Ted (US - BD RA)
Jonathan checks out Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane's directorial debut..
John Bennet (Mark Wahlberg) is a grown man whose cherished teddy bear came to life as the result of a childhood wish... and hasn't left his side since. Can John's relationship with longtime girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), move forward with his lovably profane buddy in the picture? (From the Universal synopsis)
I imagine my experience with Seth MacFarlane's work isn't that uncommon. I was really into Family Guy back when it first came on the air. It's hard to believe that was in 1999. I was 12 when the show first aired, so that could already explain why I loved its irreverent humor and relentless jabbing at popular culture. It started to lose me around season 5 or 6, and its difficult to tell if it overstayed its welcome or if I just grew tired of it, though I'm inclined to lean toward the former. I still have friends that watch it regularly, and I find myself involuntarily quoting old episodes from time to time. I've never cared for American Dad and I haven't even tried watching The Cleveland Show. Regardless of my disinterest in his shows, Seth MacFarlane has always come across as a charismatic, friendly fellow in his television appearances and interviews. Plus I can't deny that there was a time when his work brought me great joy. Making the transition to directing a live action film seemed like a good opportunity for MacFarlane to stretch his legs and try something different, and I went in with great optimism.
Ted starts off having a go at the holiday miracle movie cliches. A young boy with no friends makes a magic wish to bring his teddy bear to life. When he introduces it to his parents, instead of being stunned they freak out, start cursing and hop up on the counter. It is an enjoyable parody. From there the character of Ted becomes a child star, and one of the movie's cooler special effects shows Ted making an appearance on Johnny Carson. Flash forward to John Bennet's adult years, and Ted transforms into a stoner/buddy comedy. This is much more familiar territory for MacFarlane, who resorts to his usual immature sense of humor. Ted is now a cursing, bong-smoking teddy bear that crashes on John's couch. It sounds like it would get old fast, but Mark Wahlberg's John Bennet keeps the movie grounded and his changing personal life keeps the plot moving along. When he starts dating Lori (Mila Kunis), he realizes he can't hang on to her and Ted at the same time. A predictable bromance versus romance conflict ensues, but even when the story beats are familiar MacFarlane keeps the film lively with a decent amount of laughs and a couple very enjoyable sequences.
One highlight of the film for me was the series of Flash Gordon references. John and Ted grow up watching the 1980 film, and later in the movie they party with Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones. The joke is really stretched out, but anybody who saw the movie at a young age will get some enjoyment out of it. I have to admit, I really like Mark Wahlberg in comedic roles. I first got a taste of how funny he could be in David O. Russel's I Heart Huckabees. He stole most of the scenes he was in. He demonstrated that he wasn't afraid of playing a goofy, stupid cop in The Other Guys, where he was often much funnier than co-star Will Ferrel. Wahlberg's dedication to the silliness of Ted absolutely makes the movie. My favorite sequence, by far, is an all-out fist fight between John and Ted. They trash a hotel room, hurling objects and throwing each other into things. It is so silly yet so brutal at the same time, and it is surprisingly well choreographed. It fondly reminded me of Bruce Campbell battling his hand in Evil Dead 2. Giovanni Ribisi steals a couple of scenes as Donny. He's a strange stalker who has been obsessed with Ted since his childhood years and wants to kidnap him so his son can play with him. Seeing him dancing and singing to Tiffany's 'I Think We're Alone Now' in his living room is hilariously off-putting.
While I find myself happy with Ted overall, most of my joy comes from individual sequences in the movie that work great on their own accord. A lot of the jokes were a complete miss for me. Lazy pop culture references (Justin Bieber and Taylor Lautner jabs) and humor designed to shock without any real creativity leave many scenes falling flat. It is in these moments that the movie closely resembles MacFarlane's television work, which I was hoping he would break away from. I don't take issue with immature humor in general, but there is a random, forced nature to much of MacFarlane's joke choices that feels desperate. Finding humor in his characters and the lives he has written for them would have far more lasting appeal than the random riffs that Ted goes off on. Perhaps I'm just burned out on his delivery. When Ted speaks in the movie, I just hear a Brian the dog or Peter Griffin joke. When the movie contains a joke about how Ted sounds like Peter Griffin, it feels dreadfully corny and just makes it that much worse. Like most comedy, this is really more a matter of personal preference than legitimate criticism, and I do have to give a lot of credit to the charming leads. They do a lot to make some unfunny material come off as endearing. I'm sure dedicated MacFarlane fans will get exactly what they want out of Ted.
