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There are a myriad of formats for comedy running the gamut from silly slapstick to subtly ingenuous satire. As with most things in life they are subject to the vagaries of the public tending to rise and fall in popularity. One type that has always been one I usually enjoyed is something referred to as absurdist humor. In this type of humor common sense and rational thought are given a vacation day and the imagination is liberated, free to run amok. On the surface is considered childish below the general consideration of adult sensibilities. Historically a correlation can be made, at least in a broad sense, with the socioeconomic time of the audience. When things are unusually difficult the population is more susceptible to meandering down the absurdist pathway. Sure it is puerile but sometimes the best thing is to let go of adult responsibilities and release you inner child letting him steer for a couple of hours, the movie ‘Ted’ is a recent example of this and it bears noting that it fits the bill as an ideal example of the genre. It takes a wickedly twisted yet highly intelligent mind to succeed in this particular brand of comedy. There are many ways for the filmmaker to go wrong which would result in a dismal l failure. Fortunately for the example considered here, ‘Ted’ the man behind the project is brilliant in a fashion that birders on insanity and I mean that as the highest compliment possible. Most people will instantly recognize the name, Seth MacFarlane. He is the creative force behind the wildly popular Fox animated sit com, ‘Family Guy’. As anyone who has seen this program knows MacFarlane has no regard for the mandates of the Standards and Practices department of the network. It seems that they issue memos, mandates and guidelines and he not only proceeds to utterly disregard them by all appearances he takes them as the launching point as he soars beyond them turning the sacred cows into Sloppy Joes. Now please keep in mind that this is his modus operandi for broadcast television which is under the regulatory auspices and oversight of the Federal Communication Commission. As a film the only guidelines are those offered by the Motion Picture Association of America. He has circumvented even this modicum of control by preparing an unrated DVD outside the purview of the MPPA an FCC.

MacFarlane unbound is certainly not for everyone. If you are easily offended, thin skinned or preferred deeper meaning to your humor, look elsewhere, really, He’s extremely rich and successful and already has a sizable fan base. After giving his TV fans a dog that drinks, smokes and talks as well as an infant evil overlord MacFarlane ups the ante with a hedonistic talking suffered teddy bear aptly called Ted. He was the 1985 Christmas present for a lonely young boy, John Bennett (Bretton Manley), who resides in a suburban community near Boston. His only holiday wish is that the stuffed bear would come to life and be a true friend to him. In a fashion found in such holiday tales a falling star is seen as the boy implores the cosmos. The toy is imbued with life and the pair instantly becomes best friends. The story leaps ahead through the years to 2012 and the pair is still together now living in Boston’s South End. His relationship with Ted (voiced and motion captured by Seth MacFarlane) has not changed much in the intervening year, they are still in the same juvenile abandon and disregard as ever. For the last four years John (Mark Wahlberg) has been in a romantic relationship with Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). She holds a responsible office position and is an extremely grounded young woman. John realizes that Ted has become an obstacle to any chance of a normal life particularly one involving Lori. Ted my look like a sweet, cuddly child’s toy but his personality is the epitome of rude, crude, hedonistic and crass. Every politically incorrect though you can imagine is embodied in Ted. Yes he can speak but his vernacular is restricted to foul language and vulgar epithets. John reaches his last straw when he returns home with Lori to find Ted has engaged the services of a quartet of hookers. MacFarlane relishing the freedom from the regulatory alphabet soup with the little touch of one prostitute defecating on the floor. John moves out finding a job in a grocery store. His ineptness results in him ‘falling upward’ to a quick promotion. Unable to just stay away John still spends an inordinate amount of time with the bacchanalian plush toy much to the chagrin of the lovely Lori.

Examples of theater of the absurd like this are never strong on plot. After all a cohesive story line would tether the vehicle to reality which is the complete opposite of the objective for the genre. We already have a stuffed bear with a scatological perchance for hookers, it too late to expect anything grounded like a plot. MacFarlane does populate the film with several other strangely crafted characters. One is Donny (Giovanni Ribisi); a childhood acquaintance of John’s who is still obsessed with Ted and is now stalker. He wants the bear for his own unbalanced son; Robert (Aedin Mincks) Then there is John’s manager, Rex (Joel McHale) who is infatuated with Lori. There are aspects of the film’s construction that will seem very familiar to the seasoned movie buff. This is a romantic comedy that tumbled down Alice’s rabbit hole. This is a large part of what makes the flick work and holds it together; the familiarity of the tried and true rom com. One admonition for the guys out there; unless the lady in your life is exceptionally open minded or has a demonstrable appreciation for ‘Family Guy’ this is one movie that is not for a date night. The use of the rom com formula offers the only solid footing the audience is likely to find here. The premise is preposterous but the MacFarlane pulls it off. Credit has to be given to an exceptional cast. Kunis is well acquainted with the insanity that is Seth MacFarlane having played the teenage daughter on ‘Family Guy’ since its inception in 1999. She has also worked with Wahlberg a few years back in ‘Max Payne’. In this type of movie it helps a lot when the cast is familiar with each other fostering an open atmosphere conducive to the bawdy antics depicted.

The movie is raunchy and admittedly hilarious, sort of like if one of the Care Bear took a whole lot of LSD and then got charged up on crystal meth. Much of the dialogue and sight gags here would offensive to much of the population but it will appease that giggling inner child still laughing at his first dirty joke.

Posted 12/05/12

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