I remember distinctly a divide as far as reactions were concerned upon the discovery that Seth MacFarlane would be making his directorial debut in something not directly tied to the Family Guy franchise. One side heralded it as a much needed movement towards the mainstream, although to be fair it is quite impossible to find an individual who has not watch an episode, let along entire seasons of one of the most prolific comedies of the past decade. The other divide seemed content on dismissing it entirely referring to it as a cheap attempt by the director to cash in on his name and its ties to Family Guy while also engaging in his own filmic desires. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that for a brief time I certainly fell into the latter category, having found myself growing away from Family Guy over the years and assumed Ted to simply not be for my palette. However, I managed to catch up with MacFarlane when he hosted the season premier of Saturday Night Live and was completely enamored with the earnestness and vivacity placed into his skits and presence, furthermore, I was reminded that he is truly one of the greater comedic minds of the last decade, both in delivery and in accessibility. While I have found myself attempting to rediscover Family Guy, at this point with little success, I did find Ted to be much, much more than I anticipated. While I am one of the growing number of fans supporting the work of Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller as far as over-the-top absurdist comedy is concerned, I find myself watching the work of Harold Ramis and John Landis and wondering where the deceptively simple, normal guy in an unusual situation comedy went. Thankfully, Ted has shown me that in the hands of Seth MacFarlane this type of comedy is certainly possible and, while he has a ways to go before getting to his level of perfection, MacFarlane is certifiably the closest thing American moviegoers have to a Harold Ramis...aside of course from the still living Harold Ramis, although to be fair it has been sometime since the comedic auteur has offered anything of notoriety. Ted is far from a perfect film, but it easily falls on the side of being good and shows promise for a successful future for the still young MacFarlane.
Ted begins with the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) who has always been a slightly awkward person, so much so that he found considerable difficulties making friends as a child. As such, when he receives a talking teddy bear from his parents for one Christmas, he makes a wish that it would come to life and be his friend forever. Luckily for John, his wish is granted as a miracle of sorts and he awakes to his bear named Ted (Seth MacFarlane) talking and moving around. Once verifying that he is not imagining it, John shares his new friend with the world. allowing to become an overnight sensation, which of course comes with its own set of problems leading to run-ins with law enforcement and a fall from popularity, although all along the way he makes sure to stay a dear friend to John. Fast forward a few decades and John finds himself in a dead-end job, preferring to get high with Ted on a daily basis, as opposed to securing a promising future for himself and his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). Giving him an ultimatum, John is forced to choose a future with Lori over a comforting present with Ted, causing the disheartened bear to move out on his own and take up a job at a local grocery store, eventually creating his own relationship with an employee. Yet, certain elements of his past are harder to shake and John continues to sneak away from work and events with Lori to hang out with Ted, leading to an accident in which Lori demands that John move out, much to the delight of Lori's asshole boss Rex (Joel McHale) who has been eyeing Lori for sometime. John goes out of his way to win Lori back, partially from his own will, but also because Ted promises Lori that he will remove himself entirely from the couple's life if she gives John one more shot. In the process of agreeing to this, Ted is kidnapped by a psychotic admirer and his son who has an apparent penchant for destructive behavior, leading to Ted reaching out to John despite his previous promise. Lori in a moment of instantaneous understanding and compassion agrees to help John find Ted, leading to a crazy traversing of Fenway Park. They eventually save Ted, although he is torn in half in the process, leading to a hopeful repair and a wish from somebody besides John for Ted return. The film ends on a happy note as Ted returns comfortably back into John's life, while John is also able to mature and marry Lori in the process.
Buried deep beneath the profusely graphic excrement humor and jokes about old people being anti-semetic lies a very real commentary on the troubles of growing old and embracing adulthood that seem all too relevant to Seth MacFarlane, a comedian who is often criticized for being immature almost entirely as a result of his attachment to Family Guy, although I learned during Barbara Walter's "Most Fascinating People of 2012" that he began the show at 26, making him the youngest executive producer on a primetime show ever, a notable accomplishment for a person who is allegedly childish. Of course, Ted makes it very clear that there is a line to be drawn as to what is acceptable for a thirty year old man to be doing with his life and getting high, while making just over minimum wage at a rental car dealership is certainly not one of them, not to mention a problematic fear of thunderstorms that can only be placated by a talking bear. Of course, in MacFarlane's infinite wisdom a complete disavowal of all these thing is not correct either, for a little light indulgence now and then along with a healthy attachment to one's childhood nostalgia can be a productive thing. In fact, the narrative makes it rather clear what an unhealthy attachment to the past looks like via Ted's kidnapper who is a single dad who has allowed his son to become hyper-violent while living in his own grand delusion that allows him to dance to eighties mall pop music. It is a very sound philosophical statement that exists within Ted one that reminds viewers of the very real responsibilities they must deal with on a daily basis, whether it be self-advancement or caring for the ones you love, while also not become so wound up with assuring everyones happiness that you ignore your own mental well being. It also does not hurt that this film invests heavily in the possibilities of wishing for the unlikely. A quick glance at MacFarlane's own struggles to get Family Guy on the air proves his own believe in having high ambitions. Again the film is simple in its narrative, but it is in this muted approached to narrative that I hope MacFarlane is able to find comedic perfection.
Key Scene: The party scene is pretty good and made all the funnier by some very self-referential humor on the part of MacFarlane.
This is a solid rental film and well worth checking out as it was easily one of the best comedies of last year.