I saw two movies this weekend, Ted and The Amazing Spider-Man. I will talk about Ted first, because it’s the one that isn’t currently being discussed to death. Ted is the first live action feature length film of Seth MacFarlane, of Family Guy fame. It features Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, with Seth MacFarlane playing the role of the eponymous Ted. He provided both the mo-cap and the voice for the teddy bear that comes to life as the result of a wish. The look of Ted is actually pretty good. For the most part he does just look like a stuffed bear, which is a good route to go. The general plot is that a boy with no friends wishes for his stuffed teddy bear to come to life so that he can be his best friend for ever and ever. The main thrust of the film is that 27 years later, this is still true, even now that Mark Wahlberg has been with Mila Kunis for four years. So what’s my opinion of this movie before you bother to jump in and read my review? One third brilliant, one quarter funny, and five twelfths fucking terrible.
The opening of the film drags on unnecessarily and really only has two gags in it, a brief Bostonian joke and a joke made by the narrator, Patrick Stewart. Given the length of the opening scene, the audience laughed at the narration joke perhaps more than they should have done. In fact, the book ending of the movie is a big part of the problem. This movie has more endings that Return of the Fucking King. Each one more boring and inconsequential than the last. Part of my displeasure here is that the movie wastes Giovanni Ribisi. He plays a great creepy stalker that borders on Buffalo Bill, and the climax of the film just doesn’t work at all. It’s a waste of Fenway Park, and I say that having actually seen Fever Pitch, so that’s saying something. Both the beginning and the end of the film are long, with next to no jokes or gags, and are painfully written. This is kind of the problem with the film as a whole, it tries to tell a story but does so in a bland, unfunny and overly long manner. Strangely enough, the things I don’t really like in the Family Guy end up playing really well here. The running gags and cutaway segments work extremely well, and here MacFarlane plays to his strengths. They aren’t random like they are in the Family Guy either, but instead the longest running gag is utterly brilliant with a fantastic pay off. In fact, both of the long running gags are. Instead of ruining the actual story or narration, it provides it’s own meaningful narration in long form, well, that and the second one is just a killer punchline.
The sad truth is that Ted is just wasteful. It’s overly long, even at a 90 minute run time it’s about 30 minutes too long, and Seth MacFarlane has no idea what to do with the people in his film or how to actually provide narrative propulsion. I mean, look at his cartoons. It certainly doesn’t try and tell a story in any real sense, relying on the randomization and base humor to get by. Joel McHale is wasted as a shitty version of Jeff Winger from the beginning days of Community, and I can’t even understand why any of Kunis’s other co-workers are in the film at all. They serve literally no point. The same for Wahlberg’s work situation. You could trim out everything but a short segment with his boss and the stuff with Patrick Warburton. Warburton is kind of a running joke in the film too, but his pay off is also at the pay off of the movie’s best running gag, so that’s actually pretty great. However, you really could just cut McHale out of the film entirely and nothing would be lost. He serves no purpose. He doesn’t legitimately provide a relationship complication for Wahlberg and Kunis, and his sole role is to provide two other arc moments to occur. These could happen in other ways with no noticeable difference, save you’d not waste 15 minutes.
The jokes themselves are mostly ok when it rises above the easy fart and dick jokes, save some meta humor that just really doesn’t work. Ted commenting on how he doesn’t sound that much like Peter Griffin? No thanks. A cameo by Ryan Reynolds has the first joke be about how he “looks like Van Wilder”? Alright, whatever I guess. It’s just that many of the jokes are easy low-hanging fruit and he goes to the randomization well a few too many times. I get it, because it does work a few times that he does it, but less broad, splatter on the wall jokes would be a good thing. Seriously though, egads, everything else besides the few jokes that work and the running gag is awful.
I’d rate the movie at one frowny face on a scale of five frowny faces to five smiley faces. The running gag is incredibly brilliant, everything else? No thanks.