Thunder Buddies for Life

28 Jun

When it comes to Ted, Seth MacFarlane’s talking teddy bear movie, there’s only one question that matters: Is it funny?

Yes it is.

Holy crap, is it ever.

If you know nothing about this movie, then let me fill you in: It all opens in a Boston suburb in 1985, at Christmas — “that special time when Boston children gather together and beat up the Jewish kids.”

John Bennett, an 8-year-old boy who has no friends, receives a teddy bear and makes a wish that the stuffed animal was real. Lo and behold, the next morning, Ted is a walking, talking, live teddy bear. (“Look what Jesus did!” a TV newscaster exclaims.)

Fast-forward a few years, and John is now 35 years old, played by Mark Wahlberg, living in Boston, dating a hottie named Lori (Mila Kunis), and still best friends with Ted (who now has the voice of MacFarlane — clearly, even teddy bears go through puberty).

Over the years, the bear became a minor celebrity, appearing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and multiple magazine covers, but as the narrator explains, no matter how famous you get, “eventually, nobody gives a shit.”

Perhaps that’s why these days, Ted has a bit of an attitude.

He speaks with a heavy South Boston accent. He drinks beer. He smokes pot. He makes 9/11 jokes. And somehow, he has sex with prostitutes and other attractive ladies.

Ted is no Chucky. But he’s no Teddy Ruxpin, either.

If you’re thinking Ted isn’t exactly a family film, then you’re damned right. And that’s a good thing.

Given its pedigree (MacFarlane is the creator of Family Guy), you get pretty much what you expect here. Yes, there’s crass and borderline offensive humor, but there’s also some sharp cultural commentary, quick pop culture references (including an homage to Airplane! and much love for the film Flash Gordon), and most of all, some hysterical lines of dialogue.

All involved, from Wahlberg and Kunis down to Sam Jones (that’s Flash Gordon himself), Tom Skerritt, Norah Jones (!!), and another cameo I won’t spoil, buy into the whole thing.

But really, the film works so well because the impossible relationship between John and Ted works so well. MacFarlane, for all his raunch and juvenile humor, has created a sweet, believable friendship that feels real, whether these two are naming white-trash girlfriends, hiding from the thunder, watching TV, or beating each other up in a motel.

Kunis’ Lori wants to move forward with her relationship with John, but she fully acknowledges that the two have a tight, almost unbreakable bond. And this is helped immensely by Wahlberg, whose boy-who-won’t-grow-up performance is spot-on.

Yes, Ted really does have a beating heart at its center.

And it’s not just the characters MacFarlane likes, it’s Boston too. Ted totally feels like a local movie, with many landmarks in view, a great shout-out to Tom Brady, and some winking nods at local culture. It also features what may be the second-most exciting cinematic climax set at Fenway Park after The Town.

There’s an unnecessary and creepy Toy Story-esque subplot involving Giovanni Ribisi as the father of a child who wants Ted for himself. And I would have loved it if there was some interaction between Joel McHale (who plays Lori’s boss) and Ted. But really, that would have distracted from the great core of this movie, which is simply John and Ted hanging out.

If you hear “talking teddy bear movie” and think, “Awwww, how cute,” you’d be advised to avoid Ted at all costs. But for everyone else, Ted provides a whole lotta laughs, from start to finish.

I’m giving Ted a B+.

6 Responses to “Thunder Buddies for Life”

  1. blaiselucey1 June 28, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    You totally just convinced me to see this movie.


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    […] 19. I need a thunder buddy. […]

  2. Girls Behaving Badly for Fun and Profit « Martin's Musings - September 9, 2012

    […] I don’t want to ruin any of the pleasure of seeing this movie, so I’ll just say Bachelorette is, well, G2G (good to go). I haven’t laughed this much at a movie in a very long time (yes, that includes Ted). […]

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    […] with so many good movies in 2012, a few categories that are actually competitive, Family Guy and Ted creator Seth MacFarlane sure to crush it as host, and the prospect of seeing Jennifer Garner and […]

  4. Halfway Through the Year, Some Great Movies to See | Martin's Musings - June 30, 2015

    […] Ted 2. The jokes that land really land. Hard. But this pointless sequel just isn’t as good as the first Ted movie. We get it: He’s a rude, pot-smoking teddy bear with a Boston accent. Horse, beaten. […]

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