Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale and Giovanni Ribisi
Runtime: 106 minutes
In theory, Ted shouldn’t work. Not only is this the first feature-length film from director Seth MacFarlane, who is responsible for the long-past-its-prime Family Guy (among other animated TV shows), but this is also a movie about a freakin’ talking teddy bear. The odds were against Ted being a quality film, yet somehow it manages to surprise and stand out as one of this year’s better comedies.
The movie revolves around the friendship between John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane). As a child in 1985, John didn’t have a lot of friends so he made a wish that his teddy bear would be able to talk to him. As luck would have it, his wish coincided with a shooting star, and his request was fulfilled. Ted sprang to life the next morning, startling the hell out John’s parents, but he quickly became accepted as a new member of the family.
Flash forward 27 years. John and Ted still live together, but now John is in a serious relationship with a hard-working office professional, Lori (Mila Kunis). While she is determined to rise through the corporate ranks, John seems content to work at a car rental business while getting high in his spare time with his buddy Ted. Lori has had enough of this childish behavior and presents John with an ultimatum: it’s her or Ted. What transpires is a juggling act from John, as he tries to keep the two most important people (er, things) in his life.
The plot is paper thin, but that’s all irrelevant thanks to the charismatic teddy bear. Ted has a foul mouth with a thick Boston accent, and he has a penchant for drugs, booze and hookers. His banter with John is oftentimes hilarious and raunchy, and their shared devotion of the campy 1980 Flash Gordon film lends itself to some of the film’s brightest moments. Naturally, as this is a Seth MacFarlane creation, there are dozens of one-liners that reference obscure 80s pop culture targets, and many of them will go over the heads of younger viewers. There’s also at least one Diff’rent Strokes joke, which seems to be a mandatory inclusion in everything MacFarlane does.
In order to stretch out the running time, an additional subplot is presented in which Ted is targeted by a creepy stalker played by Giovanni Ribisi (as crazy as ever). This adds more dramatic elements to the film, but its inclusion ultimately feels tacked-on and unnecessary.
In essence, this movie is all about Ted, and his CGI is very impressive. Ted fits in seamlessly with the rest of the actors on screen, and it feels like he is just one of the gang. Mark Wahlberg does an admirable job playing off this invisible presence, and he seems right at home while testing his comedic chops. Mila Kunis, while stunning as ever, doesn’t have much to work with thanks to her dull character, but she does the best with what she has.
While I’m not ready to label Ted as a *great* movie, it is easily one of this year’s biggest surprises, right up there with 21 Jump Street. This film is better than it has any right to be, and it makes for one of this summer’s more enjoyable comedic offerings. Fans of Family Guy will appreciate this most, but its concept can appeal to anyone. Just be warned: this is not a family-friendly comedy.