One of the most different “bromance” movies in recent memory, ‘Ted’ is the story of the love between a boy and his teddy bear. Of course, the bear is one that’s magically brought to life and they grow up into vulgar stoners. Seth MacFarlane’s first foray into films is more or less ‘Family Guy: The Movie’ in terms of its basic humor and beats in its plot, but this is a surprisingly satisfying comedy. Yes, its done, but the friendship at the core of the flick has a lot of heart. Alongside a game comedic performance by Mark Wahlberg, MacFarlane does a solid job playing the title character (with the help of some really good CGI) and shows he has a future making movies. There are some moments that fall flat here, and it’s unabashedly stupid, but by and large the jokes always bring about a laugh. For me, this is the second funniest film of 2012 so far, lagging only behind ’21 Jump Street’ in that regard. I’d wager a guess that most of you already know if you have any interest in ‘Ted’ or not, but if you’re somehow on the fence, let me push you off of it, and on your way to the theater. This is a comedy that’s well worth your time.
As a young boy, John Bennett (Bretton Manley as a kid, Wahlberg as the adult John) didn’t have many friends…or any for that matter, so when he gets a life-sized teddy bear as a Christmas present one year, he makes a wish that Teddy could come to life and be his friend forever. Lo and behold, the wish comes true, and he has his friend. They’re inseparable, despite Teddy’s emerging fame (he’s not kept a secret and actually goes on Johnny Carson at one point as a guest), and promise to always be best buds. Cut to the present, and Teddy is now Ted (voice of MacFarlane), a lewd and crude has-been celebrity, and while he and John are still best friends, they just spend most of their time getting high. This is an issue for John’s girlfriend Lori Collins (Mila Kunis), who wants him to grow up and get Ted to move out on his own. John has to choose between his arrested development and the need to grow up, essentially having to choose between his best friend and the love of his life. There are plenty of mini subplots (‘Family Guy’ style, essentially), including one about a nut (Giovanni Ribisi) looking to kidnap Ted for his own kid, but by and large the film is there to showcase John and Ted messing around, and it does that pretty well, I must say.
Mark Wahlberg may not be anyone’s idea of a master comedian, but he does a hell of a job here. His chemistry with a CGI creation is terrific, and he doesn’t do badly with Mila Kunis either. Wahlberg is clearly having a ball making the movie, and it shows in the final product. Kunis gets your standard disapproving girlfriend role, but there are little moments that allow her to shine. As for Seth MacFarlane, he breathes life into the CGI teddy bear, making him more E.T. than a Transformer. The motion capture/voice acting are fine, and he makes sure early on that you just accept Ted as a character in the flick and move on. Patrick Stewart is an inspired choice to serve as the narrator (especially considered what his lines turn out to be), and Giovanni Ribisi continues his recent stretch of playing creeps. Also on hand is Joel McHale as Lori’s creepy boss and Bretton Manley as the young John, while the rest of the cast includes Ralph Garman, Patrick Warburton, Matt Walsh, Jessica Barth, Aedin Mincks, Alex Borstein, and unlikely cameos from the likes of Sam Jones, Norah Jones, Tom Skerritt, and Ryan Reynolds. Ultimately though, it’s Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, and Seth MacFarlane who you care about, and they pull this off pretty well.
Pulling quadruple duty here (director, co-writer, producer, and co-star), Seth MacFarlane juggles everything with aplomb and clearly has an aptitude for comedy in any medium. His direction isn’t flashy or anything, but it’s no worse than anything in your standard romantic comedy, and he deserves a lot of credit for the great use of CGI here. The script he co-wrote with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild (based on his own story idea, which was originally intended to be another animated show from him before getting bumped up to be his first feature) has the ‘Family Guy’ approach to things, but it’s just as successful here as it is there. They’ve created a great character in Ted. He’s vulgar, but you still like him quite a bit. The screenplay manages to embrace the bromance and the rom-com while also satirizing them in equal parts and getting at the deep and sometimes complex love that one can have for their childhood possessions. MacFarlane manages to have his cake and eat it too here in terms of making this a movie that works on multiple levels.
‘Ted’ isn’t going to win any Oscars (unless the Visual Effects branch is feeling frisky somehow), but it’s the type of R-rated summer comedy that actually manages to be funny (I’m looking at you ‘The Hangover: Part II), and that’s not the sure bet that you might think it is. I had a great time with this flick and unless you absolutely hate Seth MacFarlane, you will too. It may not revolutionize the genre, but it’s often hilarious and surprisingly sweet. This is a lot of fun and I definitely recommend checking it out. You’ll never look at stuffed animals the same way again, I guarantee it!
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Tags: Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale, mark wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Ted