Summer Movie Slam: ‘Ted’

There are some things in life that are only there to make you laugh. Nothing more than a chuckle to make you feel better for a moment. These things aren’t bad, but they don’t last very long, and eventually lose their charm.

When was the last time that you watched or listened to Dane Cook’s stand up comedy? The answer, for most of us, would be the 8th grade, some time before you discovered ‘The Office’ and Demetri Martin. But when you were thirteen, Dane Cook was the funniest man on the planet. I remember listening to those bits with my friends, laughing so hard that we were crying on the floor. We would listen ‘Harmful if Swallowed’ again and again, quoting it so much that our parents considered donating us to an animal shelter.

But then Mr. Cook’s next album came out, and it was more of the same. Then he starred in a few terrible movies that someone convinced us to see. Then another album of the same old stuff. Eventually, Dane wasn’t that funny anymore.

Seth MacFarlane; you are slowly becoming the new Dane Cook. You are funny, yes, very funny indeed. But until you try something new instead of the same old schtick’s over and over again, you will laugh yourself right out of relevancy.

Partially, I believe that this isn’t all MacFarlane’s fault. He didn’t demand three animated shows every week; Fox gave it to him based on the success of ‘Family Guy’. I’m sure there have been times where he’s wanted to step out of the box, but stepping out of the box doesn’t move the needle on Fox’s ratings. You know what moves the ratings? Another Stewie and Brian traveling musical, the creepy old man that loves the paper boy, and thirty minutes of “Surfin’ Bird.” How many people have sat this guy in the room and demand “Give the people what they want, Seth!”

Well, someone, must have told him to stick to what you know, because ‘Ted’ is just more of the same. It’s not a bad thing in the short term, but at the end of the day, it makes for an unfulfilling movie-going experience.

In the story of ‘Ted’ is simple, and by simple I mean there’s not much of a story… at all. When John Bennett (played by Mark Wahlberg) is a lonely little boy, he makes a wish for his Teddy Bear to come to life. Sure enough, the next day Ted is a walking, talking stuffed animal with a personality all his own. John and Ted soon become best friends and “Thunder Buddies”. But as time goes on, and John begins to grow up, so does Ted, and Ted grows up to be an immature, disgusting, freeloading roommate that is holding John back.

John’s girlfriend, Lori (played by Mila Kunis), does a very “Meg Griffin” thing and gives John an ultimatum: Ted needs to move out of the apartment or else John and Lori are through. Ted agrees, and what follows are the just growing pains of John and Ted learning to live apart from each other. That’s the movie. There are no real plot changes, nor is there real character development, but there is a bunch of funny stuff that happens along the way.

Ted gets a job at a grocery store, where he meets a cashier that soon becomes his girlfriend. He can’t get fired at the grocery store not matter what he does, leading to some pretty hilarious dialogue between Ted and his boss.

John and Ted spend a night partying with their childhood hero, Flash Gordon, in a drunken montage that is nothing but hysterical.

Joel McHale creeps on Mila Kunis at work. Joel McHale is funny, right?

John sings a song for Lori in front of thousands of people at a Norah Jones concert. Too bad he can’t sing. It’s funny though.

Ted is eventually kidnapped by obsessive fans; obsessive and psychotic fans! Giovanni Ribisi plays a great role as a disturbingly bad father. This is probably the funniest part of the movie.

There are also a bunch of offensive one-liners that are funny based on shock value alone. There is one joke about Parkinson’s disease that I would say is over the line, and caused uncomfortable laughter in the theater.

These are the really funny moments that I can remember right now. Everything above is what I recall about going to ‘Ted’. Doesn’t seem like much, does it? That’s because it isn’t. Listen, I don’t mean to seem rude, and I don’t want to say that I didn’t enjoy it. It’s the funniest movie I’ve seen all year, and it honestly seemed to please the crowd that I saw it with. There were a few parts that I had laughed so much my abs were sore. But then it ended, and I realized that the ending of the movie was very reminiscent of the beginning. Everything was back to the way it was, and no real conflict was really solved. It was just a funny hour and a half.

The biggest problem that I have with the story of ‘Ted’ is the main character, John. Not for one moment do I believe that he loves his girlfriend enough to grow up and change, because he never does. He just screws up a lot, apologizes later, and everything is honky-dory. What happens the next day? Do John and Ted do something stupid again and Lori angry? The conflict is still there. It’s like an episode of ‘Family Guy’; you know that every week Peter is going to do something stupid that makes Lois angry, he apologizes, next episode. In real life, I would question whether or not Peter loves Lois at all. He doesn’t show it to me through growth and change.

If you think about it, the best loves stories are about sacrifice, compromise, and risk. Something has got to give inside these two people or else it’s just not worth it. ‘Casablanca’- Rick makes Ilsa get on the plane. ‘Up’- Ellie leaves Carl a message to stop mourning and live his own adventure. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’- George Bailey gives up his dreams to travel and see the world, because he loves Mary more than his ambitions.

Those make the best love stories.

In comparison, anything else seems trite and inauthentic. It’s a good laugh, but no real heart. A funny quote, but makes no real affect on the way you think. Movies like this are incomplete by design, so I’ll simply wait for the sequel and see if these idiots really learned their lesson. Until then, I’ll watch some ‘Family Guy’ for a few laughs.

My Note: This raunchy comedy about your childhood Teddy Bear is really, really funny, but it isn’t anything better than that.

My Grade: D+

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