A Look Back on ‘Ted’ (2012) – Seth MacFarlane’s Directorial Debut

Back in 2012, I graduated high school! I thought that it would be the best year of my life, since I was embracing adulthood, entering the world on my own as I left my academic years behind. One of the things I did to feel more like my age was go to my first R-rated movie by myself. As soon as I had the money, as I didn’t have a job at the time, I went to my local Regal theater and checked out Ted. Now Ted was a special movie for me, due to the fact that it was the first R-rated movie I had seen in a theater since Watchmen, back in 2009. The only exception was that I was completely on my own, without a parent to accompany me. I couldn’t even believe my actual age as I sat through Ted in all its raunchy glory, yet for the first time, I felt like a real adult. Funny enough that it was a movie about a talking teddy bear with the voice of Seth MacFarlane, who also wrote, produced, and directed this movie.

We all knew Seth MacFarlane as the creator of shows like Family Guy and American Dad, yet Ted was his first foray into feature films, and a live-action one at that. You can definitely feel MacFarlane’s touch in the screenplay, as every moment seems absurd enough to belong in a parody. Through all its offensive jokes and juvenile sense of being, Ted managed to be a massive success, grossing $549.4 million worldwide against a $50-65 million budget, spawning a sequel in 2015, and even launching MacFarlane’s career as a film director (though short-lived as it may seem). Ten years later, does Ted still hold up as a comedy classic?

While Ted was popular a decade ago, throughout the years, it seemed to fade into near obscurity as just another raunchy comedy for stoners to pop in once in a while. The idea of comedy has also changed as the line between what is funny and what is offensive seems to be growing thinner. Gone are the days when you can make a crack about somebody’s race or sexual orientation without some type of bounty on your head, or a pointed finger at your very soul. Ted seemed to cross that line a bit much, though this was the type of humor that MacFarlane has been known to implement in Family Guy. Watching Ted today, you may be shocked by the amount of gay jokes and racial in-sensitivities on display, especially in the Unrated version, which goes as far as to make jokes about child abuse and miscarriages, which I could see why they were cut . Though, to his credit, MacFarlane never retorted to using racial or homophobic slurs to keep the comedic balance afloat. I wouldn’t say he crossed a line as far as just putting in one foot over, just to test the boundaries.

Though filled to the brim with MacFarlane’s sense of humor, in this comedy lies a cleverness that manages to stand the test of time. While its comedy may age just as well as a rotting apple, its story and concept seem to get better over time. MacFarlane takes the idea of a children’s fantasy and extends it for all its worth. “What would happen if a child wished for his teddy bear to come to life, only to grow up with it?” Ted even plays like a modern-day fairy tale with Walter Murphy’s whimsical score and Patrick Stewart’s narration. Our hero, John Bennett, is a pot-smoking man-child from Boston, and Mark Wahlberg sells it to comedic perfection. While Ted himself is a cranky, cantankerous old soul with over 27 years worth of dust and patches and a voice comparable to Peter Griffin (which the bear makes a needlessly obvious jab at in one scene). The visual of Ted is astounding, as he looks like an actual teddy bear come to life; I feel like The Academy was wrong to snub it for a Visual Effects Oscar nod (A song nomination wasn’t enough). Even though he may be a CG creation, Ted feels just as real as the T-rex from Jurassic Park. The fight scene between John and Ted at John’s motel room even adds some sound effects to counteract the visuals for a splendid brawl, as a lot of it feels authentic.

For a comedy directed by MacFarlane, Ted is also surprisingly emotional when it needs to be, as it deals with a man afraid to let go of not only of his best friend, but his childhood as well. The foil comes from Mila Kunis’ Lori, John’s girlfriend, who wishes that John could be more mature and take his relationship seriously, which in turn, leads to some moments of hard-hitting seriousness. What may look silly in real life, actually can compel one to express emotion when those moments hit. Ted also works at effective thrills in the form of Giovanni Ribisi’s Donnie, a seemingly lonely man who wants the bear for himself, and his son, Robert. As Donnie, Ribisi is fittingly creepy while also being funny as he dances to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now”.

In its own way, Ted still works to this day, while also being a product of its time. It manages to offend while also bringing something to the table.

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