Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett
Mila Kunis as Lori Collins
Seth MacFarlane as Ted (voice)
Joel McHale as Rex
Giovanni Ribisi as Donny
Patrick Warburton as Guy
Matt Walsh as Thomas
Jessica Barth as Tami-Lynn
Aedin Mincks as Robert
Bill Smitrovich as Frank
Patrick Stewart as Narrator
Directed by Seth MacFarlane
When John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) was a young boy, all he wanted was to have a best friend and when he gets a teddy bear for Christmas, he makes a wish that the stuffed animal can come alive. When that actually happens, Ted the living teddy bear becomes an instant celebrity. Over 20 years later, however, John is a grown up with a long-term girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) and Ted is a pot-smoking, beer-guzzling troublemaker who insists on keeping John from ever growing up.
Anyone who has watched a single episode of Seth MacFarlane’s popular animated show “Family Guy” or its spin-offs know how funny and irreverent he is, but there’s one thing constantly stopping MacFarlane from really letting loose and that something is the FCC and the standards it sets for primetime television. The proverbial shackles are finally off as MacFarlane makes his feature film directorial debut with a high concept premise that might normally fit well into a PG Disney world but in his hands becomes something raunchy and debaucherous without losing sight of telling a solid story.
“Ted” starts as a classic Christmas fable (narrated by Patrick Stewart) about a young New England boy named John Bennett who wants nothing more than to have a best friend, something he finds in a teddy bear that magically comes to life, gaining them both immediate notoriety. Decades later, John (Mark Wahlberg) is working at a dead-end car rental job and is exactly the type of man-child we’ve seen in so many comedies lately. His normally understanding girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), thinks his long-term friendship with his talking teddy is holding him back and makes an ultimatum that he needs to change his life, starting with his plush roommate.
With such a high concept, most will wonder how long the idea of a foul-mouthed pot smoking teddy bear can sustain laughs and the answer is surprisingly far. That’s because MacFarlane plasters every inch of the movie with the same snarky humor he displays on every episode of “Family Guy,” taking potshots at anyone who comes into his radar. Without having to worry about the limitations of television, he also goes for it with the stoner humor, using profanity and raunchy sexual references that would never fly with the FCC. He also makes a lot of funny references to great movies like “Star Wars” and “Raiders” as well as cheesy ’80s movies like “Flash Gordon” (a Universal Pictures release) even bringing in Sam Jones, Flash Gordon himself, for a hilarious party sequence.
More importantly, with Ted, MacFarlane creates a CG character you can really believe in, much like Andy Serkis in “King Kong” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and just as much of the credit for that has to go to Mark Wahlberg who treats the talking teddy as he would any other co-star. The scenes without Ted are a bit lacking as Wahlberg is much better playing straight man than he is at carrying the comedy, but Kunis is so smokin’ hot in this movie that any scene she’s in is immediately worthwhile. Also adding tension to the relationship is Joel McHale as Lori’s lecherous boss who is not helping John’s case in keeping Lori, because he offers so much more and he knows it.
Even if some of the funniest jokes may have been telegraphed in the marketing, the resulting comedy is right up there with “21 Jump Street” as one of the most consistently funny movies of the year, only faltering when it lowers the bar by making gay jokes, none of which are nearly as clever or funny as everything else. By the time it gets to the last act, it also starts losing its originality, going into more obvious territory as John tries to win Lori back after having a falling out with Ted. This is also where it creates added conflict in the form of Giovanni Ribisi as a guy so obsessed with Ted he’ll do anything to get him. The character was introduced earlier but was seemingly forgotten until the last half hour, which becomes all about the tension of Ted escaping his captor, leading to car chases and such. It also leads to a moment as creepy as the Buffalo Bill dancing scene in “Silence of the Lambs” as Ribisi delivers one of the strangest (and funniest) performances of his career.
The Bottom Line:
“Ted” has a few minor flaws but it will be a no-brainer for anyone who appreciates Seth McFarlane’s brand of humor and wants to see how it can be brought into the live action world, but also has a lot to offer anyone just looking for solid unadulterated laughs which it delivers in spades.