Synopsis: As the result of a childhood wish, John Bennett’s teddy bear, Ted, came to life and has been by John’s side ever since – a friendship that’s tested when Lori, John’s girlfriend of four years, wants more from their relationship.
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Giovanni Ribisi
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Running Length: 106 minutes
Random Crew Highlight: Sauvignon Blanc ~ Sarah Fischer
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: Riding the middle ground between Toy Story and Child’s Play, Ted arrives in theaters with more than a few Hollywood insiders watching closely. MacFarlane is a proven commodity on the small screen with the popularity of Family Guy – but how would his humor translate to an adults-only comedy about a man and his bear? Happily, the results are (mostly) good and provide a (mostly) enjoyable comedy that succeeds because all the pieces fit together well.
Considering how popular MacFarlane has been on the boob tube the last decade, it’s surprising that it’s taken this long for him to make the transition to the silver screen. I get the feeling that Ted has been gestating in his brain for a while and the time just happened to be right now to get it made. While the concept of inanimate objects coming to life is nothing new, MacFarlane makes some wise choices in the presentation of the material that side steps some formulaic exposition in favor of telling its tale in a new way.
As a boy, John Bennett is an outsider with not a lot of friends. For Christmas he receives a large teddy bear that becomes his constant companion. One night, he wishes that Ted could stay with him forever and, whaddya know it, the next morning he wakes up and Ted is alive and talking. Now in most movies the focus would be on the reaction of others to this talking bear. That’s addressed quickly as Ted is shown to become something of a celeibry while never forgetting that he’s devoted to John. The years go by, Ted’s celebrity fades (he’s shown being busted for drug possession) and John lives a normal life at a middle-management job. He has an understanding girlfriend Lori (Kunis) and lives with Ted.
Now I have issues with movies showing men in arrested development because it’s hard to root for someone that won’t root for themselves. John’s a dopey pothead that routinely drops the ball, mostly at Lori’s expense. A bong hit with Ted is given precedence over making a lifelong commitment with Lori. Eventually, Ted moves out to give John and Lori some space and that’s where the movie comes into its own.
There’s also a sewn on subplot involving father-son bear-nappers that feels like it’s part of another MacFarlane script. Ribisi plays the deliriously creepy dad and has one of 2012’s most surreal moments dancing to Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’. Without giving too much away, this second storyline seems only to exist to push the running time a little longer. I’m not saying it’s not enjoyable to watch Ribisi chase down a bear or do his aforementioned dance…I just wish it didn’t seem so deliberate in its purpose.
Wahlberg plays this type of character well and his talking to a stuffed bear is more believable than the plastic plant he spoke to in the ridiculous The Happening. Flexing his Boston accent, Wahlberg has fun with the material and lets his guard down enough to increase our enjoyment and encourage us to go along with it all. Kunis is a smart actress that easily warms up to whatever co-star she’s paired with (Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Justin Timberlake in Friends with Benefits) – she seems like a real guy’s girl and more than holds her own.
MacFarlane himself provides the voice for Ted in a Boston drawl that is good for a few laughs. The amusement at a teddy bear snorting cocaine, having sex with grocery store cashiers, and being a foul mouth dunderhead does wear off before the movie ends but he runs the race admirably and crosses the finish line with good will on his side.
The film feels very polished with good effects, a score that melds well with the action onscreen, and assured direction by MacFarlane. I think he’s going to regret making so many pop culture references that will be obsolete in a year or two (some are nearly goners already!) but maybe he has plans to update the material for its BluRay release and subsequent television showings – I wouldn’t put it past him.
One big problem I had with this movie (and others like it) is the inclusion of homophobic material. However good-natured it is, it’s still there. It’s 2012 and I think we’re past making jokes about two men hugging, saying “I love you”, but then adding “I’m not gay or nothin’”. The fact that in this case one of the men is a bear doesn’t change that it’s just not very funny. MacFarlane knows comedy and should have known better – jokes like this and including two stereotypically gay characters don’t really have any place in mainstream movies.
Even with some misguided comedic bits, Ted is a pretty enjoyable adult fairy tale that’s made well. It’s not going to change the face of movies (though with its dynamite opening weekend a sequel could be possible) but I think it will provide perfectly fine entertainment for your matinee buck.