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Contrary to what The Internet would have you believe, going into a movie unbiased is not the same thing as going into a movie without having any ideas about it already taking shape. As such, it's not uncommon to find yourself unsurprised by how a movie (or a season's worth of movies) turns out.
For example, if you'd told me last year that (for me) The Dark Knight Rises was going to be a moderate disappointment compared to its predecessor, that The Amazing Spider-Man was going to be at best a tedious slog, that I was going to love ParaNorman and that The Avengers was going to set the world on fire ... my response would probably have been "well, duh." Sometimes you can just see these things coming (some further in advance than others, obviously.)
But sometimes you do actually get surprised, and not always - as one may assume - by under-the-radar material that you just haven't heard much about, or things that just hadn't interested you. Two years ago I was shocked at how much I despised Monsters, a film I was expecting to enjoy (and whose director now has my stomach in knots over what he'll do to my beloved Godzilla.) After a year of my horror-geek pals telling me how great the "mumblecore" anthology movie "V/H/S" was, I finally saw it myself this week and hated (almost) every minute of it.
So ... surprises happen, is what I'm getting at here.
Even still, had you told me last year that one of the better experiences I'd end up having at the movies this summer (to say nothing of being one of the more popular and talked about hits of the season) would be a lowbrow "bromance" comedy about a foul-mouthed stuffed animal from the creator of Family Guy, I'd have been likely to scoff. But here, with summer officially gone and the fall Oscar Season rolling in with the fog, I find myself looking back and realizing that in a year where everyone from Ridley Scott to Christopher Nolan to Peter Parker to Pixar managed to let me down to one degree or another, Ted will probably end up being one of the year's best movies.
I wish I was aiming for some kind of "hidden depths" business here, but I'm not. There's no great secret symbolic meaning to Ted, no subversive undercurrent or alternate interpretation that makes it more than just a movie about a slacker and his talking teddy bear. Tedis exactly what Ted was billed as, a send-up of Disney-style "magical friend movies" wherein the credits have long since rolled and we now rejoin our ersatz Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh to find them grown up into a maturity-avoiding slacker and his boorish, enabling best buddy.
It's a genius concept. Firstly, so much of the modern buddy-comedy genre is built around the formula of the (slightly) more stable guy being torn between his adult responsibilities (employment prospects, girlfriend/wife, etc.) and his trouble-making, bad influence of a best friend who in part represents - either literally (think Jonah Hill in Superbad) or symbolically (Jason Segel in I Love You Man) - an attempt to hold on to his own irresponsibility and thus youth. Presenting that formula in the most literal sense possible, i.e. the immature best buddy is the guy's old teddy bear - an actual childhood throwback? Jackpot.