PLOT: FAMILY GUY creator Seth MacFarlane brings his boundary-pushing brand of humor to the big screen for the first time as writer, director and voice star of TED. In the live action/CG-animated comedy, he tells the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a grown man who must deal with the cherished teddy bear who came to life as the result of a childhood wish ...and has refused to leave his side ever since.
REVIEW: To fully appreciate/enjoy Seth MacFarlane’s big screen directorial debut TED you NEED to be a fan of the show FAMILY GUY (and, to a lesser extent, AMERICAN DAD and THE CLEVELAND SHOW). There’s absolutely no getting around this. If you don’t dig raunchy humor, constant pop culture references, random cutaways, and anthropomorphic characters (in this case, a teddy bear brought to life by a young boy’s wish) who love swearing and high-fiving the Mary Jane then this movie isn’t for you. MacFarlane buffs and hardcore plushies, however, can feel free to purchase multiple tickets because I guarantee they’ll f*cking love this flick. I know I did.
Interestingly enough, MacFarlane presents the character of Ted realistically. I wasn’t expecting that. My expectation was this would be of those cases where, like Chucky in CHILD’S PLAY or Hobbes in CALVIN AND HOBBES, Ted is only seen and heard by one person. Not so. All the characters can see and hear Ted. There’s no doubting young Johnny’s (Bretton Manley) sanity or anything like that. This is a movie about a lonely boy’s wish summoning a teddy bear to life and then the world accepts that bear as a genuine miracle.
But don’t worry that is some sappy sub-Spielberg Amblin offering, the “miracle” stuff goes away before the opening credits (love the sweet jazzy score by Walter Murphy) roll. The world accepts Ted, embraces him for a bit, and then tosses him to the curb like Corey Haim and Frankie Muniz. Where the film picks up is twenty years later. Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane who gives Ted a big personality and heart but should be a little ashamed he basically recycled his Peter Griffin voice) and Johnny (Mark Wahlberg) are still together, now roomies who spent most of their days watching the 1980 film version of FLASH GORDON (I’m a huge fan of that flick and honestly considered giving TED a six bullet score simply based on the sheer amount of mileage MacFarlane gets from the FLASH jokes) and getting high (love that one of the strains of weed Ted mentions is called “This Is Permanent”). Johnny’s got a girl (Mila Kunis) and, big shock, she wants him to grow up a little. Because, you know, hanging out with a teddy bear and getting high all the time at 34 is not how a grown man should be spending his time.
And that’s where I’m going to stop with the plot stuff. Don’t want to spoil all the details because TED is a comedy and the one of the best part of comedies (any genre really) is not knowing where the plot is going to take you. I mean, seriously, do you really want me to describe every plot point and beat? No. You don’t. My description won’t do the gags justice and if you know the gags are coming then you’ll not experience the same amount of shock and awe that I did. Just know MacFarlane has crafted a really raunchy rom-com that goes to a couple of places you probably aren’t expecting to.
Wait. Scratch that last statement. I have to mention the bizarre subplot with Giovanni Ribisi as a dad who wants to buy Ted for his kid. It’s too creepy not to single it out. MacFarlane, for some inexplicable reason, uses this b-plot to dip into thriller territory for the last ten minutes of TED and the result is nothing short of disastrous. I think maybe he was going for a BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED or SHORT CIRCUIT 2 action ending but the attempt failed. The ending just doesn’t work. Ribisi (who squared off with Wahlberg earlier this year in CONTRABAND) comes off as a sad rather than villainous, the chase through Fenway Park awkward and contrived, and the big moment with Ted …well, it’s effective but way out of left field. And I didn’t just use that left field comment because it literally takes place on the left field of Fenway. I meant it comes OUT OF LEFT FIELD. Unexpected. Bizarre. Not in tune with the rest of the film. You get my point.
Outside the last ten minutes, I have no complaints. MacFarlane’s script is funny (80/20 hit-miss ratio with the jokes), sweet (I love the chemistry between Wahlberg and Kunis and how the movie never makes her into the shrewish “evil” girlfriend), and shockingly poignant (a moment involving one of the four CELEBRITY CAMEOS so perfectly encapsulates fanboy hero worship I honestly considered clapping). The performances from the leads (Why Wahlberg, so funny here and in THE OTHER GUYS, hasn’t made the full leap to comedy is beyond me) and supporting cast (It’s amazing what COMMUNITY’s Joel McHale can do with just a few minutes of screen time) equally excellent. Even MacFarlane’s direction – I knew he would deliver the funny but had my doubts about the visuals – is spot-on.
Low brow and silly as all f*ck, TED is the funniest movie of the summer. Hell, it’s probably the funniest movie of the year but I can’t really make that assertion because I haven’t seen all the comedies released this year and that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Of all the ones I have seen this year, TED is the funniest. It’s 95% “laugh till it hurts” funny and 5% “Why couldn’t you quit while you were ahead, MacFarlane?” not-funny. Not bad odds, if you ask me.