Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Ted vs. That’s My Boy, two coming-of-age comedies that play on the pitfalls of growing up and the vexations that accompany adulthood.
PremiseTed follows the lifelong, turbulent friendship of John (Mark Wahlberg) and his teddy bear, Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane). A boy wishes his teddy bear could really talk to him: what starts as a Hallmark Channel crowd-pleaser quickly unravels into a deliciously politically incorrect comedy in which both characters have to come to terms with the fact that they can’t be “roomies” forever and that change is an inevitable part of life and adulthood.
That’s My Boy takes a slightly different approach. The movie opens to Donny (Adam Sandler)’s all-too-successful conquest of his teenage crush, his teacher Mary McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino). This brief “romance” ends up with the unplanned pregnancy and a lengthy prison sentence for the subject of his fantasy. After raising the child by himself, Donny and his son Todd (Andy Samberg) go through a period of estrangement. Now, years later, Donny finds a reason to re-enter his son’s life—his need for money—on the eve of his son’s perfect upper-crust wedding (to Leighton Meester, naturally). By the end, he rediscovers fatherhood, while Todd finally learns what it means to be a kid. The heartwarming potential is suspiciously high, here—we’re going with Ted‘s delightful depravity.Advantage: Ted
DirectorSeth MacFarlane goes all out with Ted: in addition to having co-written the script and directed the film, he also voices the titular teddy bear. This is MacFarlane’s first time directing a feature, but his comedy chops are hard to argue with: his series Family Guy has been on the air for 13 years, and he currently has American Dad! and The Cleveland Show going strong with seven and three years, respectively.
That’s My Boy, meanwhile, is directed by Sean Anders, who’s probably best known as the screenwriter of films like She’s Out of My League, Hot Tub Time Machine and Sex Drive, the latter of which he also directed—his only directing experience so far, along with a feature called Never Been Thawed. He’s also attached to write the upcoming Dumb and Dumber sequel, so he’s definitely a comedy figure to watch—but for now, MacFarlane is the more established name.Advantage: Ted
Lead ActorWhile he is best known for his dramatic roles (and ’90s “hip-hop” career), the now-more-than-ever-muscular Mark Wahlberg proved his ability to carry a comedy in films such as 2010’s The Other Guys. Ted looks like another promising performance—though we’ll admit that anytime we see Marky Mark on screen now, we hope he’ll pull out some Departed and The Wrestler-style physical combat. Adam Sandler, who is now synonymous with a certain dislikeable genre of slapstick comedy, has, yet again, created a shrill, colorful, outrageous and idiotically funny character, Donny. It’s a tried and true role for Sandler: that of strip-club-dwelling and generally inappropriate man-child with a heart of gold. We admit that our first instinct was to go with Mark Wahlberg on this one, but we’d like to give Sandler a chance to redeem himself after he cleaned up at this last edition of the Razzie Awards, so Sandler it is! Besides, no one will ever be able to replace Jimmy Stewart as our favorite male adult who still converses with his imaginary animal friend.Advantage: That’s My Boy
MessageBoth films, despite being straight-up comedies, attempt to convey a loftier, coming-of-age message. Ted hilariously portrays the challenges of growing up—even a little late, like Wahlberg is doing. “I’m not that psyched to just, like, kick him out,” he explains to his long-suffering girlfriend (Mila Kunis)—and why would he be, when Ted’s all too willing to keep cracking wise, smoking pot, and eating cereal with him? We presume, however, that by the end of the film they’ll have sorted out their codependent issues and everyone will live happily ever after—Wahlberg with Kunis, and Ted with that supermarket checker with a “white-trash name.”
That’s My Boy also offers some life lessons through the haze of pot smoke: specifically, the importance of compromise, particularly when it comes to family. Sandler and Samberg have to meet halfway—Sandler needs to take on some of his son’s responsibility and maturity, and Samberg needs to learn to let loose a little. Perhaps most important of all, That’s My Boy demonstrates that it’s never too late to reconnect with loved ones.Advantage: That’s My Boy
Bong Hits The glory of the Internet-age red-band trailer is that we can get a taste of the cursing, strippers, and drug use we’re guaranteed to encounter in bro comedies like these. Both trailers make the best of red-band permissiveness, including with notable bong-rip scenes. At 1:37 in the That’s My Boy trailer, when Sandler is offered a hit, we think he demurs—”I don’t want to do that in front of my kid!”—but then he turns the tables and just insists Samberg turns around, then takes the hit anyway. In Ted, the joke is a simpler one: at 1:07, just the sight of a brought-to-life teddy bear expertly manipulating the contraband is unexpected enough to inspire a chuckle or two. Advantage: Ted
VerdictIn the battle of which movie we’ll see this summer when we have to hang out with our younger brother, it’s a close call: That’s My Boy does, after all, feature Vanilla Ice. But in the end, Ted simply promises to be the funnier film, with a more original, innovative idea at heart.The Winner: Ted
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