Friday, 31 August 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Ted

Directed by: Seth MacFarlane

Produced by: Scott Stuber
Seth MacFarlane
John Jacobs
Jason Clark

Screenplay by: Seth MacFarlane
Alec Sulkin
Wellesley Wild

Story by: Seth MacFarlane

Narrated by: Patrick Stewart

Starring: Mark Wahlberg
Mila Kunis
Seth MacFarlane
Joel McHale
Giovanni Ribisi
Music by: Walter Murphy

Cinematography by: Michael Barrett

Editing by: Jeff Freeman

Studio(s): Media Rights Capital
Fuzzy Door Productions
Bluegrass Films
Smart Entertainment

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Release date(s): June 29, 2012 (United States)
August 1, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 106 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $50 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $370, 868, 222

Hey hey, folks, I've celebrated my birthday and done a nice big shop, primarily spent on piles of comic and DVDs, so I've picked up a few things. Keeping Up Appearances Series 3 and 4, WWE's Bret Hart DVD and Chungking Express have been the flavour of the moment right now, but it hasn't stopped from seeing new movies. Expect reviews for The Expendables 2, Shadow Dancer, The Bourne Legacy and This Must Be The Place, so, as ever, keep your eyes posted!

Ted is the feature-length debut of Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy and American Dad!. I was put on to this movie by (no surprises!) my good friend at Danland Movies who, being a massive fan of the former Marky Mark and things of the comedically retarded, was salivating about this film. I liked the look of it, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't trepidatious as to whether or not the 'concept' could be stretched out to a whole film. Mark Wahlberg plays John Bennett, who as a child was lonely, and wished for his Christmas gift, a stuffed bear that he named Teddy (later Ted), to come to life. In the present day, John is in a long-term relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis). Complications arise when upon their four-year anniversary she feels that in order for them to move forward as a couple, Ted (Seth MacFarlane), who has become, in Wikipedia's words (this got a nice belly laugh), "a dirty, vulgar, obnoxious wastrel," must move out of their apartment.

As I've mentioned, I had trepidation as to whether or not this concept could be pulled off, but within the first few minutes my worries were allayed. The screenplay is for the most part tight, with some excellent dialogue that is both humorous and natural, so none of the funny stuff feels forced. Also, there are a number of key laugh-out-loud (I refuse to use acronyms) moments which rank among the funniest things I have seen in a movie in the past few years. I talk about a good screenplay, but it is thanks to Mark Wahlberg that it is also able to walk the walk. He completely sells this movie, with his casual likability and charisma coming in handy here. I mean, don't forget he is performing against a bear that is non-existent, and that he is able to more or less mime a highly animated and fast-paced dialogue exchange in such a conversational manner is a commendation of his talent. Furthermore, it is through him we are able to get the emotional connection between John and Ted to feel genuine. A superb lead performance! Also on the human front, Mila Kunis is as ever charming. In virtually every movie I see that she's in, she has this natural sassiness and wit. though I think Lori is better written and treated with more respect than most women in frat-boy comedies (the primary purpose of women in these films is usually interchangeable between sex object and party-pooper), Kunis is the real reason this part works. Also, I thought that Seth MacFarlane's vocal delivery as Ted was spot on. He had a bit of a Peter Griffin voice going on, but it never got annoying once, and remaining consistently funny, understandable and natural throughout. The sound synchronisation between John and Ted is a feat in itself, and it was a smart move on the part of MacFarlane to record his dialogue live on-set. To do it in post-production would be to take away the liveliness and improvisational feeling it has, although the post-production tinkering has ensured an equalisation in volume and pitch levels, so everything is crisp and clear. Finally, as a feature directorial debut goes, MacFarlane doesn't stray too far from his comfort zone, but I'm not bothered about that when he's making a film this funny. This a raucous laugh of a film that I am glad to see has become like last year's Horrible Bosses a bit of a sleeper hit, and can only be a sign of greater things to come from MacFarlane. 

Ted has a lot going for it, but I must say that some of what is good about it does on occasion prove to be a double-edged sword. MacFarlane, as mentioned, does not stray enough from his comfort zone, and while this works for the most part, there are times when it sticks out and reeks of unoriginality. I mean, the whole is clearly of 'The MacFarlane Stable,' with the same soundscape that you get from his various television series, and some of the way things are shot seem to be designed with a sensibility that caters more to animation than live-action. It's this relying on tricks already learnt as opposed to going out into uncharted waters and really digging deep that bothers me. It is annoying to have at least fifteen minutes of filler on what is an otherwise outright hilarious film. It didn't bother me that much, but there are some bothersome moments (yes, Ted, you sound like Peter Griffin, we don't need you reference it also!).

Besides that nitpicking, Ted is a very good comedy, and definitely a real highlight of the summer season of films. The eponymous bear is a believable character, who wins you over within minutes of his showing up, thanks to a (mostly) tight screenplay. This script is completely put over by a stellar lead performance by Mark Wahlberg, who really bust his hump here, and deserves much credit for the overall success of the film. Mila Kunis delivers a strong supporting role, while writer-director MacFarlane succeeds in both these capacities, and his vocal part as Ted. I was also very impressed with the animation and the sound synchronisation in the main characters' dialogue. It is little details like this that mean that, for all it's flaws, Ted can still get away as a very good film and a superior comedy.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnois - Tired (worked today, be reviewing again en masse, be working tomorrow: me's a busy mothafucka!)

P.S. Patrick Stewart is an awesome narrator!

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