I will start this off by saying that I am a complete Seth MacFarlane fan. I know every Family Guy episode by memory and I am also into American Dad. When I heard that Seth was going to make a live action movie, I was completely interested to see what he was going to do with the opportunity. Well this week I found out with his movie, TED, in theaters now.
The basic story is that In 1985, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a lonely child who dearly wished for his new Christmas gift, a large teddy bear named Ted (voiced and motion captured by Seth MacFarlane), to come to life to be his friend. That wish coincided with a falling star and Ted comes to life. The word of the Christmas miracle spread and Ted was briefly a celebrity. Shoot to modern day: John and Ted are older and very immature friends for life, while John pursues a long-term relationship with his girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis). Ted smokes pot, drinks beer, enjoys adult films and other such college age activities. Lori of course sees him holding her beloved John and their relationship back and wants John and Ted to move on with their lives apart.
The films sets up the crazy premise in a good way, and makes it sort of believable that you see a walking, talking bear and not running into everyone questioning it. He doesn’t have to hide when others come around like the tiger in Calvin and Hobbes, or the horse in Mr. Ed. The laughs come mainly from the bear’s dialog. This is his movie. There are others that come and try to make jokes, but I find that the jokes fall flat out of anyone else’s mouth but Ted. Almost as if they are trying too hard to give other people some business. It works well in a film like The 40-Year-Old Virgin. But in this, when you don’t see Ted on the screen, you miss him greatly, like the film cannot roll on without his presence. There’s a couple threats to Ted and John’s world. One being a creepy dad (Giovanni Ribisi,) who as a child wanted Ted to be his own. Then there is Lori’s boss who will not take “No” for an answer when it comes to anything, let alone her dis-interest in him.
What’s remarkable about the film is that at one point you think it has got boring or too stuck in the premise of set-up, punch line. But then something happens that draws you right back into it. It doesn’t feel like it goes too far off the rails and doesn’t get too caught up in the predictable nature of a basic plot structure as a film like this would. Ted and John are similar to any other good buddy who needs to grow up/Animal House style party animal friend comedy. You want to hate Lori for even trying to break them up, but the chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis seems genuine and they made a great effort into making that relationship seem great that you root for them as much as Ted and John’s relationship. And major kudos to Mark Wahlberg, who has been largely hit and miss in some recent things. Watching this makes you feel like he should do more comedies of this type. He just works, so much so that you believe he is actually playing a thirty-five year old man-child.
The film is peppered with Family Guy style of anti-celebrity humor and cameos from other MacFarlane alumni. People like Patrick Waterburton, Ralph Garman, Alex Borstein, Patrick Stewart (narrator) and others all show up and share a bit of business. There are some other spectacular cameos, including one long-form cameo from a hero of the 80’s, who if you knew it, it would ruin the flick. So I’ll keep this spoiler free. But I will say it is nice to see him again on the big screen. Fans who grew up in the eighties will see a lot here for them. At one point there’s even an Airplane joke reference that feels completely out of place, but you buy it. It’s almost a love letter to that era, while still being its own movie in modern day. And since the film takes place in Boston, Ted has a Boston accent, which basically makes him Peter Griffin with stuffing.
Overall, TED is quite enjoyable. But I feel like sometimes the humor is a bit up and down the funny/not-funny scale to keep it from going into the A+ range. It certainly is worth watching and a great first effort film from Seth MacFarlane. There’s well-shot action, comedy set-ups and more. I’d like to see what he does next. The film is rated R for drug use, extreme sexual crude humor and swearing. DON’T take your kids to see this thinking the bear is cute. You’ll have to walk out explaining quite a few things you might not want to.
GRADE: 4 teddy bear bong hits out of 5.