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Nominated for Best Original Song(“Everybody Needs a Best Friend”)at the 85th Academy Awards

Question: if I can see the “Aliens” reference coming from about 3 minutes out, is it really all that funny? That’s what I asked myself during the final act(which is mostly a long chase scene…run out of ideas, much?)of Seth MacFarlane’s smash-hit comedy(over a half billion dollars at the worldwide box office), “Ted”. MacFarlane has a legion of fans from his popular “Family Guy” series, and this year he will host the Academy Awards. I’ve had a look at “Family Guy” occasionally(I work in an industry where there are televisions running 24/7, and most of my male co-workers worship the show). It can be very funny. But I can only take so much of that rat-a-tat-tat, pop-culture reference a minute, smarmy style. It wears on me. So, at an hour and 45 minutes, “Ted” started overstaying its welcome after an hour or so. Hey, watching a trash-talking, over-sexed, pot-smoking Teddy Bear is hilarious at times. Seeing Ted(voiced by Mr. MacFarlane)beat the crap out of his buddy John(solid work from Mark Wahlberg)is uproarious. Casting Sam Jones, of “Flash Gordon” fame, in an extended cameo is inspired. But the laughs are cheap, and in fits and starts.

John Bennett is a lonely eight-year-old Boston kid, who gets a teddy bear as a gift from his parents in 1985. John names it Teddy, and one night wishes that Teddy can come to life and be his best friend forever. And through the power of a shooting star, Teddy does. Then, in one of the movie’s most ingenious conceits, everyone learns of it. First John’s horrified(at first)parents, and then the local media and soon the whole nation. Ted becomes a sought-after celebrity/curiosity, even appearing on “The Tonight Show”(with Johnny Carson, of course)! When we finally join John and Ted in 2012, the hub-bub has died down, and man and stuffed bear are hard partying roommates. John is a nice guy, but an underachiever—with a quick wit…and few prospects. Of course, this being the movie universe, John still manages to snag one of the hottest women on the planet in Lori(smokin’ Mila Kunis), who after dating John for four years is finally starting to get fed up with John and Ted’s puerile ways, and openly voices that maybe it is time for the roomies to get separate living spaces and finally grow up. Will John chose Teddy or Lori in the long run? Can the overgrown “boys” survive without constant companionship? And how the heck do they work Sam Jones into this enterprise? All answers are eventually provided, like it or not.

I’ve had a slight desire to see “Ted” via Netflix, and ultimately decided to give it a shot when it got its song Oscar nomination. Unless a vast majority of critics deem something horrendously awful, I do make the attempt to see all the Academy Award nominees. “Ted” was kind of fun, and I’m not sorry I finally got around to it. But its thrust and premise got spread pretty thin after 105 minutes. And I failed to even “touch on” the obsessive psycho fan(Giovanni Ribisi)subplot that brings the film to its Fenway Park conclusion. That stuff comes off as awfully lazy screenwriting no matter how you slice it. And the fact that “Ted” doesn’t work too hard to be overly PC will assure that it will certainly offend some. But I have to imagine that its primary audience is adult, white men under 40 or so, so chances are they won’t mind so much anyway. Occasionally “Ted” is quite a hoot. But it proves not quite inspired enough to be a hoot and a half.      Grade: C+


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