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MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs: Ted

 

 

TED  (Also Two Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (Two and a Half Stars)
U. S.: Seth MacFarlane, 2012 (Universal)

 

Ted is a vulgar, irreverent, dirty-mouthed comedy about a vulgar, irreverent, dirty mouthed teddy bear named, of course, Ted — a fuzzy horny little stoner who is the best friend of a sweet, somewhat Peter-Pannish Boston Guy named John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg, as likeable and undangerous as he can get).

Why are we reviewing movies about badmouth, pop-culture-obsessed teddy bears — dirty-mouthed funny movies that are also cute and sentimental? Well, long ago, one magical Christmas — narrated, at his most plush-tongued and mock-classical, by Patrick Stewart — Ted was granted the power of (largely four-letter-word) speech, writer-director Seth MacFarlane’s speech, in fact, and also the power of motion-capture (CGI’s or something) by a falling star. (Yes, by golly: A star. Falling.) And he and little John, the least popular kid in the neighborhood, promised to be best buds forever , through thick and thin, through Celtic wins and Celtic losses, through Flash Gordon and Jack and Jill, through pot smoke and busted relationships — except for the one gal John doesn’t want to lose, lovable stick-it-out Lori (Mila Kunis), a knockout who’s put up with him (and Ted) for a good chunk of the run of MacFarlane’s dirty-mouthed Fox cartoon comedy, Family Guy.

Ted was famous for a while, but now he’s gone the way of many faded celebrities — from Corey Haim to Corey Feldman to Professor Irwin Corey to Samuel J. Jones, star of the boy‘s beloved pet movie fiasco, the 1980 Flash Gordon. But lately he’s just been hanging around, providing all kinds of bad examples for John. So now Lori, who is being pursued avidly by her rich narcissistic boss (Joel McHale) gives John a choice: Beauty or the Bear, Lori or the Tedster, a life of couch potato stonery and marijuana-fueled buffoonery, or a life with the Family Gal. It’s a hard pick, like one of Kevin McHale’s. Lori flashes a real Mila Kunis come-hither look and lays down the law. Teddy spreads his little Teddy-arms Teddy-Bear-wide: “Bring it in, yuh bastid.“ Aaaaaw!

Ted, which is MacFarlane’s first movie feature, is a brom-com with a difference. It’s about two arrested-development types and the bad-judgment, too-horny, screw-up one is a stuffed bear come-to-life. But nobody ever reacts as if it’s a toy-come-to-life, not even Johnny Carson on TV, on his show, brought to your screens through the magic of computers, or something. That’s the joke, and the whole cast plays it straight — even Giovanni Ribisi as the teddy-bear-fetishist with the overweight son (Aedin Mincks — and there’s a great wrap-up gag on him). And well, dammit, the joke works, even though you shouldn’t take your small kids to Ted, because it has so much casual swearing. Even though it’s the one movie they’ll probably want to see, after The Avengers. And even though any Ted talking stuffed bear toy will probably be one of the toy store’s biggest sellers, especially in its R versions.

There’s a lot of jokes in this movie, and most of them work. Not all of them — in fact, some of them are awful — but, compared to most of the four-letter —- we’ve been getting at the movies, an indecent percentage of the would-be funny stuff on Ted clicks, a lot of it aimed at other movies and other comedians. Sam Jones shows up, not the ballplayer, but the star of the 1980 Flash Gordon. The music in on the nose. The special effects aren’t bad either. The action scene sucks, but you can’t win ’em all.

Listen, I’m like almost everybody else. If you make me laugh, I’ll forgive you. I’ll forgive almost anything. In fact, I feel here a bit like the priest with the Mafia guy on the other side of the screen. There’s a lot to forgive and expiate: so many sins, so little time. A lot of Hail Marys here. But what the hell. It made me laugh. I forgive it. Bring it in, yuh bastid. Where’s the brewskis?

Extras: Commentary by Wahlberg and McFarlane; “Making Of” Documentary; Deleted scenes; Gag Reel: Teddy Bear scuffle.

 

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Wilmington

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INTERVIEWER
Do you think this anxiety of yours has something to do with being a woman? Do you have to work harder than a male writer, just to create work that isn’t dismissed as being “for women”? Is there a difference between male and female writing?

FERRANTE
I’ll answer with my own story. As a girl—twelve, thirteen years old—I was absolutely certain that a good book had to have a man as its hero, and that depressed me. That phase ended after a couple of years. At fifteen I began to write stories about brave girls who were in serious trouble. But the idea remained—indeed, it grew stronger—that the greatest narrators were men and that one had to learn to narrate like them. I devoured books at that age, and there’s no getting around it, my models were masculine. So even when I wrote stories about girls, I wanted to give the heroine a wealth of experiences, a freedom, a determination that I tried to imitate from the great novels written by men. I didn’t want to write like Madame de La Fayette or Jane Austen or the Brontës—at the time I knew very little about contemporary literature—but like Defoe or Fielding or Flaubert or Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky or even Hugo. While the models offered by women novelists were few and seemed to me for the most part thin, those of male novelists were numerous and almost always dazzling. That phase lasted a long time, until I was in my early twenties, and it left profound effects.
~ Elena Ferrante, Paris Review Art Of Fiction No. 228

“The evening’s curious vanity and irrelevance stay with me, if only because those qualities characterize so many of Hollywood’s best intentions. Social problems present themselves to many of these people in terms of a scenario, in which, once certain key scenes are licked (the confrontation on the courthouse steps, the revelation that the opposition leader has an anti-Semitic past, the presentation of the bill of participants to the President, a Henry Fonda cameo), the plot will proceed inexorably to an upbeat fade. Marlon Brando does not, in a well-plotted motion picture, picket San Quentin in vain: what we are talking about here is faith in a dramatic convention. Things “happen” in motion pictures. There is always a resolution, always a strong cause-effect dramatic line, and to perceive the world in those terms is to assume an ending for every social scenario… If the poor people march on Washington and camp out, there to receive bundles of clothes gathered on the Fox lot by Barbra Streisand, then some good must come of it (the script here has a great many dramatic staples, not the least of them in a sentimental notion of Washington as an open forum, cf. Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington), and doubts have no place in the story.”
~ Joan Didion On Hw’d In 1970

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