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17 July 2012

Grin and Bear It

It goes without saying that Seth MacFarlane's new film Ted is absurd. Where else are you going to see Sam Jones--in Flash Gordon gear--getting stoned at a talking teddy's party, Marky Mark duetting with Norah Jones in an attempt to win back his girlfriend having been too enamoured with said teddy, and Giovanni Ribisi as a bear-napper who likes to shake his booty to I Think We're Alone Now by Tiffany? The cameos are well-placed and funny but none of these things would make MacFarlane's first live-action movie work without Mark Wahlberg's sweet but self-effacing performance as John the schlubby 35-year-old loser whose best friend is a talking teddy bear and who realises he has to get his act together before he loses his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) for good.

As Ted opens, Patrick Stewart narrates the tale of a boy who has no friends and who makes a wish on Christmas Day that his teddy were real. Sure enough, Ted comes to life, to the pleasure of John and the shock of his parents. Ted (voiced and motion captured by MacFarlane) becomes famous and thanks to their shared love of Star Wars and Flash Gordon and shared fear of thunder, he and John remain firm friends. 25 years later and they are still living together in the apartment they share with Lori. John is in a dead-end job and Ted mainly sits around getting stoned all day, but after an incident with some hookers gets out of hand, Lori insists that they kick Ted out and force him to find a job and a place to live. They need some alone time, and Lori gives him one last chance to be a good boyfriend: he has to go with her to a party at the house of her rich, sleazy and comically arrogant boss (Joel McHale). Except Ted is having a house-warming party and a friend of his just happens to know Sam Jones (AKA Flash Gordon) and he's dying to meet John, so how can John possibly resist?

I haven't even got to the part about the evangelical Christian / childhood fan of Ted (Ribisi) and his even creepier son (Aedin Mincks) "and possibly lover," who have designs on Ted and want to take him back to their scary house full of rocking horses and TVs playing bad music videos from the 1980s on repeat. Or the part where Norah Jones (playing herself) talks about her previous one-night stand with Ted. I could go on...

I'm not the target audience of Ted and I wasn't sure I would like it; I went to see a free preview screening, and it's probably not something I would have paid to see. I haven't seen any of MacFarlane's other works and I was worried that the bulk of the jokes would be the ones in the trailer. It's probably true that most of the funniest jokes were in the trailer but there was a lot of LOLing from the audience throughout the movie, and not just from those audience members with a Y chromosome. Yes, there's a lot of guy humour, but I found myself laughing despite myself. Wahlberg is very likable and his interactions with MacFarlane's Ted are funny and endearing. Kunis, I thought, was a little weak; she usually seemed to wear an expression that suggested she had walked onto the wrong set. The plot, such as it is, was stretched a little thin over 1h45, but the quips do keep on coming, keeping the movie moving. Great art it ain't, but if you want something inane, insane and funny, you could do a lot worse than Ted.

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