In 2010 Mark Wahlberg starred as a tough young boxer in THE FIGHTER. The summer of 2012 finds him knocking the stuffing out of a teddy bear in the box office champ this weekend: TED. The teddy bear movie is a lot raunchier– and miraculously– engrossing despite its lunatic premise. In TED, Wahlberg stars as John Bennet, the kid no one likes– not even the Jewish kid that everyone in the neighborhood routinely gangs up on. So one night, little Johnny makes a wish and the next morning his Teddy Bear comes alive. They pledge to be friends for life. Until….
John grows up and his girlfriend Lori enters the picture in the form of Mila Kunis. She wants a boyfriend who’s more than a dope-smoking lunk with a lecherous, foul-mouthed, pot-addled teddy bear for a live-in best friend. What’s an overgrown adolescent to do? Within five minutes of this set up– and here’s the miracle– I bought the bear. I actually thought of him as a legitimate character.
TED is the big-screen offspring of TV’s FAMILY GUY creator Seth McFarlane, and marks his feature film debut as writer, director, and star– he’s the voice of the eponymous talking/walking bawdy bear Ted. The phrase “boundary-pushing” comes up whenever McFarlane’s name is mentioned, and apparently has everyone a little on edge. My teenage daughter was carded not once, not twice– but three times on her way in to see this “R”-rated comedy/fantasy.
It has earned its rating. I found myself simultaneously aghast and in hysterics. The comedy is played so straight and with such conviction, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Even at the eruption of yet another fart joke. (Look for local Boston actor Pat Shea delivering one of the film’s most pungently funny lines.) Even when Mila Kunis’s character screams while scraping human excrement off the floor and Wahlberg cowers in revulsion from several feet away. Are you with me? I can’t believe I’m with me. The film is spectacularly raunchy and politically incorrect, and takes shots at many among the pop cultural firmament from Katy Perry and Taylor Lautner, to Ryan Reynolds who appears in a silent and hilarious cameo.
The fact is, McFarlane is a gifted satirist. He’s a sharp observer, and fearlessly nails and enhances the revealing details. Boston and its environs, characters, and their accents take a whupping. You won’t forget Jessica Barth as Ted’s trash-talking girlfriend Tamy-Lynn from Quincy who ought to be nominated for an Oscar for her foul, over-the-top restaurant rant. Don’t miss Flash Gordon mentioned in the same breath with Tom Brady.
How cuddly Teddy turned into the beer-drinking boor Ted, and how John became such a slug, and what someone as sophisticated as Lori ever saw in that arrangement doesn’t add up. And the ending is a cheesy cop out, ruining what might be construed as an obscene but particularly relevant take on a nonetheless timeless tale– about a man hanging onto his childhood.
McFarlane isn’t ready to grow up just yet–still having too much fun with his toys, and so can you–if you’re ready to play dirty.