Seth MacFarlane is one strange person – and I’m not just saying that because of what Ted is about. I point it out because as a one-time fan of Family Guy, I now find the show more annoying than ever. To make matters worse, only American Dad shows any remaining sign of life (The Cleveland Show was never worth my time). So with the announcement of his first film (and him returning to essentially the Peter Griffin voice), I once again looked on skeptically thinking that he might not be able to pull it off. That was until I noticed Mark Wahlberg was cast as the star. My trepidation against the movie finally started subsiding.
Ted‘s plotline might be slight, but it’s how the film handles it that makes it such a memorable fantasy. In 1985, young John Bennett from Boston has no friends and is the odd kid out. For Christmas, he receives a teddy bear and soon wishes for the bear to be real. The next morning, the bear comes to life. Even his parents are in shock (“You’re like the baby Jesus,” his mother exclaims), and before he realizes it, Ted is a nationwide celebrity, even appearing on Johnny Carson. As the fame dies down, Ted does his best to try and live a normal life, even if it is with John (Wahlberg, now grown up), but how is it normal when he is doing drugs and countless other unspeakable things?
This opening prologue (brilliantly narrated by Patrick Stewart) sets the tone for the rest of the movie, and makes clear that yes, this is far-fetched, but as a fantasy comedy, it’s perfect wish fulfillment. The movie’s main story is how John and his girlfriend of four years Lori Collins (Mila Kunis) try to deal with the situation. She would love nothing more than to see Ted (Seth MacFarlane) move out and live on his own, but John is stuck still being essentially a man child, knowing it will be hard to part with something that has been a part of him for the last 27 years (He’s 35 now). At the same time, trying to keep Lori isn’t his only problem. He’s also trying to prepare himself for a promotion, keep Lori’s boss (Joel McHale) from stealing her for his own, and also trying to fend off the advances of an obsessive fan named Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), who desperately wants Ted for his own son.
How all of these plotlines are handled is what makes the movie such a joy to watch, and not in the way you might normally think. For the majority of its runtime, Ted will have you howling with big laughter, but at the same time, it suffers where 21 Jump Street did not. For my money, the subplot involving Ribisi is the only time the film feels like it has gone too far. I appreciate the idea (which is basically an interesting take-off of The Silence of the Lambs), but it’s the only time where I wasn’t enjoying the movie as much as I had otherwise. Still, even in this subplot, MacFarlane does have a number of good one-liners interspersed throughout that at least makes it tolerable.
In fact, Ted’s the true star of the show. Every time the bear is on-screen, you’re almost guaranteed a great one-liner in each of his scenes (In fact, most of them have more than that, which is why the film is so fall-down funny at times). Wahlberg, in probably the biggest change of pace role of his career, plays the role of a man-child like he’s done it before. Sure, he’s using the Bostonian accent like he did in The Departed, but he gives the role of John the right amount of pathos to make us realize that John would love to grow up, but is not sure at all how to do it. Mila Kunis is also good, although she’s reacting more often than anything else. Still, Kunis isn’t wasted in the role of Lori and I think she has very good chemistry with Wahlberg, which made their relationship a pleasure to see unfold.
Still, Ted is not without its faults. Beyond the Donny subplot, the film has another weak link with Joel McHale (playing Kunis’s sexual harassing boss Rex). Usually a funny guy, here he could have been a hilarious foil for Wahlberg, but instead he’s given a role that takes him essentially nowhere. Although I can live with the Donny subplot (It seems vital to the rest of the movie regardless of how far I think it might go), McHale sadly should have been a victim of the cutting room floor, as MacFarlane wastes a good 10-15 minutes of the movie on him when the film could have been so much better without him.
Those flaws are really the only negative things I can say about Ted. Sure, I wasn’t laughing at every single scene (There are a couple of scenes toward the end that show that MacFarlane cares about his characters greatly) but the movie pays off handsomely with so many big laughs that you won’t even notice. Not to mention, there are some surprising cameos throughout the film. If you’re a big fan of Flash Gordon, then you must see the film immediately. From using songs by Queen, to an appearance by Flash himself, you’ll never look at Flash Gordon the same way again after seeing Ted.
In short, Ted might not be the funniest film of the year (21 Jump Street still holds that honor), but it’s the funniest comedy you’ll see all summer. Seth MacFarlane proves here that he is more than capable of making movies and I look forward to his next film with high anticipation, whatever it might be.