CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: TED (2012)
Movie Review by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares and (Special Guest Star) Kelly Laymon
(THE SCENE: A toy store. L.L. SOARES is standing in front of a shelf full of talking teddy bears, activating them all to talk in unison, when MICHAEL ARRUDA comes down the aisle)
TEDDY BEARS: You are the best critic! You are the best critic!
L.L. SOARES (waving his arms around like a conductor): Well, of course I am. Nice to see you bears are not only really good at the verbal thing. You’re smart, too.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: How do you know they’re not talking about me?
LS: Because you just got here, and they’ve been singing my praises for the past 15 minutes.
MA: Well, if praise from talking teddy bears floats your boat, you can have it. (laughs) Yes, ladies and gentlemen, L.L. Soares is the best critic around, 50 teddy bears say it’s so!
(One of the teddy bears kicks MA in the head.)
MA: Why, you little—! (grabs bear by the throat just as a little boy and his mom walk by.)
LITTLE BOY: Mommy, what is that man doing to that teddy bear?
MOM: Come on, son. Let’s go tell the manager.
MA: Wait a minute. I was just defending myself. This bear— (The Bear kicks him in the head again.) See? Did you see that?
LS (shaking his head): You’re mean.
MA: Me? If this bear had kicked you, you would have ripped its head off!
LS: Sure I would have. But it kicked you.
MA: So it did. (Kicks the bear football style over the shelf to the next aisle somewhere.) And now I have kicked it out of here. Wasn’t Kelly Laymon supposed to be joining us today?
LS: She’s probably hiding because you’re so mean.
MA (sarcastically): Ha, ha!
KELLY LAYMON: What’s all the commotion going on?
LS: Look folks, it’s Kelly Laymon!
(Cue audience to applaud)
LS: Glad you could make it. Did you have trouble finding us?
KL: I heard you guys from the other side of the store. What’s going on? Is Arruda causing a ruckus again? He’d better not be touching my Pooh bears.
LS: Yep, I can’t take him anywhere!
MA (rolls eyes): This is going to be a long day. Anyway, we’re not here to play with toys, we’re here to review the new movie, TED (2012), starring Mark Wahlberg.
LS: Oh yeah, that’s why we’re here. I almost forgot. (to Kelly) Are you still up for reviewing the movie with us?
KL: Sure! But why does this Knife Fight feel like a three-way? Are we riding the tricycle?
You know, I can’t wait to talk about this movie. TED made me want to race home to my Pooh bear doll and rip a giant bong-load with him.
MA: That’s— nice. Anyway, these stuffed bears have been singing L.L.’s praises, and he’s about to prove how good a critic he is and start us off.
LS: Yep, that’s what I’m gonna do.
TED begins in 1985, introducing us to Johnny Bennett, a little boy who has no friends, so he makes a wish on Christmas night, wishing that the new teddy bear he just got as a gift would come to life and be his friend. Frankly, this kid seems a little old to be wanting a teddy bear as a present. And he seems a little simple-minded in his belief in wishes. But hey, let’s move on.
So—guess what? you guessed it! —his wish comes true and the teddy bear comes to life and the kid tells him “I’m going to call you Teddy!” which just proves my point that the kid is a little soft in the head. Not only does Teddy become his best friend, he also becomes something of a celebrity as word gets out about this amazing talking teddy bear.
But like all trendy reality stars who don’t really have any other talents besides being famous, poor Teddy eventually becomes a has-been. But he doesn’t care, because he’s still got Johnny. Of course, when we’re reintroduced to them, now as adults, they’re called John and Ted.
KL: Am I the only freak who cried through those first eight minutes? Seriously. I sobbed like a bitch. I want a Ted doll. Not the pristine one that little Johnny gets for Christmas when he’s eight years old. I want the dingy version with the little worn spots where his fur’s almost gone.
LS: Maybe Uncle Michael will buy you one. (laughs)
Anyway, John, now in his 30s, has become Mark Wahlberg. And Ted, who had a little kid kind of voice when he was a kid, now sounds exactly like Peter Griffin from the FOX animated show, FAMILY GUY. Maybe this is because Seth MacFarlane, who created FAMILY GUY, and does Peter Griffin’s voice, also does Ted’s voice. I guess MacFarlane doesn’t have a lot of range as a voice artist, because instead of coming up with something new for TED, he just uses the same old voice he always uses. And if you’re wondering why the guy from FAMILY GUY is doing Ted’s voice, that’s because MacFarlane also directed, and was one of the writers of, TED.
