Monday, July 2, 2012

Ted, a brief review


We've all been here. We've all had toys that were capable of carrying on an intellectual conversation with us. For me, it was beanie babies and half-melted army men. For my sister, it was ponies.

For Jon Bennett (Mark Whalberg), it was his stuffed teddy bear Ted. Now, both are grown up, immature and content with living the lazy life. Until Jon must make a choice between the love of his life and the friend of his youth.

TECHNICAL

Ted, fully rendered as a computer generated creation, looks perfect. Every hair, every expression, every little chortle. His movements are succinct and coordinated and not once did I even consider that he was comprised of pixels.

From a cinematic standpoint, the film rises and falls on the execution of a lewd little stuffed bear, and for the most part, there are few technical glitches. Watching Ted brutally satirize singers from the 90s (particularly Creed) was a joy to behold. The film is competently framed and the action scenes (yes there are action scenes) are above standard, though the car chase at the end was not fully utilized, particularly within the context.

However, there is a one on one brawl between Jon and Ted which is both wince-inducing and hysterical, one of the several moments within Ted that had me gasping for air. Slamming into walls, breaking glass and slapping the snot out of each other made for a Bourne-like sequence.

As for the rest of Ted, the editing is adequate and the music works fine. I guess it is a testament to the creation of Ted himself that such things that would be distracting simply aren't.

NARRATIVE

This is where most of my complaints rest, and these are more subjective. I would've preferred more daily life comraiderie between Ted and Jon, and instead the film focuses far more on the relationship between Jon and Lori (Mila Kunis). This works well enough, but I came to see a teddy bear behave like Benny Hill, not watch a relationship struggle. This leaves the film grasping at instances of comedy.

An example involves a supporting character who has Lance Armstrong's bronzed testicle. The scene feels forced and few people in the (PACKED) theater actually laughed. It was then I realized that they seemed to have the same gripe as me: we came to see Ted, and we want more Ted.

The inclusion of a crazed father and malicious son, though funny on paper, simply didn't work. The subsequent kidnapping of Ted and and the following car chase are clunky and meandering. The pacing is solid, though the jarring shifts in tone do detract from the comedic elements and leave us with dramatic themes that feel forced. It seems as if MacFarlane didn't want to be stuck doing a pure raunch-a-thon, and instead opted to show that he can handle drama. Which he can. But we wanted a raunch-a-thon.

This is not to suggest that Ted isn't funny, it really is. But do your best to avoid trailers as many of the better jokes are repeated in them.

MEANING

Ted is surprisingly rich with motifs, not the least of which is the necessity of responsibility. Jon, realizing that he cannot please both his childhood friend and his lover, must make a decision. This decision, though fraught with disappointments, is shown as the wiser choice. Reminds me of leaving childish things, so to speak. To the film's credit, this isn't forced into the final five minutes, but is actually explored (slowly) throughout the entirety.

Also, in thinking about childhood things, the strongest bonds we can have come from imagination and dreams. In this regards, Ted offers us a beautiful glimpse in the mind of a man who was afraid to grow up and be alone, and this magical teddy bear gives him a chance to do so.

CONCLUSION

Though not as funny as I had hoped, Ted is both sweet and packed with universal themes. The acting is strong and MacFarlane is clearly in control of his unique vision. For a debut, I cannot wait to see the direction Seth decides to go.

3 out of 5.

--Nick

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