Universal brings Ted to Blu-ray with a very strong 1080p transfer. It was shot on the Panavision Genesis HD Camera, which as the same device Captain America: The First Avenger was filmed on. It has a very similar motion to that film. Things move in a manner that looks much smoother than film, and closer to something you would see on a HD television sitcom. The transfer looks extremely clean and detail is very strong. You can see all the small clusters of fur that make up Ted's coat. Digital noise is still very much present, but mostly sticks to the darker areas of the picture where it is not a major distraction. Colors look absolutely fantastic. The green grass and lush trees when Ted and John walk through the park are especially eye popping. Like most modern comedies, the film mostly has a warm hue to it that makes reds looks very vibrant. Aside from the digital noise, I didn't see any signs of artefacting or ugly compression side effects. This is a great looking disc.
The solid video presentation is matched by a delightful DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Ted may be a quaint buddy comedy at heart, but it has a budget behind it, and you can tell they put some time and effort into a quality sound mix. Directional effects aren't much of a priority, and the rear channels really only serve the purpose ambient noise or the occasional passing vehicle. The LFE channel is also used with subtlety. Norah Jones provides a delightful theme song for the film, which most of the score is derived from. It is very much a light, sitcom style of music. But the instruments still sound rich and explore the sound space nicely. The mix really comes to life during the wild party scene where Ted and John meet Sam Jones. Plenty of noise and commotion spreads across the room. There's a bit where the party is spiraling out of control and the camera zips around the room in circles. The accompanying audio effects are trippy and awesome. Dialogue sounds very clean. MacFarlane's lines as Ted always feel like they belong in the environment on screen. It fits with every other voice in a scene, and never "Banes" its way above the rest of the audio.
Extras kick off with a Commentary with Seth MacFarlane & Alec Sulkin & Mark Wahlberg. This is a very casual commentary track. Wahlberg doesn't stay for the entirety, but when he is present for the first 25 minutes, he seems to be very proud of the film. The three commentators have a great rapport with one another. There is a lot of reminiscing, and MacFarlane names all of the cameos and supporting roles. They also spend a lot of time complementing each other's work. You won't get much technical knowledge out of this track, but it is a leisurely, enjoyable listen that MacFarlane fans will like.
There are fifteen Deleted Scenes (HD, 14:43), most of which are alternative or additional jokes. They aren't very funny, so I'm glad they ended up getting cut from the movie. Main segments include more footage of the young John Bennet, some additional scenes with John's co-workers, some more of Lori's work environment, and a little more party footage. The good deleted scenes were likely what made it into the Unrated cut of the film on this Blu-ray release. There is a separate feature labeled Alternate Takes (HD, 10:32). These scenes are rapid fire, usually lasting a few seconds. The feature plays out more like a line-o-rama extra that you'd find on an Apatow produced comedy. Special effects are inconsistent here. Some feature a fully animated Ted, while others have stand-in props.
Next up is a Gag Reel (HD, 06:25). There isn't anything particularly noteworthy here. It's your typical gag reel, but fans of the cast members will likely get a kick out of seeing them goof around on set. This is followed by Ted: The Making of (HD, 24:43). This is a quick-moving look behind the scenes that is told in three parts. The first part, 'A Guy, a Girl and a Teddy Bear', is a general look at the idea behind the film and the storyline. The second part, 'Doing it Live' focuses on how Seth MacFarlane was on set in a mocap suit, recording his audio on location during each take. When you see a shot in the film of John and Ted walking down a sidewalk talking, somewhere off to the side MacFarlane is being recorded in a mocap suit, reading and riffing lines. It's actually a really cool and innovative process. The last segment, 'A MacFarlane Set', is a short set of interviews with the cast members talking about working on set. Overall its a great little making of feature that will really make you appreciate the technology that went into the film making.
Teddy Bear Scuffle (HD, 05:38) is the feature I was praying would be on this Blu-ray disc. When I saw the fight scene in the movie, all I could think about was Mark Wahlberg tripping around a hotel room pretending like he was being punched by an invisible bear. This feature gives me access to that footage, as well as a nice look into the preparation and shooting process that made the scene possible. Excellent feature for an excellent scene.
A lot of the jokes in Ted fell flat for me, but I still found it a relatively enjoyable experience. The leads manage to be charming even when the material feels uninspired, and MacFarlane showcases some great directing chops. Fans should be delighted with this Blu-ray release and its brilliant AV presentation. There are some very fun special features, including a hilarious behind-the-scenes look at John and Ted's awesome fistfight.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 11th December 2002
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish, DTS 5.1 French,
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: Theatrical and Unrated Versions of the Film, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Takes, Teddy Bear Scuffle, Gag Real, Feature Commentary with Seth MacFarlane & Alec Sulkin & Mark Wahlberg, The Making Of, DVD Copy, Digital Copy, Ultraviolet Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane
Genre: Comedy and Fantasy
Length: 107 minutes
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