KL: See, I’ve been torn on Seth McFarlane since day one. I’ve never been able to get into FAMILY GUY, but I’ve always found the guy funny and interesting in interviews. So that’s one reason why I was really looking forward to TED.
As someone who likes raunchy comedies, yet cries like a baby at TOY STORY 3 (2010), I had a hunch that this would finally be right up my alley.
LS: So have these two changed much by becoming adults? Well, John and Ted are constantly smoking bongs, drinking shots, and getting into all kinds of mischief. This doesn’t go over very well with Lori (Mila Kunis), who has been dating John for four years and is getting a little tired of waiting for him to grow up. She’s also getting tired of Ted being always around, since he lives with John (Where else is talking teddy bear going to live?).
MA: It didn’t go over very well with me, either. I kept thinking, why do I care about these guys? They’re a couple of losers.
(One of the bears leaps at MA, but MA side-steps the lunging bear, and the stuffed animal crashes into a pile of LEGOS instead.)
LS: To prove he’s a responsible adult, John agrees to find Ted an apartment somewhere else, so he and Lori can have more time alone. But the two buddies are still always hanging out together. Can John get his act together in time to save his relationship with Lori? And can Ted make it on his own?
These are just some of the questions that TED then proceeds to answer for us.
MA: Who cares? Which is the primary problem with this movie.
LS: Who cares? I care! That’s why I go to the movies, to care.
MA: Seriously, if the characters don’t do anything for me, I’m not going to care about them.
LS: Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little.
KL: I cared! I’m a borderline plushie! Or is it furry? I think it’s plushie.
MA: This is really going to be a long night!
LS: There are lots of supporting characters, too, like Matt Walsh as Thomas, John’s boss at a rental car company, who is trying to groom the irresponsible John to take his place when he gets promoted. Walsh is most currently the Vice President’s aide, Mike McLintock, on the new HBO comedy, VEEP, but he was also on lots of other TV shows, as well as having roles in movies like OLD SCHOOL (2003), THE HANGOVER (2009) and DUE DATE (2010). And Patrick Warburton (probably best known as Puddy from SEINFELD, The Tick from the short-lived live-action series THE TICK (2001- 2002) and currently Jeff on the CBS sitcom RULES OF ENGAGEMENT) as Guy, a co-worker of John’s who seems very confused about his sexuality.
MA: Yes, Warburton is very funny in what amounts to a very small role, but he makes the most of it.
LS: Yes he does! You know, I always liked Warburton and thought he’d be a bigger star. This movie proves how great he is. He has a little tiny role, and he’s funny and memorable. Give this guy his own movie already!!
MA: Calm down.
LS: See, I told you—I care. Anyway, at Lori’s job, her boss Rex (played by Joel McHale, currently the star of the NBC comedy series COMMUNITY and formerly the host of the E! Channel show, THE SOUP) is a sleazy rich guy who keeps hitting on her, even though he knows she has a boyfriend.
There’s also a really creepy father and son (Giovanni Ribisi and Aedin Mincks, respectively) who have their eye on Ted. They approach John in the park one day, offering to buy Ted from him (but he’s not for sale, he’s alive!) and who never seem very far away after that.
KL: Well, while I like Joel McHale and Giovanni Ribisi, McHale is wasted in a role far too similar to his much more complex narcissistic semi-jerk from COMMUNITY.
Giovanni Ribisi is one of my few favorite child stars who I still enjoy. (He’s in there with Jason Bateman and Neil Patrick Harris.) Ribisi is NOT wasted. He takes The Creepy Factor and ups it. He has a disturbing little dance scene that ranks up there with Ted Levine in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) and Michael Madsen in RESERVOIR DOGS (1992).
MA: I didn’t find it creepy. I just found it plain goofy.
KL: Hmmm. I got a serious “ick” off of that scene.
LS: I dunno, I liked McHale as the sleazy boss and Ribisi as the creepy stalker guy.
But not everything about TED worked for me. First off, I don’t think Mark Walhberg is all that great a choice here. He has been good in funny movies in smaller roles, but seems kind of bland to be the main guy in a comedy like this. He just isn’t a natural comedian. There are times when his cluelessness kind of works, though. Remember, Johnny seemed a little soft in the head earlier in the movie, so maybe this makes sense. But I still wish they’d hired someone funnier to be the star of this movie.
