Why I Like Mark Wahlberg

Long before I saw the trailer, I’d been seeing the posters, billboards, and other marketing pieces for the new film Ted, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame.  They started out in viral marketing mode, with teaser lines saying “Ted is Coming!” and not telling you who or what Ted actually is.  Eventually–as is the nature of Hollywood’s marketing campaigns–more details began to show up on their advertisements and, needless to say, I was interested in the film.  But one of the posters for the film caught my attention for a different reason.

In all honesty, this poster is one of my favorites that I’ve seen in recent years:

That is a genuine-stoner laugh that Wahlberg is exhibiting in this picture.  And with the look of glee on his fuzzy friend’s face while holding a beer, you can’t help but smile.  It’s a totally ridiculous scenario.  You can even picture the Adult-Swim cartoon they are watching through the marijuana-hazed air.  And that’s why we love this poster. But more importantly, this picture shows that Whalberg is giving 100% to this film, which at it’s core is a standard buddy-comedy flick–only it features a teddy bear as one of the companions.

No body looks at Wahlberg as a comedic actor.  He starred in The Other Guys in 2010, but he was paired with Will Ferrell, so the pressure of making the audience laugh was on “the other guy’s” (awful, terrible pun) shoulders.  And yes, he had a small role in the forgettable Date Night, but clearly no one associated with that film felt any desire to make the audience even chuckle  (I know a person who literally ran–yes, ran–out of the theater).

While he has branched out in other genres of film (including the depressing The Lovely Bones), Wahlberg has generally tried to prove to the audience that he is your atypical, A-list tough guy.  Look at these roles from recent years: ContrabandThe FighterMax PayneWe Own The NightShooterThe Departed.  Heck, his first two starring roles were as a drug-addicted, gun-toting jock in The Basketball Diaries, followed by a rage-aholic boyfriend in Fear.

Tough guy.

So to see him take a sole-leading role in a film involving a talking teddy bear, I have to say it makes me happy.  It shows that he can step back and not take himself too seriously.  He doesn’t need to share the screen with an established comedic actor who can carry the weight (yes, MacFarlane is established, but it’s still a great deal of difference from sharing with a living, breathing Will Ferrell).

I saw MacFarlane on The Daily Show recently, where he told Jon Stewart that Wahlberg was a little skeptical at first, but ultimately put his trust in Seth.  I’d assume that if it an unknown filmmaker had approached him he may have passed, and I wouldn’t have blamed him.  Can you imagine some kid walking into a meeting and saying, “Okay, Mark, you’re one of the biggest stars in the world, and we’re going to have you smoking weed with a teddy bear for 90 minutes.  Are you in?”  Fortunately, it was someone with a track record (albeit, not in film) and Wahlberg said “Let’s do it.”

This just adds to the reasons I like Mark Wahlberg.  Yes, he had a troubled past, but when I see him in interviews today, he comes across as sincerely remorseful for his past actions and is devoted to being a good husband and father.  Do I think he is a great actor?  Of course not, but I think he is a good actor.  He picks roles that suit him well, and he doesn’t make garbage films just to cash a $20 million pay check.  (Think about it:  Ted cost around $50 million to produce and it had a CGI-teddy bear throughout.  Compare that to last year’s Jack and Jill, which had an $80 million budget and featured Adam Sandler in a wig).  Add to it his producing credits and helping other artists get their projects going, he seems like an all-around swell guy.

Now, having said all thatTed was an incredibly lame film.  The story has been done countless times before–girl wants her boyfriend to stop hanging out with his best friend–it just casts a teddy bear this time.  Maybe 1 out of every 5 jokes hit, and the humor is set around either having a teddy bear act in a lewd manner or making fun of other famous people (We get it:  Justin Bieber sucks.  Even the Jack and Jill joke was flat).  They throw in some emotional, sappy drama towards the end, only to wrap it up with a cliched happy ending.  I will say it had a good heart and was very sweet at times, which is never a bad thing, even if it’s easy to accomplish with a buddy-comedy.

I went in with low expectations, and it was exactly as I thought it would be.  But people are generally enjoying the film, and if it’s bringing joy to the world, I’m not going to complain.

Ted:  C-
Wahlberg: A+


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