The upcoming movie "Ted" features the twice-Oscar-nominated Mark Wahlberg and ... a teddy bear. Anyone who has seen Seth MacFarlane's long-running animated series "Family Guy" knows that the writer/director is not afraid of giving voice to characters who in real life wouldn't have one, like babies and dogs.
Now the comedy guru has extended that gift to stuffed animals in a live-action, big screen movie. Is it pure, unexpected genius, or could this surpass "The Beaver" for worst movie idea ever?
Wahlberg stars in "Ted" as John, a guy whose childhood wish to have his teddy bear come to life was granted. Decades later, the two are getting drunk and high together and Ted is screwing up John's life royally. Mila Kunis stars as John's love interest; not surprisingly, she wants her guy's trash-talking roomie to take a hike.
What separates "Ted" from other live-action anthropomorphic characters like the dog on TV's "Wilfred" is that everyone else can see Ted. This puts it firmly in fantasy world territory, which, on the plus side, frees the story from any messy psychological drama about John's "hallucinations." It's also tough not to see the humor in everyone casually waving to a passing car with a large teddy bear behind the wheel.
Wahlberg Takes a Risk
In 2011, we wondered if Hugh Jackman was taking a risk appearing in a film with a giant, boxing robot. Taking a meeting for "Real Steel" now seems like a breeze compared to being sold on doing a buddy movie opposite a much less ominous child's toy.
Acting with characters that aren't actually there is a tough job, even in cool, flashy movies like "Star Wars." Try not looking ridiculous when you're wrestling a teddy bear on the couch.
For a guy who's done "Boogie Nights," "The Departed," and "The Fighter," an absurd teddy bear comedy seems like an odd choice. Put the wicked, often non-PC humor of "Entourage" together with the goofiness of "The Other Guys," though, and perhaps Wahlberg's choice doesn't seem so strange. Oscar movies are good for the resume, but bringing in the masses with a low-brow comedy isn't bad for the career, either.
Is It Funny Enough?
The two "Ted" trailers have a surprising amount of laughs for what sounds like a train wreck on paper. Credit goes to Wahlberg and the editors for making the hotel fight pretty hilarious. The R-rated trailer is a lot more obnoxious, but again there's a great scene with John's rapid-fire catalog of "white trash" girl names. The usual hooker and potty humor should go over well with MacFarlane's fans, but if the trailers have all the best stuff, even that audience could shoot the film down.
Built-in fan bases can be tricky business. Believe it or not, commenters over at Film Junk were already complaining about Ted's voice being too similar to other MacFarlane characters.
"Ted" will probably sink or swim depending upon word of mouth, and though it looks better than expected, it feels like the joke could wear thin over 90-plus minutes. Female audience members might tolerate extended bouts of vulgar humor from hunky Mark Wahlberg, but when they're sitting there getting beat over the head with crassness from a talking bear, they might start to question their movie choices and warn off friends.
If there's more to the movie than what's in the trailers, "Ted" could be a surprise hit. There's still a lot to be skeptical about, and while it might not be the worst idea ever, this probably would have been better as a short film or video series online.
It's likely MacFarlane wouldn't have gotten Wahlberg for a smaller project, though. It will be interesting to see if an Oscar nominee was the genius way to make this crazy idea work.
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- Arts & Entertainment
- Mark Wahlberg
- Seth MacFarlane