These two aren’t the most obvious pair, but they’re the only two films nominated for Best Original Song that I haven’t reviewed yet. So there you have it.
Ted is a moderately funny rom-com/buddy picture from the mind of Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy). Mark Wahlberg plays a guy whose childhood wish to bring his teddy bear to life actually came true. Now he’s an overgrown man-child doing nothing with his life and wasting his days with a talking teddy played by MacFarlane. If you’ve ever seen one of MacFarlane’s shows then you’re familiar with the shtick. He doesn’t lean so heavily on his infamous cutaways, but the lowbrow humor remains intact. It’s not the most original or highest of art but some of it is funny. I really enjoy Wahlberg in manic-dimwit mode (See I Heart Huckabees, Boogie Nights). I think it’s one of his underused strengths, and in Ted he makes the most of the juvenile setup.
The story concerns whether or not Wahlberg can grow up fast enough to keep his perfect girlfriend from leaving. She’s played by Mila Kunis and given zero to do for two hours. The film really fails whenever it tries to push this narrative forward. It’s not fun and no one cares. The movie is fun when Ted and Wahlberg do dumb shit and have fun doing it. The crazy buddy stuff is what works, not the tedious romance. A third act plot turn involving a demented performance from Giovanni Ribisi only makes matters worse. This flipped on its ass fairy-tale satire would have been more effective with less plot. Sometimes leaner is better. Instead of straining for a trite message, the film could have improved in an episodic narrative like a road trip. Maybe then there would be more time for crass jokes. They’re not all going to land, but at least you’d increase your odds. There are worse ways to get a laugh.
Chasing Ice is a short, no frills, straight to the point environmental documentary and it’s all the better for it. Part of the film is a background piece on photographer James Balog. It’s not overdone, just enough so you can understand where he’s coming from. The rest of the film chronicles Balog’s 3-year project to photograph the world’s receding glaciers. It’s fascinating to see how he goes about this task. It’s not as easy as setting up some cameras and calling it a day. Balog and his team go to some of the most remote places on Earth to deliver startling photographs. Some are impressive because Balog is a good photographer, others because of what we’re witnessing. There’s one part where they capture an enormous calving incident that is jaw dropping.
The film doesn’t get bogged down with preachy statements about climate change or statistics. The goal is to let the visual evidence speak for itself. The film makes its points, sells its ideas, and then lets the imagery take it the rest of the way. At one point they have to actually pan one of the time-lapse cameras because the glacier had disappeared so much. The film is definitely one of the better-looking documentaries around and worth seeing. It’s not a revelatory documentary on the subject, but it works.