Monday, July 30, 2012

"Ted" is Lazy

Two Stars

I should probably just lighten up. “Ted”, the first feature film by Seth MacFarlane is mostly harmless, and can provide a good laugh. Though, one can’t help but ask themselves why Seth MacFarlane has the career he has. I’m all for dirty and inappropriate humor. Sometimes, it’s okay to laugh at stuff we shouldn’t. Some of the jokes in “Ted” try a bit too hard. There’s nothing really funny about terminal illnesses, for example. Like joking about Parkinson’s or Lou Gehrig disease, and it’s times like that you see MacFarlane, and his two fellow screenwriters, both “Family Guy” regulars, trying a bit too hard. The screenplay to this movie feels a bit loose, and all over the place. One minute, it’s a romantic comedy, and the next minute, it’s a Seth MacFarlane cartoon. I asked myself a couple times if this movie could have worked without the talking teddy bear. However, “Ted” really is a one joke movie stretched out over 115 minutes. I laughed a couple of times, but not really enough.
 So, “Ted” starts with typical Seth MacFarlane humor. John (Mark Whalberg) is a lonely kid. It’s around Christmas, or as the narrator says “that magical time of year when Boston kids beat up the Jewish ones.” His parents get him a teddy bear for Christmas and they quickly become best friends. However, he makes a magical wish.  He wishes his teddy bear would come to life, and he does. The news sweeps the nation and the teddy bear makes an appearance on Johnny Carson (groan. Here come the million pop culture references.) Later on in the film, John is all grown up and him and Ted (Seth MacFarlane), the talking teddy bear are sitting on the couch smoking weed and eating Corn Pops (For a guy who considers himself a satirist, MacFarlane certainly piles on the product placement in this film). John is dating this girl Lori (Mila Kunis), who’s basic function in this film, is to look really annoyed at everything Ted and John do.

 John has a hard time asking Ted to move out after his girlfriend Lori asks him to move the bear out. John helps Ted get on his feet. Basically, they play this out like Ted is a bad influence, a guy John should outgrow. Ted is his stoner friend and whatnot. He comes off more like that guy you knew in college who is still smoking bongs even though he’s pushing 25. It’s like, yeah, I know everyone is playing this idea straight but I can’t get over the fact that it’s a talking teddy bear that sounds like Seth MacFarlane. No one seems to think this weird, and that works in a cartoon, but in live action, it kind of comes off as more creepy than charming.

Anyway, so there’s some other characters like Lori’s boss(Joel McHale, who stars in the brilliant “Community”, and probably rolled his eyes as he read lines written by Seth MacFarlane instead of Dan Harmon), who constantly hits on her. He tells her that her boyfriend is a loser, and you know what, he kind of is. He works at a car rental place, lies to get out of work so he can smoke weed with Ted (once again, no one acts weird  that he’s a teddy bear), and ditches his girlfriend at a party so he can meet  the actor who played Flash Gordon in his favorite movie as a kid. Gawd, his girlfriend is beautiful and sweet and just perfect. No way would I ditch her but that’s just me.

I kind of don’t like movies with this kind of premise. It’s what I call a built in premise. The situations and comedy comes because of an idea that’s just built into the screenplay without any real logic. I like comedy to come from life observations. I like comedy to come from things that could happen, because comedy like that makes us laugh about our own life, not just an illogic situation that doesn’t make any sense. The screenplay to “Ted” is kind of lazy and one joke. I know Seth MacFarlane is the highest paid TV writer in the world, but later that night, I watched my favorite episode of “The Honeymooners” on television. The one with the $99,000 question, and I thought to myself, you know, it’s a lot older than “Ted”, and “Family Guy” and “Two and a Half Men”, but at the same time, this is what real comedy looks like. It’s simple, it’s still relatable, and you know, Ralph Kramden is still a lot more lovable then Peter Griffen but I digress. The point I guess I’m trying to make, is that a magical plot device like a talking teddy bear who is a bad influence gets kind of old. Seth MacFarlane seems to think that comedy doesn’t need logic, when in truth, the best comedy does. Oh and there’s a subplot about some guy who tries to kidnap Ted, and make him his kid’s teddy bear. The plot kind of runs out and results in a car chase. Just because it’s a gross out comedy doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be subject to storytelling 101.

Look, I hate to spoil anyone's good time, and I could just laugh, but Seth MacFarlane is one of the highest paid screenwriters and the highest paid TV writer in the world. So, it's worth asking why is he getting paid so much?