‘I’ ON CULTURE
We saw two new comedies recently thanks to the fun rainstorms everywhere. Both focused on a problem now endemic in America: adult males refusing to grow up and become men. I cannot report that either is a really good movie, but both were funny, which goes a long way these days. Ted is by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, whose tale of a teddy bear come to life is funniest when the bear is misbehaving. And Ted just about always misbehaves. That’s My Boy is from Adam Sandler, whose brand of comedy revolves heavily around bodily functions and inappropriate behavior.
In both movies, the laughs are loudest when the comedy is grossest. And both are unapologetically gross; deviancy, often of the most disgusting kind, always wins. Neither film apologizes for that, so be careful about bringing the kids. They’ll probably enjoy the films more than you, and then you’ll just be horrified at what they liked.
In Ted, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) has a best friend, a teddy bear that has somehow come alive. At age 35, John hangs out with his furry buddy most of the day, both of them smoking pot and drinking beer, while John goes to work sporadically at a car rental agency. This drives John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) nuts. They’ve been dating four years; she adores John but understands that as long as he enjoys the slacker lifestyle, he’s rather useless.
The rest of the storyline is filled with clichés, deliberately so, as John winds up forced to choose between adulthood with Lori or hanging with his buddy. This allows MacFarlane, doing Ted’s voice, to inject some very funny commentary on a wide variety of topics. Yes, we have all seen this movie before, but it never has been this funny.
The cast is uniformly good. Wahlberg is at his best when playing the straight man, particularly to the booze-guzzling, drug-consuming Ted. Kunis, as usual, is wonderful as well as gorgeous as his long-suffering girlfriend. Giovanni Ribisi and Joel McHale are great in smaller parts as very different villains.
That’s My Boy focuses on teen hero Donny Berger, who becomes a hero to his junior high school classmates and a national sensation by having public sex with the best-looking teacher at his school, who has his child. A quarter-century later, Donny (Sandler) is a boozed-up has-been facing prison for non-payment of taxes. He finds out his son (Andy Samberg) has changed his name and is now an ultra-respectable hedge fund manager about to get married, although careful not to reveal all his personal secrets, the most important of which are his parents.
Donny invades the wedding party, manages to offend everyone, and leads his son and the rest of the wedding party in a mishmash of just about every possible indiscretion, including drunkenness, strip clubs, public urination, fistfights with priests, sex with a really geriatric lady, incest and probably a few others that all seemed to blend together. Sandler, as is his norm, always chooses the grossest route. The film would have been better had the script been tighter, but there were a real lot of laughs in it.
Sandler played Sandler, and Samberg essentially was the straight man. Leighton Meester was good as the seemingly uptight upper middle-class fiancée whose personal secret was far kinkier than all of Samberg’s. Wellington’s own Vanilla Ice played himself and was hilarious.
Both films were funny. Ted, with a tighter script, is a better film. Sandler’s films unfortunately are repetitious. Essentially, he sets up one strange situation after another, always looking for the cheap laugh. And he gets them, a lot of them. I am not a huge fan, but I generally laugh a lot and then feel some guilt later.
MacFarlane’s astringent point of view ties Ted together. Yes, we have all seen the magical companion to the overgrown boy scenario before (frankly, I like the film Harvey, in which we never see the white rabbit, better) but the combination of watching an anatomically incorrect Teddy bear misbehaving while also providing a withering commentary works and does it well. It is the best comedy I’ve seen in a long while. Sorry, Adam.