Ted (2012)

(On Cable TV, September 2013) After seeing many comedies so grounded in realism that they only qualified for the genre label by virtue of not killing off anyone, it’s almost refreshing to see a comedy so unapologetically dedicated to letting big laughs as Ted.  From the high-concept opening (boy wishes for his stuffed bear to become alive; bear obliges), Ted is shameless in trying for the maximum number of laughs in the time it has.  Alas, this usually means going for the lowest common denominator, so don’t be surprised at the film’s crass and unsubtle humor: Much of Ted is about seeing a cute teddy bear swear and behave badly, and while that works for a while, it’s a strategy with limited potential.  Mark Wahlberg is quite good as an ordinary guy trying to find a way between adult life and the remnants of his childhood, with a good voice performance by writer/director Seth MacFarlane and a fine supporting performance by Mila Kunis.  (Nora Jones’ cameo is also pretty funny.)  Some of the jokes work well (ie; the hotel room fight), and when they don’t (ie; much of the specific pop-culture references –who else can be so fascinated by Flash Gordon?) there’s usually another mildly-funny gag a few seconds later.  Boston also has a nice role playing itself, with enough picturesque checkmarks to make the local tourist board happy.  Still, this is a film aimed at blue collar guys, and those with low tolerance for penile jokes (some of them bordering on homophobia and others on misogyny) may want to lower their expectations.  While Ted definitely has some thematic potential in the way it literalizes the process letting go of one’s immaturity, it’s not in itself mature enough to commit to a satisfying conclusion: I was actually disappointed at the feel-good no-changes conclusion, mostly because the film demands otherwise (and tries to have it both ways as well.)  While Ted is well-made enough, and occasionally charming in its relentless attempt to be funny, it’s not quite the film it could have been with just a bit more wit and depth.

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