Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ted . . . potty-mouthed saviour of the universe!

Media Moment: Ted
Queen-related: Flash Gordon soundtrack featured throughout

My wife really wanted to see this movie called Ted, which is about a teddy bear that comes to life thanks to Johnny’s (Mark Wahlberg) childhood wishes.

With knowing less about the movie than my wife, we caught a matinee screening of it yesterday afternoon and I was stunned to find that one of the subplots involves a Flash Gordon-Sam J. Jones fetish by Johnny and Ted, his potty-mouthed teddy bear companion.

The first time we encounter the Flash side story is when the two main characters (man and bear) are on the couch watching TV. Across its screen are a few snippets of the opening animated credits from the 1980 film with Brian’s Flash theme song playing along.

Okay, this could be interesting.

Are we going to get more from the FG soundtrack than just Flash’s Theme? I kept thinking of how prominent this song was in Blades of Glory a few years earlier but in that movie, the Queen homage ended with the single song. Not so in Ted, as it turns out.

Ted, Johnny, and Sam J. Jones celebrate “Death to Ming!” Ming, in this case, ends up being an Asian neighbour who brings his attack duck over to shut the party down.
MacFarlane gives us generous portions of Vultan’s Theme (Attack of the Hawk Men), Battle Theme, The Hero, The Ring (Hypnotic Seduction of Dale), and Football Fight. Also worked into the script were several Flash Gordon pop culture “in-jokes,” most of which occur when Ted convinces Johnny to drop what he’s doing to come over to Ted’s apartment to meet their childhood hero, Sam J. Jones, Flash Gordon himself.

Jones, to his credit, pokes fun at his career-defining character by playing a coked-out, mid-life crisis version of Flash. There’s even a hilarious scene that is a re-imagining of Flash’s escape from Arboria where he leads the Hawkmen rebellion by flying a rocket cycle en route to Ming’s lair. In this movie, however, elderly Jones — in original Flash regalia — is on the rocket cycle with Johnny catching a ride directly behind him; in total awe of what’s happening in this cocaine-inspired dream.

Granted, the film is riddled with many other pop culture references from the ’80s and ’90s, all of which MacFarlane banks on the audience’s collective understanding of or else the jokes fall flat. But why would Flash Gordon figure so prominently as a subplot? MacFarlane could have taken the whole childhood hero idea in any direction and chosen a more mainstream figure to base it on . . . but he went with Sam Jones?

I’m wondering if this decision was influenced more by his childhood fascination with Queen. He’s already shown with a recent Family Guy episode that Queen music had a profound effect on him as a boy, so perhaps his affinity for another Queen album from his youth — in this case, Flash Gordon — suggested the Sam J. Jones subplot for Ted.

Perhaps there’s some pent-up frustration regarding Hot Space that MacFarlane will use as inspiration for his next project.


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