MA: In general, I think I like Wahlberg more than you. I didn’t have a problem with him in this movie, as I thought his performance worked just fine. The problem I had was with the character of John. He’s not a particularly likeable guy. I didn’t hate him by any means, but let’s put it this way, he wasn’t the type of guy I’d want to hang out with.
LS: You know, that’s true. I’m not a big Wahlberg guy. Maybe it was the atrocity called the PLANET OF THE APES remake (2001) that really turned me off to the guy, I don’t know. But even though I think he’s miscast here, and they could have hired someone funnier, he does kind of grow on me as the movie progresses. I at least find it believable that he would care about Ted and really want to hang out with him all the time. Hell, by the middle of the movie, I didn’t really mind him anymore.
And as for you not wanting to hang out with John and Ted—you gotta be kidding me! Those guys look like wicked fun!
MA: They looked like a couple of losers to me.
KL: I’ve always liked Wahlberg. THREE KINGS (1999), THE DEPARTED (2006), and BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997) are three of my favorite films. However, he hadn’t done much comedy until the past couple of years. His small role in DATE NIGHT (2010) was memorable, but he was the saving grace in THE OTHER GUYS (2010). His tough guy sarcasm was the only thing that kept me hanging on in the face of Will Ferrell.
LS: As for Ted himself, he’s kind of amazing. He’s a CGI creation who seems pretty flawless. Since he’s a teddy bear come to life, he doesn’t have to look like a real person, and the way he moves is pretty great. The voice thing bugged me a little bit, since we’ve heard this same voice many times before, but after a while, it didn’t bother me as much. I think the character is actually pretty cool.
KL: The detail on the bear and his animation were solid. He didn’t look too much like a CGI cartoon. His facial expressions and reactions were always perfect, so expressive.
MA: Yeah, Ted is very funny, and nearly all his jokes work. The problem is he’s stuck in a movie with a predictable plot and unlikeable, boring characters.
LS: Mila Kunis is on a hot streak, and she’s good here as the hot girlfriend who loves John, but wants someone more responsible. She’s not in the movie to be funny, but she does a good job as the “straight man” here, and Walhberg and MacFarlane play off her well.
KL: Yep, Mila Kunis is blessed to be so likable in every comedy she’s in. Her role here as The Girlfriend With The Ultimatum could come off as a real bitch, but manages not to.
LS: Yeah, I dig her.
MA: Really? I thought she was completely, utterly boring.
LS: Boring? Maybe there’s something wrong with your eyesight, boyo. I could just look at her and that would be enough. She doesn’t have to say a word.
MA: I didn’t say I didn’t like to look at her. I said her character was boring.
LS: She didn’t bore me.
MA: I did find a couple of other supporting characters funny, though. I really liked Jessica Barth as Ted’s girlfriend Tami-Lynn. The scene where she tells off Lori over dinner during their double date is one of the funnier bits in the movie.
LS: Yeah! I thought she was great!
KL: Am I an idiot? I had to Google Tammi-Lynn because I was convinced that was Denise Richards.
MA: I also enjoyed Bill Smitrovich in a small role as the manager of the supermarket where Ted works. His brief scenes with Ted had the audience laughing out loud. Smitrovich played the Vice President in the ill-fated TV show, THE EVENT.
LS: Oh yeah! He rocked, too! I loved all his scenes. What a great boss!
There’s also a long segment of the film where John and Ted meet their childhood hero, Sam J. Jones himself, star of the 1980 version of FLASH GORDON, at a party, which is one of my favorite parts of the movie (Jones is actually pretty funny and very cool here).
MA: Yeah, that was the funniest sequence of the whole movie, the party scene with Sam Jones. I enjoyed all the 80s references, from ALIENS to T.J. HOOKER, they were all pretty funny, but the Sam Jones/FLASH GORDON stuff was the funniest.
LS: You better believe it! In the universe of this movie, I believed, without a doubt, that Sam Jones was the coolest guy on the planet. I wanted to hang out with the guy, too! That’s called good direction.
MA: I wouldn’t go that far.
KL: Well, I disagree. I enjoyed the FLASH GORDON stuff, but I thought many of the pop culture jokes missed the mark. A lot of them seemed to be thrown in unnecessarily and randomly. That’s one of the gags that has prevented me from getting into McFarlane’s FAMILY GUY. I’d like to see him tone that down a bit.
LS: Well, to set the record straight, Michael is the one who raved about those 80s references. I just wanted to do shots with Sam Jones!
