Boldly proclaimed on the posters for Ted is a divisive phrase: "The first motion picture from the creator of Family Guy." Seth MacFarlane's kooky profane animated TV show has its diehard fans and vocal dissenters but the the writer's leap to the big screen is an impressive stretch that should suit both groups (or perhaps neither). The tale of a boy and his sentient stuffed bear Ted takes the classic mold of a '50s comedy and stuffs it full of MacFarlane's signature foul-mouthed humor. The result is sweet sick and satisfyingly simple. For a movie about a talking toy with a drug alcohol and sex problem Ted is surprisingly low concept.
Avoiding the over-explanatory storytelling pitfalls of most deranged comedies Ted cuts to the chase. When John (Mark Wahlberg) was a kid he wished for his teddy bear to come to life. Unexpectedly Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) did come to life dedicating himself to becoming John's best buddy forever. Integrating into the real world with the utmost ease (albeit finding momentary fame for being "that toy that came to life") Ted and John's friendship seldom hits a bump even when the human half of the pair finds love with Lori (Mila Kunis). The biggest hurdle comes four years into couple's relationship: Lori feels the urge to settle down; John is waiting to move up the ranks of his dead end rental car job; Ted just wants to smoke pot and watch more Cheers DVD commentaries with John. Real life problems.
Ted is an exceedingly pleasant viewing experience throwing curveballs to the central duo without losing any of the friendship and encouragement that makes both of them so lovable. It's hard to make a "nice" movie that liberally drops cuss-filled borderline-racist and perversely sexual one-liners like a twelve-year-old who just discovered his first George Carlin album but Ted manages it with MacFarlane's sharp ear for dialogue and well-constructed script. The film uses a few of Family Guy's cutaway techniques and more Star Wars references than any film since...Star Wars but it's all employed effectively to best tell the story of life long friends. Ted and John's love for the 1980 Flash Gordon movie is a clear demonstration of their fondness for childhood yesteryears — a memory that becomes the pair's major conflict.
Riding the whacked out success of The Other Guys Wahlberg continues his streak of great comedic performances nailing the everyman without letting John slip into obvious manchild territory (and doing it all with the perfect Bostonian slant). While not as dapper or madcap Wahlberg and the CG-animated Ted have a bit of Lemmon/Matthau rapport. They joke they butt heads they live life through each other's commentaries. It's great fun and wouldn't work without MacFarlane's natural performance and the digital effects to accompany it. The moment when Ted and John's bubbling tension finally brews over may be one of the best "fight" scenes of the year. The sight gags and potty humor won't be everyone's cup of tea but underneath it all is great chemistry that slathers the movie with charm.
A film that could have easily skewed to the Family Guy teen demographic defies expectations thanks to MacFarlane's old school sensibilities. Kunis modernizes the leading lady role with equal doses of spunk and romantic ambition. Surrounding the main trio are a handful of great comedic actors and famous cameos — another Family Guy-ism that feels oh so right in the movie's twisted alternate reality — with Joel McHale hitting new levels of creepiness as Lori's sexually harassing boss. MacFarlane keeps the direction as straightforward as the plotting jazzing it up with a rousing score by Family Guy composer Walter Murphy. Ted's script feels less confident summing the movie up in big summer style sagging when conflict takes priority (an absolutely bonkers Giovanni Ribisi shows up to add some wicked behavior in the second half of the film) but the whole package is a fun romp that delivers on laughs. Ted is stuffed with smiles and booze; see sometimes wishes do come true.
Take Me Home Tonight directed by Michael Dowse is a comedy about the ‘80s but its futility is timeless: In just about any decade it would be considered generic and unfunny. Set in 1988 it stars the likable and witty Topher Grace as Matt a recent MIT grad with a crippling case of post-college career-indecision. Working as a lowly clerk at a video store he has a chance encounter with his high-school crush Tori (Teresa Palmer) who to his (and our) surprise actually displays faint interest in him. But Matt fails to pull the trigger and so he resolves to make up for his lack of cojones when he sees her later that evening at a party hosted by the preppy douchebag boyfriend (Chris Pratt) of his twin sister Wendy (Anna Faris).
This sets the stage for an eventual romantic union between Matt and Tori; until then there is insecurity to overcome and wacky adventures to be had. Many of the latter stem from the increasingly unhinged behavior of Matt’s best friend Barry (Dan Fogler). The film turns on a bag of cocaine Barry finds in the glove compartment of a Mercedes stolen from the dealership that fired him earlier in the day. Cocaine is renowned for its ability to induce euphoria in even the most mundane of settings but it has arguably the opposite effect on Take Me Home Tonight. I consider Fogler to be a legitimately funny guy but he has the irritating tendency to compensate for underwritten material by wildly overacting. Throw in a bag of blow and that tendency is amplified ten-fold.
