Release Date: June 29th, 2012 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Seth MacFarlane Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Barth, Laura Vandervoort, Ginger Gonzaga
eth McFarlane, the acclaimed creator of “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” makes his leap to live action – and surprisingly breathes some life into the routine that has recently staled his animated shows. “Ted” is, in a rather unexpected development, more than just a 90-minute episode of “Family Guy.” While it does utilize the popular tactics of extreme immaturity, crass vulgarity, and rapid-fire pop culture references (it even contains a few cutaways in the forms of flashbacks and memories), it also offers an engaging and hilarious new character that doesn’t feel recycled from TV. Sure, “Ted” has its faults, but the jokes are consistent and often tinged with enough astute observations to cause viewers to overlook the rough spots. Plus, it’s a movie about an obscenities-spewing Teddy Bear – will anyone really expect a poignant, sentimental story?
When he was a young boy, John Bennett wished for a friend he could have forever. His wish came true in the form of Ted (voiced by Seth McFarlane), a large, lovable talking Teddy Bear. But now, several decades later, John (Mark Wahlberg) is 35 and Ted has become a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed slacker whose indolent lifestyle mirrors John’s own inability to grow up and take responsibility for his actions. When John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) gives him an ultimatum – it’s her or the bear – he must weigh the decision to separate from his lifelong friend.
The humor in “Ted” ranges from churlish to inspired to puerile; and sometimes it’s just plain weird. Wisely, these moments are quickly followed by more lighthearted fare, but “Ted” borders on dark comedy through much of the film’s last half as the necessity for a story sometimes infringes upon the fun of stringing together a bunch of improvisational wisecracks and one-liners. If the numerous references to ‘80s films and television programs don’t stick, at least there are plenty of humorous cameos by famous celebrities alongside the unmistakable voice cast of MacFarlane’s own shows.
“Ted” isn’t for everyone. Those that despise the pop culture-laden mockery and crude gags that frequent “Family Guy” won’t necessarily be won over here, but it’s worth noting the remarkable ease in which the talking bear blends into the world that has been created. A brief narration by Patrick Stewart introduces Ted and his magical origins and, a few quips later, the cleverly cynical input will have audiences forgetting the bizarreness of the premise. It’s also a testament to Ted’s characterization that the recognizable voice behind Peter Griffin doesn’t interfere with his ability to be viewed as an independent entity. The chemistry between Wahlberg and his fluffy companion is also largely genuine. But, more importantly, the jokes just work more often than not.
– Joel Massie