MA: I didn’t quite get the running gag about Tom Skerritt. I’m assuming it had to do with his appearance in TOP GUN (1986)? I forgot he was even in that movie, but that’s because I’ve blocked that movie from my consciousness.
LS: I’ve actually avoided seeing it somehow, maybe it’s my Tom Cruise allergy, although I may correct that. TOP GUN sounds campy as hell.
MA: TOP GUN was about as shallow and boring as the TWILIGHT movies. That’s my memory of it.
LS: But seriously, I didn’t really “get” the Skerritt thing, either. But I think that’s the point. Everyone thinks he’s such a big star and that they’re cool for knowing him, and he’s not that big a deal. The line Skerritt says toward the end, though, is hilarious.
To any dopey parents who want to bring their kids to see TED – it’s rated R for a reason!
MA: And let’s not forget, for the STAR TREK fans, Captain Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, serves as the narrator in this one.
LS: Yeah, he does a good job.
The movie actually had some similarities to the FX series WILFRED (which is itself a remake of an Australian version of the series), where Elijah Wood sees his neighbor’s dog as a man in the dog suit, and the two of them are always sitting on the couch, smoking bongs, much like John and Ted. TED is much more than that (and it’s funnier), but I thought the similarities of these scenes were interesting.
There were some scenes where I didn’t laugh much at all, and other scenes where I laughed a lot, but despite my complaints, I liked this movie for the most part. Enough of it works to make it an enjoyable comedy.
I give it three knives out of five. This is exactly the kind of movie that I think will grow on me more over time, and I’ll like it even better.
KL: I liked it a lot, too.
All in all, it’s also a sweet little movie, without being too heavy-handed about life lessons or messages.
MA: Wow. Of all the words I could have used to describe this movie, “sweet” isn’t one of them.
KL: You have a heart of iron, Arruda!
LS (starts to sing in a deep voice): You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!…
KL: But there were some things I didn’t like…
Something that I can’t stand in films is when a character takes to a stage in a public place to sing to the angry boyfriend or girlfriend to try to win them back or say sorry. That ridiculous stunt always pulls me right out of the film and makes me roll my eyes.
LS: I hate that, too. I just figured it’s a good time to get some popcorn.
KL: However, the Norah Jones cameo and material was funny. She shot up a few notches in my book for being a great sport.
I’ll give it a solid four knives. The only reason I can’t give it five is because of that ridiculous singing stunt that I hate like poison each time I see it. Also for the overdone “Where Are They Now?” end credits round-up. Other than that, the whole thing worked for me.
MA: Yeah, I didn’t like that end credits round-up either. I thought it was lame.
LS: Me, too.
MA: I laughed at some things but not at others, like you said earlier, L.L., but when all was said and done, I guess I liked it less than both of you did.
Here’s my problem with TED—the jokes for the most part, especially the 1980s references, work and they’re all pretty funny, but the story this movie tells is lame, dull, and cliché, and the characters aren’t likeable, and so I didn’t really care about them. I could care less if John and Lori get together or not. I was hoping they’d just break up so the movie could move on and forget about them. They were two very unlikeable characters.
LS: I don’t think so at all. I liked them both.
MA: As a result, while I laughed frequently during this movie, but I didn’t really enjoy it.
And for a movie about a talking Teddy bear, it wasn’t all that imaginative. I kept wondering, why was Ted attracted to human women? He’s a teddy bear. Shouldn’t he be attracted to other stuffed animals? Likewise, why were human women attracted to him?
LS: Because it’s funny! HOWARD THE DUCK (1986) —okay, awful movie, but great character from the comics— dated a human woman, too. It works. It’s a funny idea—a funny animal banging a human woman.
MA: If you say so. There were creative paths this movie could have taken but didn’t. It was too interested in making jokes about getting high and farting.
Speaking of which, I thought some of the vulgar jokes misfired. For example, what the hookers leave on the floor of the apartment didn’t make me laugh one bit. All it did was make me stop eating my popcorn. Vulgarities can be funny sometimes, don’t get me wrong. So, where do I draw the line? Well, if it makes me laugh, then I’m good with it. In this movie, a lot of these scenes weren’t making me laugh.
KL: The humor is raunchy. Really raunchy. The guy sitting behind me brought his ten-year-old son to the showing I attended. I wondered if the guy was slightly misinformed and thrown off by the cute teddy bear.
LS: Actually I think the guy was just plain stupid. How hard is it to find out about a movie these days before you see it? You can check it out on the Internet in like two seconds and find out why it’s rated R.
