For his first leap into films, you might expect something akin to a Farrelly Brothers comedy, with a hint of a Mike Judge or Kevin Smith level of satire. What you get instead is basically a long episode of "Family Guy". This isn't Seth MacFarlane's transition to a big screen comedy writer as much as it's a Seth MacFarlane comedy on the big screen.
The story opens in 1985 with young, awkward John Bennett receiving a big stuffed teddy bear for Christmas. The friendless tyke immediately bonds with the titular toy which, for an eight year-old kid, already spells trouble. When a Christmas wish brings the bear to life, with the voice of Mr. MacFarlane (natch), the movie kicks into gear. But it's also here that it suffers its fatal flaw: the bear becomes a minor celebrity and, like minor celebrities, is quickly forgotten. Now in the present day, the grown-up John (Mark Wahlberg, something of a teddy bear himself) is still living with Ted despite his four-year relationship with the much-beleaguered Lori (MacFarlane mainstay Mila Kunis). But since the bear being alive is old news, the film is basically about a guy still living with his childhood friend. It would have been more interesting to see how Ted first came out to the world (a brief appearance on the Carson show is particularly funny).
What follows is basically a standard story of arrested development (and no, not the - far funnier - TV show). John doesn't deserve Lori and ignores her one too many times in favor of Ted - thanks to a corker of a cameo that's sure to have people talking. So it's up to John and Ted to win her back. The fact that there's a talking bear involved is secondary and simply gives Mr. MacFarlane a voice for his particular brand of off-color comedy.
Ironically, the script, which Mr. MacFarlane co-wrote with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, hits all the standard notes of a romantic comedy - you know, the kind that he relentlessly lampoons on his TV shows. It seems the comedy maestro is not above the classic boy-meets-girl tropes, though he peppers the proceedings with his typically scattershot humor. As you'd expect, he throws everything at the screen - both wheat and chaff - happily he hits more often than not. His is comedy of extremes and "Ted" is at its best amid chaos (particularly montage sequences) or the small side comments. The smaller moments - and the tacked on threat courtesy of Giovanni Ribisi - play less well.
Essentially, watching "Ted" is like watching Mark Wahlberg hanging out with Seth MacFarlane. Thankfully they're both immensely likable and pretty darn funny. As a character, Ted ends up being a cross between Peter and Brian Griffin (the light Boston accent isn't played for quite as many laughs as you'd imagine). But, much like a childhood teddy bear, eventually the novelty wears off. What you're left with will likely be relegated to a box in the attic along with the DVD of this movie.
|Summary||This comedy of a boy and his talking bear - which plays like a long episode of "Family Guy" - is basically like watching Seth MacFarlane and Mark Wahlberg hanging out. Happily they're both pretty funny.|