Seth MacFarlane has become one of the more bankable names around currently working in television. It was only a matter of time then before he made the jump to movies, right? Thankfully, he picked a very solid, very funny venture, 2012's Ted.
Growing up with his family outside of Boston, young John Bennett is far from a popular kid and struggles making friends. One Christmas he receives a teddy bear that becomes his best friend and more. One night he wishes that Teddy was real, and in the morning....ta-da! Ted is real. The talking, real-life bear becomes an international sensation for awhile at least. But some 25-plus years later, John (Mark Wahlberg) is all grown up with Ted (voice of MacFarlane) his roommate. The only problem? John's been dating Lori (Mila Kunis) for four years, and she'd like a commitment from John, and that means Ted has to move out. Choices, choices, your long-time best friend or your beautiful girlfriend?
Do you like Family Guy? If you answered 'yes,' you'll like this movie. Probably like it a lot. If you answered 'no,' this probably isn't the movie for you. Using his very dark, usually intelligent, sometimes dumb and always helter skelter sense of humor that viewers see on Family Guy, MacFarlane brings that same manic touch to 'Ted.' It helps if you have even a vague knowledge of 1980s-1990s pop culture, anything from lousy music to iconic movies and TV shows. We even get a couple dream-like sequences, a few dropped in flashbacks, and an over the top, sometimes exaggerated effort going for laughs. It's filthy, dirty, and filthier so definitely know what you're getting into here. Like Family Guy and MacFarlane's other shows, it will almost certainly divide audiences.
The movie on the whole is not great, but it is very good, even near perfect in its humor at times. What works best? Not surprising answer here. That's a CGI teddy bear voiced by MacFarlane. Check that; a foul-mouthed, pop-culture referencing, pot-smoking, sex-obsessed CGI teddy bear voiced by MacFarlane. It's criminally simplistic why this works. It's that image of a cute, fuzzy, soft teddy bear....doing what he does. We're introduced to a "grown up" Ted smoking pot with John and then driving him to work minutes later, just his ears poking up over the wheel. MacFarlane does a great job with his familiar voice talents (even poking fun at how much Ted sounds like Peter Griffin) bringing Ted to life. What's better? In this world, no one seems to question this teddy bear come to life, and it's the better for it. Ted is a great character, and one that ends up carrying the movie.
None of that is to say the rest of the cast isn't memorable. It's just that they're not as memorable in any scene Ted is in. Wahlberg does a great job acting alongside, well, nothing. His back-and-forth with Ted speaks to their long history, an easy going relationship between two guys (okay, a bear) who are genuine friends but don't mind busting each others' balls when deserved. Their Thunder Buddies song is a highlight too, both of them still terrified of thunder. Kunis (of Family Guy) isn't given a lot to do, but gets points for not being the stereotypically shrill girlfriend. Also look for Joel McHale as Lori's skeevy boss, Patrick Warburton and Matt Walsh as John's co-workers,and a creepy Giovanni Ribisi as an obsessed fan of Ted's. Also look for Nora Jones, Tom Skerritt and Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones, all appearing as themselves. Even keep an eye out for Ryan Reynolds in a wordless but very funny two-scene appearance.
I struggle at this point with comedy reviews. How much should I reveal in terms of laughs? IMDB's Memorable Quotes does a fair job of that so I won't go into great detail here. Without giving anything away, I can say the parts that work here are hilarious. Ted's apartment party is a highlight, quickly taking a turn for the worse. A running gag with his job at a grocery store and his boss are priceless as he tries to get fired only to earn promotions. A brutal, knock-down fight between John and Ted is unreal too. Moral of the story is simple. It's an above average comedy, with more jokes/gags working than those that failed. The ending too is surprisingly sweet. All in all, highly recommend this one.
Ted <---trailer (2012): ***/****