Pictured above: Assholes.
by Justin Eisenstadt
Now, I know that movie reviewing is really Colin and Sean's joint, but my little brother Adam dragged me to see this movie (by offering to pay for me) and I find myself compelled to offer some thoughts about a film that, while not the worst thing I've ever seen, does represent everything that's wrong with comedy today. And by that, I'm referring to Seth Macfarlane.
Unless your utterly pretentious claim of not owning a television is actually true, then you already know that Seth Macfarlane is the hugely successful writer, comedian, voice actor, and a number of other words that end in "-er" who is responsible for the show Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show. And I assure you that I fully intended to use the singular term, "show."
Ted is a movie about a boy named John Bennett who makes a magical Christmas wish that brings his stuffed bear to life. The two vow to remain best friends forever and 27 years later, John is now a directionless tool and Ted is an obnoxious, racist asshole. John has inexplicably managed to gain the love and devotion of Lori Collins, played by Mila Kunis. However, John's immaturity and Ted's insufferable antics are putting a real strain on John and Lori's relationship. How will John be able to choose between his loudmouthed pothead bear and his incredibly attractive, funny, and intelligent girlfriend who makes more money than him and constantly puts up with his bullshit?
Alright, now that I've deconstructed the incredibly complex plot of this film, allow me to explain why, in spite of its huge box office success and bewilderingly positive public and critical reception, this movie is just plain shitty and quite possibly heralds the decline of comedy in cinema as we know it. Now, I don't actually believe that statement, but I do find it quite troubling that so many people enjoy this movie.
I understand of course that humor is completely subjective. So when I tell you that I only laughed at about five lines in the entire two hours of running time, I realize that's not going to be all that helpful to you as a reader and potential viewer. The thing that's troubling to me is why it fails not only as a comedy, but simply as a film.
At the end of the day, what brings this movie down is the same thing that caused Family Guy to go from a novel and humorous show to one that is tired, grating, and at times nearly un-watchable. Seth Macfarlane has become so successful that he no longer has anyone to tell him when his ideas are bad. He has no editor. Or, he simply refuses to listen to anyone. If you cut about 20 to 30 minutes off this movie, it would be at least decent - not great, but decent. As it stands, it's just full of line after line of jokes that are stupid, painfully obvious, or just downright offensive. I'm convinced that Seth put literally every single joke that popped into his brain into the script and refused to cut a single one.
Seth Macfarlane's idea of humor is pointing at a cute, anthropomorphic character and saying, "Hey look, guys, this thing that shouldn't be talking is making a bunch of pop culture references and saying inappropriate things. Isn't that outrageous?" Let me ask you, if you had a friend and he suddenly made a racist statement about black people or Jewish people, you'd probably just let it slide, right? He probably just didn't realize that wasn't funny. And he did the same thing two or three more times, well he's probably just very slow at picking up on things. But if he continued to make unfunny racist jokes, you'd probably sit him down and say, "Look, Steve, we think you might have some serious issues that need resolving."
Seth Macfarlane apparently does not have any friends that are willing to do this. Look, I'm a really laid-back guy and I don't get offended when someone makes some crack about Jewish people. But the sheer number of times that Seth Macfarlane continues to "poke fun" at the Jewish people in the entertainment he creates is getting even me concerned. There's a scene in this movie where Ted and John, drunk at a party (and by the way that party scene was about three times longer than it needed to be), are discussing their idea to open an Italian restaurant.
Ted says emphatically, "Hey, I've got an idea! Let's make the restaurant inclusive. Like, if a Jewish person comes, we won't say anything, we'll just let him in!" John, taken aback, replies, "Why would you even say that?" Ted says, "We don't say it, that's the point."
"Why would you even bring it up?" "We don't bring it up, we just let him in." Marc pauses, and says, "Um, ok, right, so Jewish people are allowed in." Ted affirms, "Yes. But no Mexicans."
I realize I've already broken my promise of keeping this review brief, so I'll end on this note. Seth Macfarlane is a funny guy. Really, in spite of all I've said, I do think he's a funny guy. Clearly has some issues to resolve, just like our friend Steve, but a clever and witty comedian nonetheless. However, he's a shitty writer. He can't tell a proper story, so he pads it out with extraneous dialogue and Family Guy-style cutaway gags. And the fact that the American public seems generally okay with this offends me far more than any racial slur that Ted spouts off in this movie. As someone who aspires to a career in writing fiction, let me leave Seth with this message that he will never read: no amount of pop culture references can make up for bad storytelling. If you just want to tell jokes, do stand-up. Film is for telling stories.