Weekend Muvie Revue
Ted is the kind of movie people get excited about without quite knowing why. People who hate Family Guy find themselves thinking that maybe this is the change of pace MacFarlane needs to get back on his game. People who love Family Guy start to think that, but have the short-term memory of goldfish. There’s something about the MacFarlane formula that’s intrinsically appealing. You take a dumb, well-meaning guy, throw in a talking something and add stereotypes to taste. You also find yourself thinking with every new project that maybe he’s actually going to care again. Most peoples’ problem with Family Guy isn’t that it’s full of cutaways, it’s that the cutaways suck now. You can do whatever you want if you’re funny, but unfortunately you can also do whatever you want if your show is a cash cow.
There’s definitely enough about Ted to get excited about, and that’s probably why it’s breaking box office records right now. If you’re familiar with MacFarlane at all, then the only question is whether or not film as a medium better suits his talents or only serves to further expose his short-comings. And if you’re at least decently smart you know there’s gonna be a ton of the second one. Not many people watch a MacFarlane show and think ‘I just wish he’d had time to really stretch out and explore that idea.’ Filling time has always and will always be one of his biggest problems.
The difference between film and TV is that a movie needs to be one complete, tight package. There isn’t a next episode you can shove all the stuff you missed this time into. That means random cutaways hurt twice – they’re taking you out of the story and they’re eating up the time you’d need to tell that story completely. Basically movies are an ADD story-teller’s worst nightmare. You need to cut away all the fat and leave only the parts that absolutely need to be there. Then if it’s a comedy, you need to find a way to make all those important things funny. You don’t really have the luxury of rattling off jokes and working backwards from there.
Individual jokes also matter way more in a movie. In TV you need to be able to throw a ton of jokes out there and be willing to accept that some of them just won’t land. Ted had a lot of ‘TV’ jokes. Not just jokes that I didn’t laugh at, jokes that no one laughed at. That means even the dumb people. In fact you’ll find a lot of ‘TV’ ideas in Ted. Part of that is Macfarlane getting used to a new medium, and part is him not caring what I think. Realistically, neither of those will ever get better. At this point MacFarlane is Macfarlane and everything he does will be some version of Peter Griffin talking to a talking something.
None of that makes Ted unwatchable. It just doesn’t make it as watchable as it could be. Besides the jump to movies, the jump to live action is a big one and Macfarlane handles it quite well. There’s a decent number of jokes in this that are typical Family Guy-style delivery made better by the fact that real people are involved. There are even some reasonably touching dramatic moments, which isn’t that surprising seeing as Macfarlane has shown he has a good feel for drama when he wants to. You will be annoyed, many times, but you will occasionally laugh. that’s not really ‘succeeding’ as a comedy but it’s enough for this to be better than you were expecting, unless you were expecting it to be more than completely average.
In the end Ted is a 2 1/2 star movie. It’s 2 1/2 stars in a very Jason Noble way. Every great quality or funny joke was immediately followed by a dumb Norah Jones cameo or a direct reshoot of a scene from Airplane! Even if you think you love this movie, you will have forgotten it in 3 months. There’s nothing new or groundbreaking, and all the stuff you’ve already seen before has been done better elsewhere, in a lot of cases by MacFarlane himself. It’s just different enough that it won’t make you angry and not different enough to make you really care. In closing – Mark Wahlberg beat an asian man’s eye out.
**1/2 (out of ****)
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