KL: The kid laughed through the whole thing, but I did a few double takes as the kid whooped it up at the sex jokes. I’m not sure if I hoped the kid didn’t know what some of those terms meant or not.
LS: I don’t know, I guess it was kind of raunchy, but after a while, I didn’t notice it anymore.
And I thought the “present” the hooker left behind tried more to be a “shocking funny” moment than a laugh-out-loud funny moment. I’m okay with that. But hey, not all the jokes were for us. I’m not a big fan of fart jokes myself, but I know people in the audience I saw this with laughed their asses off whenever there was a fart joke. C’est la vie.
MA: I also didn’t like the subplot about the obsessive guy and the little boy trying to kidnap Ted. I thought it was the worst part of the movie.
LS: I thought that worked fine—the scene in their house was really creepy, and I liked it, especially Ribisi was dancing to an old Tiffany video, that cracked me up—but I wish Ted had kicked that creepy boy’s butt.
MA: The movie takes place in Boston, and the city looks great! There’s even a chase scene in Fenway Park, although this scene bugged me. In trying to rescue Ted, John and Lori in effect break into Fenway Park at night. Afterwards, they’re back home, no problem, even though we see the police on the scene. You’re caught trespassing at Fenway Park by the Boston Police and you’re not arrested? Yeah, that’s realistic!
LS: Yeah, you got it…And a talking teddy bear. Yeah, that’s realistic!
MA: Even a movie about a talking teddy bear needs to have realism. Otherwise, it’s stupid.
LS: Not really.
Personally, I thought the Boston references were a double-edged sword. Since I’m from Boston, I thought a lot of those jokes were funny, and seeing a lot of locations that I know was interesting—but after a while it was just distracting me from the story. And if people are from outside of Boston, they’re not going to get the joke, which means a lot of the jokes aren’t going to work for them. I guess I’m just not a huge fan of “inside jokes” about a city of something. Hell, when a stand-up comedian says “Hey, how’s it going, Boston!” I wanna kick him in the nuts. Get on with the jokes!
MA: Well, I lived in Boston for 10 years, and I always enjoy seeing the city in a movie.
KL: I only lived there for four years, but the Boston scenery was a lot of fun. I had to stop myself from staring at the background to pick out familiar spots. And the climax at Fenway Park was a nice treat. It gave me flashbacks to the climax of THE TOWN (2010).
MA: Yep, I thought of THE TOWN too.
MA: (nudges him): Wake up!
I saw TED in a packed theater, and the audience was very generous in their laughter. They laughed much more than I did. I can’t deny that I was disappointed with this movie.
LS: The audience I saw it with liked it a lot, too. Then again, where I saw it, they served beer.
MA: I expected a more complete movie, with the jokes balanced by a likeable story. TED isn’t balanced at all. Its jokes are stuck inside a lame plot that doesn’t go anywhere.
Wise-cracking Ted speaks like a foul-mouthed stand-up comedian, and at times, listening to him speak, that’s how I felt, as if I were at a comedy show listening to him perform, and you know what? That would have been more enjoyable.
I give TED two knives.
KL: A heart of iron, Arruda!
LS: Well, everybody’s entitled to their opinion. Including them. (Points to the army of talking Teddy Bears all wielding knives marching towards MA.)
BEARS (chanting as they approach MA): Kill, kill, kill!
LS: Hey, I really like these toys. I might buy a couple of them.
KL: I’ll stick with my Pooh bear, thank you very much!
MA (to BEARS): Are one of you guys named, Chucky? I really hate to do this, but sometimes, a guy has to do what a guy has to do.
LS: Of course.
(MA pulls out a machete and leaps at bears, striking them down just as the little boy, his mom, and the store manager appear.)
MANAGER (into walkie-talkie): Security to the Teddy Bear aisle.
MA: Wait a minute. I can explain. (To LS) Tell him.
LS: Tell him what, strange person? (to cops) I’ve never seen this man before in my life.
KL: Those poor teddy bears! Do they wanna grab a drink later?
(Security arrives and arrests MA)
LS (to audience): Don’t worry. I’ll bail him out. Some day. (laughs.)
MA (off-camera): Take your stinking hands off me, you damned dirty Teddy Bear! It’s a madhouse!
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares and Kelly Laymon
Michael Arruda gives TED~ two knives out of five!
LL Soares gives TED ~three knives!
Special Guest Reviewer Kelly Laymon gives TED ~four knives!