahlberg completely committing to the scene. This scene alone is reason enough to see the movie.
Hopefully, the success of "Ted" will not only encourage MacFarlane to make more movies but will attract even more top-notch talent to his projects. If MacFarlane has any free time left in his schedule, it may soon disappear as Ted’s success is sure to open the door for new projects that will undoubtedly entertain us.
J.K. Eisen writes about entertainment and the world around him. He lives in the Deep South.
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