Saturday, July 14, 2012


Dinner and a Movie 

Ted and Scarpina

By Steve Herte

Ted (2012)

As Patrick Stewart begins the narration of this modern fantasy written, directed and starring Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad) as Ted, we see John Bennett (Bretton Manley) as a friendless pre-teen who can’t even be accepted be the other neighborhood children when they are beating up a Jewish child. Even the child being beaten up tells him to get lost. He receives a large teddy bear for Christmas which, when hugged says, “I love you!” in an artificial, nasal, electronic voice. But he loves it anyway and wishes it could really talk (coincidentally, a shooting star flashes overhead as he does so) and it comes true.

When the now mobile, speaking Teddy makes his first appearance, John’s parents are terrified (his mother leaps up onto the kitchen counter) but they eventually get used to him and he becomes a member of the family and at the same time a notable member of society, making all the front pages. John and Ted become “Thunder Buddies forever” (they are both frightened of thunder, even to the point of making up a “Thunder Song”) and are inseparable into adulthood. 

John (Mark Wahlberg) is now 35 and has been dating (and living with) Lori Collins (Mila Kunis) for four years. Teddy’s child-like voice has now become the wise-cracking, foul-language MacFarlane. It becomes too much for Lori when John spends more time with Ted than with her so she convinces John into getting Ted to move out. He dresses him in a little suit (“I look like Snuggles’ attorney!” protests Ted) and takes him to get him a job at the grocery store. After back-talking the manager, Ted gets the job, and gets promoted each time he misbehaves on the job (such as being found making love with the new checkout girl in the produce section).

Lori thinks her troubles are over when Ted moves out until John and she attend a posh party given by her boss Rex (Joel McHale) who wants her for himself and is an incorrigible name-dropper (“See this photo here? That’s me and Tom Skerritt!”). Ted calls John and begs him to come to his party where the featured guest is their mutual child idol Sam J. Jones (playing himself) the star of the remake of Flash Gordon (who, by the way has aged well).

Rex tells Lori, Lori finds John at this wild, drug and alcohol party and it looks like it’s over for John and her as a couple. Enter Thomas (Matt Walsh) and his overweight, extremely spoiled son Robert (Aedin Mincks) who have been enviously eying Teddy from day one. They bear-knap Ted and take him to their dingy apartment where Ted gets the idea he’s in trouble when Robert rips off an ear for his cursing.

Ted starts a game of Hide and Seek and manages to call John and escape. There is a wild chase scene which features the theme from Indiana Jones (only shortly, when Ted picks up his ear) ending at Fenway Park.

Let me start by saying that if the movie Paul was this well-written, I might have enjoyed it better. I was not surprised by the vulgarity because I expected it, and occasionally it was almost charming coming from a cuddly teddy bear. Still, it was not necessary. Most of the humor was sarcasm, put-downs, and on the juvenile side. The few good laughs I got were when it got original, clever and did away with clichés. For example, the first time Thomas considers abducting Ted in an alleyway, Ted’s new girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) asks who Thomas is. Ted replies that it’s Sinead O’Connor and that she’s not looking to good now-a-days.

The animation of the character Ted is excellent, especially when John and Ted have a big fight after John insults Ted by saying he should have gotten a Teddy Ruxpin. The sound effects team really helped that scene accentuating the plush punches, making them sound real.

Ted is a fun, silly movie, not for children at all (even though some ignorant parents brought their little girls to the theater – they’ll have trouble later on) and I enjoyed it, mostly for the “Oh, no, they didn’t go there!” visual gags. A minor problem with the Boston accents dropping out and coming back didn’t hurt it much. But the whole concept of a sex-crazed teddy bear who is obviously not anatomically-correct (“I’ve been meaning to talk to Hasbro about that!” – Ted) was hilarious in itself. I’m glad they didn’t use the men’s room scene on the posters.

Scarpina Bar & Grill
88 University Place (12th Street), New York City

People ask how I choose my restaurants. Scarpina had three things going for it; a great look on their website, an interesting menu, and it was three blocks from the theater. The photo on the website showed a beautiful staircase leading down into the restaurant lit by soft blue lights. After entering the main door, I was seated near the front window – comfortably, I might add – but nowhere near that staircase, which was farther in past the bar. The décor is interesting, featuring block mirrors stacked like pyramids around the sconces, nothing overstated.

The special cocktail menu had nothing I would drink (or even try) on it, so I went back to standards, a Beefeater martini – too much ice chunks for a straight-up drink, but not horrible. My waiter Alejandro was a little too attentive and seemed a little impatient – the place was doing a lively business – but he granted a little more time to decide.

The menu featured mostly standard Italian main dishes and pastas with more Mediterranean choices in the appetizer group. There were at least eight misspellings to amuse me, including “cheery” tomatoes as a garnish.So I chose the Mediterranean Dips; an Eggplant Salad (smooth and tasty), Spicy Hummus (it did have a zing to it and was also good), Tzatziki (a yogurt dip with red caviar), and olives. Surprised that I had ordered a dish with olives when the bread came with another dish of olives, I used the oil they were bathed in on the bread (but I did eat all of both dishes).

The wine list had several well-priced wines and since I haven’t had a French red in a long time I chose a 2008 Pinot Noir and was surprised again when it arrived in a screw-top bottle (France has sold out!). But it was good enough.

For a main dish I decided to give the chef a real test. My favorite Italian dish is Saltimbocca Ala Romana, which was also the one dish on the menu with three misspellings (two in the name itself, one in the description – what is a Brady sauce? – add the “n” between the “a” and the “d”). The three good-sized pieces of pounded veal with prosciutto plastered to them arrive on a mountain of garlicky spinach (that’s a good thing, but there was a little too much) and topped with two halves of a devilled egg. The dish looked like it either had two pupil-less eyes or needed a bra. Once I toppled the egg halves to either side of the meat, yolk-side-up the dish looked a lot better. Also, it tasted pretty good, but did not top my benchmark dish.

Being a little full and not in the mood for coffee, combined with several servers (including my own) hovering about I chose the Panacotta for dessert, a pure white delicate custard topped with strawberry slices and a sprig of mint, which finished the dinner nicely.

Scarpina means scorpion in Italian and the business card shows the first “A” as the face of the scorpion fish (strangely not on the menu). Scarpina is also one of five restaurants in Manhattan with the same owners so, after a strange first impression I have four more to try.

For the Dinner and a Movie Archive, please click here.

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