Editor’s note: This review first ran June 29, 2012.
‘Ted’ a bit hit-and-miss, but always funny
Seth MacFarland is not known for his cultural sensitivity. In fact, he revels in the mantra of being an equal opportunity offender through his hit TV shows “Family Guy” and “American Dad!” For the most past, it’s incredibly refreshing. That same sentiment could be said for his first directorial debut, “Ted,” the R-rated comedy featuring a foul-mouthed talking teddy bear (voiced by none other than MacFarland himself.) While a bit much and fairly predictable, “Ted” proves mostly humorous and witty, and you can’t help but be swayed by its filthy charms.
Taking a familiar route, “Ted,” starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis and the titular teddy bear, focuses on a languishing emotionally stunted man who allows his crass best friend (yes, the teddy bear) to prevent him from growing up and moving on with his life. The story, written by MacFarland, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, begins with a fairy-tale narration by Patrick Stewart. A lonely boy, John, wishes for his teddy bear to be alive. Well, it seems the universe heard his plea. John is ecstatic. His parents — who see a walking, talking teddy bear emerge with their son — not so much. This just begins the hilarious antics to follow.
The scene quickly transitions to John’s (Walhberg) adult life, where we’re introduced to his girlfriend, Lori (Kunis), who has been less-than-subtly trying to make John realize that after years of dating they should be moving to the next stage. But it’s proving difficult for Lori to get the message across, thanks in large part because of Ted living with John and Lori. Long gone are the days of Ted being cute and cuddly. Well, he’s still cute and cuddly, but now he keeps company with hookers and stoners and he has the mouth of a sailor. It seems he’s still in perpetual adolescence.
It’s not long before both John and Ted’s lives are flipped over, leaving Ted in a shanty of an apartment of his own and “seeking” work. It’s clear from the start he doesn’t want to work, but the job he finds happens to be a comedic fit.
Speaking of comedic fit, Wahlberg and Kunis actually have a bit of chemistry. Definitely better than when they worked together in “Max Payne.” Forgetting the talking teddy, it’s easy to relate to Lori and her frustrations over what a loser John is being. You wouldn’t blame her for succumbing to the advances of her douchebag boss (Joel McHale). And Walhberg handles playing dumb, as always. The leads create a comforting blend.
The support cast, for its part, somehow manages to make John look like the responsible one. From the co-worker (Patrick Warburton) who keeps coming to work bruised to the stalker (Giovanni Ribisi) who wants Ted to come and live with him and his fat, obnoxious son.
The CG animation that renders Ted is well done, for a change. You don’t feel as if the texture is going to pop while watching the action, and Ted’s movements seem natural and smooth.
In the end, “Ted” is a movie about friendship. Unhealthy, dysfunction friendship, yes, but a friendship nevertheless. To see John and Ted work through their difficulties is pretty entertaining, if not necessarily creative. Except for the cursing, womanizing, bong-hitting teddy bear; that’s creative.
Three teddy-bear-soft stars out of five.