An awesome revamp for the stoner genre.
Movie Review #982
“Ted” is an awesome revamp for the stoner genre, maybe the best of its kind since “The Big Lebowski” in 1998. It starts off as a wonderfully sardonic, though deceptively wholesome, send-up of children’s movies. I was reminded of Adam Mansbach’s satirical children’s book Go the F**k to Sleep.
There’s even a moral we can draw from the opening. In fact, Patrick Stewart states it himself, in his amusing voiceover narration. “Now if there’s one thing you can be sure of,” Stewart explains, “it’s that nothing is more powerful than a young boy’s wish. Except an Apache helicopter. An Apache helicopter has machine guns and missiles. It is an unbelievably impressive complement of weaponry, an absolute death machine.” At nine years old, John Bennett is a lonely boy. He is left out, picked on, and teased by the other kids in his neighborhood. All he wants for Christmas is a best friend for life, and such is what he receives: a talking teddy bear whom he names Ted. John and Ted gain comfort from each other’s presence during thunderstorms. They even create a song to shoo away the thunder, and they promise to be “thunder buddies for life.”
Cue the opening credits, which show John’s transition from boyhood to adulthood, at least physically. Now onto the next scene, where we see Ted smoking a bowl with John as they sit on the couch and watch TV. It’s nine o’clock in the morning, and John suddenly realizes he’s late for work. Of course, he can’t drive because he’s just smoked marijuana, but Ted offers. He’s probably smoked more than John has, but I guess teddy bears are just better (or at least more confident) drivers in these sorts of situations.
The story is clever and even heartfelt. John isn’t a man. He lives in his own house, he has his own job, and he’s thirty-something years old, but he still possesses the spirit of a boy. His teddy bear still lives with him, and he’s still afraid of thunderstorms. But John can’t stay this way forever. Someday, he begins to realize, he has to grow up. He has a girlfriend who loves him and cares deeply about him, but realizes that he becomes practically a different person when he’s around Ted. He knows choosing the girl is the right choice, having been with her for four strong years, but he’s also been with Ted for twenty-seven years. Clearly, on some level, the adolescent male philosophy of “bros before hoes” still applies. The question is, how much does it apply?
The use of magic realism in “Ted” is priceless. Ted functions so much like a human, others tend to view him as a human. He interviews for a job at a grocery store, and is hired. He woos a fellow employee two counters over by thrusting against the cash register. He hangs out with prostitutes while John and his girlfriend aren’t home, and he joins John at a party where the actor who played Flash Gordon introduces them to cocaine. All the while, he’s a teddy bear. The comedy consists largely of anthropomorphizing Ted so he can join in on every hard-R sin that Mark Wahlberg commits. Sometimes it goes too far, putting Ted in situations that are plausible for neither teddy bears nor humans. The one who falters most in this area is the general manager at the grocery store where Ted works. He hires Ted because he shows signs of honesty, but in this case, it’s in the form of answering every interview question with swearing and badmouthing. Later, he calls Ted into his office because of an incident in which Ted was having sex with a coworker on top of the produce shelves. He considers this a sign of bravery and promotes Ted. I guess these two scenes are supposed to get us laughing, but I was furrowing my eyebrows. Cut the general manager out of the story, though, and you have something really enjoyable.