You’re gonna love “Ted” if Seth MacFarlane’s particular brand of potty-humor still has you doubled over in laughing fits every Sunday. Even if you’re over the “Family Guy” format, there are a few moments that achieve comedy greatness if you’re willing to endure a lot of fifth-grade level material.
Like a child desperately clinging to their security blanket or favorite toy, MacFarlane doesn’t deviate much from the formula that’s made his cartoon show “Family Guy” so popular. From the familiar themes of a no holds barred man versus animal brawl and a heavy dose of 80s nostalgia (complete with an icon from a 80s cult classic in an excellent cameo to pay off a running gag), MacFarlane’s first foray into live-action films could easily have been another episode of “Family Guy.”
In tremendously inspired casting, Patrick Stewart narrates our tale of how a friendless boy’s innocent wish that his teddy bear, Teddy, were real changes his life forever when that wish becomes reality.
There were a lot of ways to take the story from this point, but MacFarlane and fellow “Family Guy” writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild take the more interesting approach of Teddy being real to everyone leading to the world’s most unusual celebrity. Through all the fame and notoriety, he remains best friends with John (Mark Wahlberg) who’s stuck at a dead-end job, but in a long-term relationship with the too-perfect-to-be-true Lori (Mila Kunis, a longtime “Family Guy” cast member).
I’m not up on teddy bear puberty, but I was lost as to why Ted’s voice changed, especially since cutesy teddy bear voice seems like it would have made for a better contrast to adult John. And it’s a bit jarring to hear MacFarlane using his “Family Guy’s” Peter Griffin voice for Ted as you’d figure MacFarlane would change it up slightly so as not to sound exactly like the show’s main character.
Ted and John lead the ideal manchild life of watching “Flash Gordon,” a getting drunk when they’re not getting high. Lori has been tolerant of John’s long-delayed journey to maturity, but after one screw-up too many, she gives him an ultimatum — either he chooses Ted or her. This should not be a difficult decision John. Do you see how luxurious Lori’s hair is? I loved Wahlberg and Kunis’ chemistry so much I managed to forget their previous pairing as the two leads in the oh-so awful “Max Payne.”
Kunis is the perfect modern leading lady. She’s funny, sexy and expertly captures that stand by your man mindset. She gets cheated here stuck doing little more than being the straight woman to Ted and John. Wahlberg has a much meatier role and he commits to it without getting caught up trying to look cool, which would be difficult to do when John’s engaged in a fistfight with Ted. Even when the film gets chaotic with silly situations and awkward attempts at comedy, Wahlberg is “Ted’s” consistent bright spot.
What’s most frustrating about MacFarlane is that he shows enough comedic brilliance that it’s obviously not a fluke. It’s impossible to watch “Ted” and not have some genuine fits of uncontrollable laughter. But far too often, he goes for the cheapest, crudest, easiest joke that any hack could do and it seems a waste of his talent to have a scene where a hooker goes to the bathroom and leaves the mess on the floor. Much like John, I keep waiting for MacFarlane to grow up to really exploit his full talent and leave the easy potty-humor to less creative folks. Still, this is a solid debut and once MacFarlane gets a better sense of pacing — “Ted” starts to drag in the last act that’s more adventure movie than comedy —and tones down the more absurd raunchiness, he could be the heir apparent to Judd Apatow for adult humor comedies.
If you don’t take it seriously, “Ted” is hilarious at times, obnoxious too often and alternating between being mind-numbingly stupid or brilliant. It’s an extended episode of “Family Guy,” so don’t go in expecting anything more and you just might consider it the best comedy of the year.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10