Reviews

'Ted': About a Bear and His Boy

Tami-Lyn, the little boy's dream girl who is so easy to mock, despise, and dismiss, is Ted's least imaginative take on magic.


Ted

Director: Seth McFarlane
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Seth MacFarlane, Jessica Barth, Sam Jones, Norah Jones
Rated: R
Studio: Universal Pictures
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-06-29 (General release)
UK date: 2012-07-01 (General release)
Website
Trailer

"It has been said that magic has disappeared from our world a long time ago," narrates Patrick Stewart over that crane shot of a white suburban home you've seen in too many movies. In Ted, you guess, you'll witness a reappearance of magic, not so much in "our world" as in the world connoted by that shot -- a world revolving around a cute little white boy named John (Bretton Manley). Stewart provides more detail: it's Christmas in 1984, in a town "just outside Boston." Inside that white house, John's parents beam as he opens his gift, a teddy bear. John not so imaginatively names the bear Teddy and makes a wish, that they will be "best friends for real."

That wish turns Ted real, which is to say animated, sentient, and devoted to John. He's also voiced by Seth Macfarlane, and so Ted turns into yet anther version of the same story Macfarlane has been making for years, wherein Ted is another version of Brian or Stewie or Roger the alien, the oddball who is at once so clever and so smug, and, in this case, so crude. This last is granted a motivation, in that Ted becomes an instant celebrity-tabloid favorite-has-been, a familiar trajectory indicated by a montage and a caution, that "When you make too big a splash," like Corey Feldman or Justin Bieber, it's only a matter of time before your splash is over and you see that "Nobody gives a shit."

This, while Ted grows increasingly tattered and John grows into Mark Wahlberg, complete with biceps and broad Boston accent (an accent he shares with Ted, because it's sooo funny). They drink beer, they watch Flash Gordon reruns, they eat Chinese takeout and smoke weed -- and, of course, neither grows up. And so the magic, so-called, becomes just the latest means to an utterly unmagical story about an occasionally manic, profanely comic manchild.

This means you'll be waiting for the rest of the film's running time for John to come to terms not only with his dire lack of ambition (at 35, he's working the counter at a car rental agency), but also with the fact that it annoys his smart, pretty, go-getting girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). As tends to be the case in such stories, it's unclear why Lori has an interest in John or has been waiting for him to propose for four years. It's also unclear why she's working at a company run by Joel McHale (here playing someone named Rex, as arrested in his development as John, only wearing a suit and making more money), except that you know John will need to face something like competition in order to get off his couch.

All this is to say that John is not the selling point here, though Wahlberg presents himself quite adequately, especially if you consider that most of his performance has been managed with a green screen. It's also to say that Ted has to do a lot of work here, not only serving as the metaphor for John's juvenile idiocy and libido (and penis, it goes without saying), but also as the metaphor for Lori's acceptance of same. This makes the plot complicated in that way that Harold and Kumar or Hangover plots are complicated, by nonsensical developments, inconsequential characters, and a short range of fart and sex jokes.

For the first, Ted is coveted and then kidnapped by Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) -- whose deviance is indicated by his slithery dancing to a Tiffany video -- for his fat and brutal son Robert (Aedin Mincks). This leads to a joint effort by John and Lori to recover Ted that takes them, rather sensationally and also anti-climatically, to an empty Fenwick Park. For the second, Rex ends up meaning absolutely nothing, as does Donny; Robert does offer John a chance to punch out a child, deserving, certainly, but a lazy joke too. Sam Jones and Norah Jones show up, as "themselves," to prolong the celebrity-is-absurd gag, in case you didn't get that gag the first 12 times the movie runs it. And for the third, Ted provides various buxom bodies, from the hookers who gather on his couch to the high-haired, high-heeled grocery store checkout girl, Tami-Lyn (Jessica Barth).

It's too easy to complain that Tami-Lyn is yet another tedious white-trashy bimbo, because that is, of course, what she's supposed to be, what she's named by John and Ted. But it might be worth a few seconds to wonder at how and why this joke persists, not just in Ted, but everywhere else too. She is, of course, the perfect embodiment of the manchild's desires, puerile and vulgar, prodigious and ostentatious, and never so transgressive as she seems to the manchild. Tami-Lyn here provides something like a foil to Lori, something like a tension between John and Ted, and something like a pause for you, as you try not to imagine what sex between her and Ted might look like.

Tami-Lyn also represents what's missing in movies like Ted, that is, any effort to innovate, to rethink (or even think about for a first time) the problem at hand, the arrested boy, the culture that produces him, the costs that boy imposes on girls. And in this capacity, Tami-Lyn, the little boy's dream girl who is so easy to mock, despise, and dismiss, is Ted's least imaginative take on magic.

2

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Tokyo Nights shines a light on the roots of vaporwave with a neon-lit collection of peak '80s dance music.

If Tokyo Nights sounds like a cheesy name for an album, it's only fitting. A collection of Japanese city pop from the daring vintage record collectors over at Cultures of Soul, this is an album coated in Pepto-Bismol pink, the peak of saccharine '80s dance music, a whole world of garish neon from which there is no respite.

Keep reading... Show less

Jamie Lythcott-Haims gives a voice to the internal dialogue—the self-loathing, really—of living a life as a biracial woman who, for most of her life, wasn't quite sure if she was allowed to call herself black.

About 25 pages in, I realized the irony of my hesitation to review Real American, a new memoir about one's place within the spectrum of race by Jamie Lythcott-Haims, a former Standford dean and successful public speaker.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image