Ted is the relatively simple tale of boy and toy, seen through the sometimes perverse, but often hilarious eyes of Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad). MacFarlane, who directs and provides the voice of the title character (a teddy bear brought to life through a young boy’s Christmas wish), gives us a comedy that stands out not only because it’s MacFarlane’s first live action directed feature, but because it also ironically takes what would seem to be the plot of a G-rated movie and converts it into R-rated glory packed with MacFarlane’s signature brand of pop culture laden crude humor. Ted is exactly what you’d expect– funny and simple– but with a surprising ability to blend its fantastical premise with some genuine emotion.
Mark Wahlberg stars as John Bennett, the lonely but lucky kid whose wish that his teddy bear come to life births Ted, and the two quickly form an unbreakable bond as John grows up into a bit of a slacker (thanks to Ted) and Ted enjoys the fruits of global fame. The relationship between Ted and John is just like that of many other best friend duos–they drink, smoke pot, watch movies– but the pressure on the friendship from John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) forces both man and teddy bear to reevaluate their friendship and their lives.
For some reason, Wahlberg usually seems a little miscast in these broader comedies (see my review for 2010’s subpar The Other Guys for an example), but here it’s much less obvious and in fact he’s largely enjoyable in Ted. And kudos to him for playing against type a little bit as the 35-year old slacker and showing some good comedic timing in an unusual role opposite a teddy bear. Kunis is equally solid as John’s girlfriend, but neither are the true star of the film, as Ted steals every single scene he’s in and provides some genuine gut-busting laughs along the ride.
For fans of MacFarlane’s previous efforts on the smaller screen, the brand of humor will seem familiar. It might be somewhat hit and miss for some largely because a good deal of it is built around pop culture based references, and if you don’t get the reference there’s little chance the joke will land as intended. I found myself on board for most of them, and the other external jokes provide enough connection to keep the movie moving without relying too heavily on the referential brand MacFarlane has made so famous in the last decade.
The film’s main relationships (between Ted and John and John and Lori) are strong enough that the other peripheral characters aren’t heavily relied on, but at times it becomes obvious that the primary weakness in Ted is some of the supporting cast. A lot of the jokes these characters heave toward the audience seem to miss the mark for one reason or another. It’s nothing previous R-rated comedies haven’t struggled with before, but the movie does seem to struggle a bit when Ted isn’t involved on screen, as he’s given the lion’s share of the truly hilarious and most memorable material.
Joel McHale (Community, The Soup) plays Rex, Lori’s somewhat sleazy boss and John’s primary romantic competition for her attention, but for some reason Rex never fully clicked for me. It’s not really McHale’s fault, as he delivers pretty much a MacFarlane-universe version of Jeff Winger, but his comedic tone doesn’t really seem to completely fit in with the rest of the movie. Scenes involving Patrick Warburton are also hit and miss, but luckily the misses aren’t tremendously big.
On the flipside, Giovanni Ribisi is outstanding in his limited screen time as a creepy dude looking to pry Ted away from John, and there are a couple of memorable cameos throughout the film, but the unevenness in comedic consistency outside of the title character affects the film a bit overall.
Overall Ted is an enjoyable comedy that will reward those who favor the style of comedy with a unique movie in the R-rated comedy genre and definitely succeeds more than it fails. It packs in enough laughs that it never completely flails, abd there are a handful of moments where the wheels seem to be spinning a bit, but it’s an original premise and deserves credit for successfully living up to its potential.
Final Score: 7/10 (Good)