Seth MacFarlane, whose $100 million contract with Fox makes him the highest paid TV writer in history, is now trying to take over the cineplex, with the same old shtick. You could pluck his oeuvre out of the summer movie-preview articles without any difficulty. His was the one where "the teddy bear comes to life and becomes a profane slacker who practically lives inside a bong and hires hookers in groups."
The movie's title is "Ted." It won its opening weekend with a $54 million gross at the box office. Clearly, MacFarlane's fans cannot consume enough of his pop-culture sewage.
"Ted" is a fitting metaphor for MacFarlane himself. He is the magical creation everyone in Hollywood seems to find as cute as a furry stuffed animal. He's made his fortune by putting the crudest, most offensive utterances in the mouths of babies, dogs and completely idiotic man-children. Hollywood is never having to grow up.
So the idea that this movie would center on a real man-boy named John Bennett who must grow up seems odd. Why grow up? Perpetual adolescence clearly has worked for some people. Here again, MacFarlane is Ted, holding back the real slackers by keeping them in a state of mental pimple-popping for his own personal gain.
This is the plot: As a boy, Bennett has no friends, so on Christmas night he wishes on a shooting star that his teddy bear could really talk to him and be his best friend — and then it happens. But it's supposedly much funnier when the movie fast forwards 27 years, and Bennett and his teddy bear are pot-smoking losers who watch too much television.
Now as one of Hollywood's most vicious atheists, it would seem like quite a sellout for MacFarlane to make a movie with a "magic wishes" plot centering on Christmas night, no less. This movie pounds away with the usual and very tired Whack-a-Mole jokes about sex, drugs and bodily functions, presumably because it can't really plot its way out of a paper bag. Even the wish-upon-a-star thing is as old as "Pinocchio."
Ask the film critics. A.O. Scott of The New York Times believes some overgrown spoiled brat in Tinseltown is phoning it in. "The sin of 'Ted' is not that it is offensive but that it is boring, lazy and wildly unoriginal.”
That's our cultural elite for you. There's nothing wrong with being offensive, but there's something dreadfully wrong with being boring and unoriginal.
Scott isn't done bashing our boob-tube anti-hero. "The feature film is not a hospitable form for Mr. MacFarlane. He has no particular visual knack, little interest in storytelling and nothing better to do with his naughty bear besides stuff him into a soft, sentimental comedy that seems almost proud of its lack of wit or conviction."
Now wait a minute. Did he actually write that the "Family Guy" flatulence-joke specialist made a "soft, sentimental comedy"? Try and locate that concept within this cow pie of vulgarity.
When Ted is forced to take a job at a supermarket — don't try to make any sense of it — he comes on to a sleazy fellow employee by not only doing pelvic thrusts, but also by spraying himself in the face with hand lotion — a porny orgasm shot on a teddy bear. That should cause Scott to rethink that "soft comedy" bit.
But the film ends on a thoroughly sappy note. Ted gets ripped in half, and then comes back to life after being sewn back together and more wishing on a shooting star. It's the kind of "My Little Pony" ending that MacFarlane would eagerly mock with both ink barrels if someone else made this kind of movie ending.
A few weeks back, MacFarlane appeared with his real-life, bong-hit buddy Bill Maher and praised the integrity of Sen. Al Franken: "He's still — he's a human being and you don't get a sense that he's sold out to the machine."
Anyone who's seen the ending of "Ted" would wonder if MacFarlane's become so addicted to the money that he's completely sold out to the "happy ending" Hollywood machine. How can someone so supremely cynical go so sentimental that NPR's Bob Mondello would actually say he made a "date movie"?
But then, MacFarlane always tries to moonwalk his way out of his cultural oil spill by washing off a contaminated bird or two. It's sad that so many so-called smart people let him get away with this sleazy song and dance. It's sadder still that anyone would endorse it with his or her cinema dollars.