Okay, I’ll put this out there so we all know where I’m coming from:
I’m a fan of Seth MacFarlane. So, when I first caught wind that he would be directing his first live-action feature, Ted, I was equal parts ecstatic and cautious. After all, while I generally like his animated work, there have been a few shoddy spots, like the occasional uneven episode of Family Guy and pretty much all of The Cleveland Show. Still, I believe he can deliver sharp, biting satire wrapped up in loving references to modern and vintage pop culture when he really sets his mind to it.
So, does Ted deliver?
Ted stars Mark Wahlberg as John Bennet, a 30-something rental car agent who, as a boy wished for his teddy bear to come alive. The bear in question is voiced by none other than MacFarlane himself, who sounds like a perfect cross between Peter Griffin and Brian Griffin, with a bit of a Boston accent thrown in for good measure. John is in a steady relationship with Lori, played by the lovely Mila Kunis, and is eventually faced with the responsibilities and choices that come with it, like, for example, having Ted move out and live on his own.
As absurd as the premise is, it works because of how the film’s world embraces it. To them, the sight of a sentient, profane, pot-smoking teddy bear is a normal thing. There, they play it up straight, and in a surprisingly non-ironic “Oh look, it’s a teddy bear doing everyday human things” kind of manner. With that out of the way, the movie can go straight to the story and not dwell on Ted’s existence.
Ted’s story beats are familiar if you’ve already seen your fair share of coming-of-age movies where the main character has to start taking some sort of responsibility or making big, adult life decisions. However, I’ll let this one slide in favor of the means of how it’s told.
Massive credit goes to the visual effects department for rendering Ted as a character that is adorable and could believably exist in the real world at the same time. It’s easy to settle into the movie and take Ted as a character that simply exists in that space and not just a CGI creation. Of course, a good chunk of the credit also has to go to Seth MacFarlane’s familiar, but still solid voice work for the hedonistic plush toy.
As for the human characters, everyone pretty much delivers. Come to think of it, I really do have more respect for Mark Wahlberg as a comedian. Mila Kunis and the rest of the supporting cast are, shall we say, adequate. Nothing too spectacular here, but they do help carry the movie along. Community‘s Joel McHale is present as Lori’s boss who constantly tries to hit on her. His presence is appreciated, but don’t expect it to be much of a departure from what we’re used to seeing of him on the small screen. Giovanni Ribisi also manages to turn the creep factor up for his role as Donny, Ted’s long-time fan and yeah, stalker.
The humor in Ted ranges from downright raunchy to surprisingly sharp, with some of them helped along, and not purely because of Ted’s involvement. There’s a ton of pop culture references here, some old, some new. However, given Seth McFarlane’s affinity for more of the old-timey stuff, expect a couple of them to fly over your head if you’re not of the right age. I had to Google a reference or two just to get them, but I won’t let that detract from the overall experience the film brings.
Finally, for a film that’s heavy on the filthy, potty-mouthed humor that you’d throw around in the company of friends, it has a surprising amount of heart in it.Â It’s not something I’d expect from a movie like this, but I’m still glad it was thrown in there for good measure. And oh, there are cameos, everyone loves cameos. I’m not gonna spoil them for you, though.
Ted opens today in all major cinemas (except SM Cinemas) and is rated R-18.