A happy standout in the film is Palmer who brings a liveliness and dignity to the stereotypical rom-com role of the Otherworldly Hottie Who Inexplicably Falls for the Stammering Schlub. (It also helps that she's the only member of the main cast who is young enough to realistically portray a recent college graduate.) She is one of the more talented young Australian exports to arrive on our shores in quite some time and has the potential to become a saucier version of fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman. That is if she finds material better than Take Me Home Tonight.
Top Story: Frost, Law File Divorce
Actress Sadie Frost is seeking a divorce from her husband, Oscar-nominated actor Jude Law, after five years of marriage, citing "unreasonable behavior," Reuters reports. In a statement released Thursday by her publicist, Frost said, "I have come very reluctantly to the decision that my marriage to Jude is over." The actress added, "We have agreed that a divorce is the only way forward but we have equally agreed that we will do everything in our power to make certain that this is as painless a process as possible for the benefit of the children. They are our No. 1 priority and have always been so and will remain so." The couple, who were married in September 1997, have three children--Rudy, who was born in September, Rafferty, 7, and a daughter, Iris, 3. When news about the couple's marital problems broke earlier this year, Law, 30, vehemently denied allegations that he was having an affair with Nicole Kidman, who co-stars with him in his upcoming film Cold Mountain. Last month, Kidman won a libel suit against the British tabloid Daily Mail over the same matter.
Italian Job Gets Another Crack
Paramount Pictures has decided to re-release their moderate hit The Italian Job in between 1,500 and 2,000 theaters Aug. 29 before the Labor Day weekend, Reuters reports. The film has grossed $96.4 million since it was first released in May, and the reissue should push it past the $100 million mark, especially since the only other wide release scheduled that week is the horror flick Jeepers Creepers 2.
Film Organization Fetes Kidman
The American Cinematheque, a nonprofit film organization, has tapped actress Nicole Kidman as their 18th annual American Cinematheque award recipient. Variety reports the Cinematheque singles out an "extraordinary artist in the entertainment industry, who is fully engaged in his or her work and is committed to making a significant contribution to the art of the motion picture." Last year's honoree was Denzel Washington. Kidman will be feted at the annual benefit Nov. 14. The ceremony will air Dec. 1 on AMC.
Jury in Sizemore Case Deliberating
A jury reached verdicts Thursday on some of the 16 charges facing actor Tom Sizemore, The Associated Press reports, including vandalism, threatening to inflict injury on a person or property, corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition, and making harassing phone calls. The judge, however, was asked by the jurors to hold off on accepting the verdicts already reached until they had resolved the rest of the counts. "I'm deferring to their wishes in this matter," AP reports Judge Antonio Barreto Jr. said after summoning lawyers to the courtroom. The jury was to resume deliberations Friday morning. If convicted on all 16 counts, Sizemore faces up to 13 years in prison.
Roseanne To Have Hysterectomy
Roseanne Barr's doctors have ordered her to have a hysterectomy, her assistant Becky Pentland told AP Thursday. The surgery is scheduled for next Wednesday. "It's not life-threatening or anything," Pentland said. "She's a real healthy person, so we hope she won't be down very long." The operation may delay the taping of her new ABC Family cooking and lifestyle show Domestic Goddess, which is set to premiere Sept. 20.
Star Trek Actress' Lawsuit Rejected
A federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit against dating service Matchmaker.com filed by actress Christianne Carafano, aka Chase Masterson, who starred in the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, AP reports. Carafano accused the site of participating in creating a fake Internet profile with her image and home address, which resulted in Carafano receiving several unwanted calls and emails, including some threatening ones. The court ruled it wasn't the company's fault, AP reports.
Stefani Starts New Handbag Line
No Doubt frontperson Gwen Stefani and her new fashion brand L.A.M.B. will launch their first limited-edition collection of handbags in the fall, AP reports. L.A.M.B. stands for love, angel, music, baby--words that are meaningful to Stefani. In partnership with LeSportsac, the bags are made of black rip-stop nylon and covered with words and phrases in a white gothic font, AP reports.
Role Call: Jack Osbourne Takes a Minute, Spielberg Adds More to Terminal
The newly rehabbed Jack Osbourne will make his feature film debut opposite the Olsen twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley, in their film New York Minute. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Osbourne will play the young manager of a band featuring Mary-Kate's character, a 17-year-old punk-rock rebel named Roxy. Ashley will play her twin sister, Jane, an overachiever looking to qualify for a prestigious college scholarship. Can't wait…Meanwhile, The Reporter writes that Zoe Saldana and Diego Luna have joined headliners Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Hanks in the new Steven Spielberg film Terminal, a story about a Balkan immigrant (Hanks) who makes an airport transit lounge his home after he learns that the borders of his war-torn nation have been blurred, voiding his passport and leaving him without a country.