Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ted (2012): 8/10

Even at the apex of my obsession with television, I still did not seek out Family Guy. I'll admit, I was a bit biased towards South Park, who dedicated two episodes to mocking both the content of the show, and how it was written. From the bits and pieces of Family Guy I did see, I came to the conclusion that the show is just a modern day clone of The Simpsons, one of the only differences being that Stewie is the more intelligent and aggressive counterpart to Maggie Simpson. I recently read the Playboy interview with creator Seth MacFarlane, who says that he owes Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, a new house among other luxuries for his influence and the success of MacFarlane's brainchild.

When the opportunity to go out to the theaters came up today, it was suggested by my father that we go see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. As much as I would have liked to escape my 90+ degree room in favor of an air-conditioned environment, I wasn't too keen on seeing that particular film. For two reasons: 1) I have not seen an action movie since Sin City or Grindhouse that cared more about stylistic art and legitimate character development than pulling off all these impossibly elaborate stunts created by filmmakers who somehow believe that filming the same decapitations and amputations we've seen hundreds of times before is still somehow fresh and edgy. And 2) Vampire Hunter was directed by Timur Bekmambetov, perhaps the biggest show-off of them all who directed, probably one of the worst action films I've come across, Wanted. So between having my intelligence constantly assaulted and insulted for 2 hours, and seeing a raunchy comedy featuring a teddy bear, my vote goes with the raunchy teddy bear.

Going into this film, I expected the same brand of humor from Family Guy, so I can't say I was disappointed with the jokes in the slightest. However, I couldn't help but feel that the movie focused and spent its creative energy on making us laugh more than it did on trying to create a non-formulaic plot. Like I said though, the jokes were consistently funny, so I guess having a standard sitcom plot was not by any means a terrible thing. What would have been bad if Ted was another 2 1/2 hour epic that tried to make us laugh and cry all the way through a more complex plot with more dramatic moments (yes, I am looking at you, Funny People).

All in all, for a $7 ticket, I was satisfied with this movie. What was probably the most satisfying of all was the fact that the magic behind Ted coming to life was real, that it wasn't only John and his imagination who could see that Ted was like a real human being. Plus, the reaction from John's parents when he introduces them to the magically enhanced Ted is damn near priceless. Along with the reactions from the television network anchors who followed ("Look what Jesus did! Look what Jesus did! Look what Jesus did!"). It almost makes you wonder how exactly Ted's fame dwindled in the first place. I know if we ever discovered something truly magical like a living, breathing, conscious teddy bear, I'd think there would be a collective group of people who would always obsess over how he came to life and would want to "study" how he became alive and breathing to begin with. That, and who wouldn't want a living, breathing teddy bear of their own?

As it turns out, this movie has that base covered too. For Giovanni Ribisi's character, along with his portly son, the obsession never went away, but instead increased with time and age. The house they live in has an entire wall dedicated to Ted's being and fandom, which, understandably, creeps Ted out. Having these two characters create conflict of their own for Ted, John and Lori, keeps the movie from being solely another "choose-me-or-your-best-friend" dramatic conflict. Ultimately, it's this obsessive conflict that brings all three central characters together for a satisfying and logical conclusion.

To reiterate, this sitcom plot could work just as well in any Family Guy episode with certain characters in the show taking the place of certain characters in this movie. However, what makes this film stand apart from Family Guy is that MacFarlane decided to show off his accessible brand of humor without restricting himself to television's guidelines of political correctness. He instead restricts himself within the fairly broad scope of the 'R'estricted rating, and it is fully deserved. As well as any accolades or praise anybody else has to offer this film. So paying about $7 or more for a couple hours of an air-conditioned environment and chilling out with Ted sure as hell beats having your mind melting and disintegrating from oppressive heat all day.

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