Who would you be without your pot-smoking bear?

Ted (2012)     ★★★ 1/2

Directed by Seth MacFarlane (Universal Pictures)

In the age of Judd Apatow, 35-year-old children learning to become men, driven by sporadically raunchy humor (and a touch of genuine heart), is a concept that has come to define a significant portion of contemporary, mainstream comedies. Seth MacFarlane, who created TV’s insanely popular Family Guy, makes his first jump into the movies with a surprisingly clever twist on that familiar theme.

MacFarlane directs, co-writes, co-produces, and voice-acts in Ted, a film about 35-year-old man-child John (Mark Wahlberg), who remains best friends with Ted (voiced by MacFarlane), the teddy bear who he successfully wished would come alive on a Christmas night in 1985. As much as the two pals remain in a committed friendship, the problem lies in how John remains in an even more serious relationship, a four-year endeavor with his lovely girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis). When it becomes clear that Ted, who happens to drink, smoke weed, and occasionally hire a crew of prostitutes, is seriously impeding the relationship of John and Lori to go any further, John’s pal-for-life is forced to move out of the couple’s apartment.

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Some jokes hit and others miss, but for the most part, MacFarlane’s Family Guy formula is consistently hilarious, his own, foul-mouthed character becoming instantly memorable. Wahlberg and Kunis also have terrific chemistry; for once, a comedy not about an immature guy trying to get the girl, but a surprisingly smart movie about a half-mature guy attempting to be fully mature, while still holding onto the girl he loves and is fully committed to. Wahlberg proved in The Other Guys that he had great potential as a comedic actor, and continues to fulfill his promise with a character who attempts to do the right thing, but is conflicted in his attempt to be loyal to both his girlfriend and best friend, while subduing the urge to drink, smoke, and party like it’s 1985. Kunis is considerably more career-minded than her significant other, but loves John for who he is, and attempts to give him every chance in the world before Ted simply becomes an immovable obstacle.

As for the fuzzy guy himself, what a clever idea to write Ted as none other than a burnt-out child star, who starred on Carson for being magically brought to life, but now has nothing but a best friend and his bong. When he is forced to move out, he still craves the company of the only person who truly cares about him, and in effect, serves to further jeopardize John’s relationship. MacFarlane tries his best to make sure Ted doesn’t feel like a feature-length Family Guy episode, and the movie makes fun of itself enough to know that this is basically inevitable. Complete with jazzy score, fart jokes, ridiculously funny cameos, and the worship of both Boston and 80’s movies, Ted may feel inconsistent and over-the-top, but is far more personal to MacFarlane than his cartoons, and is surely more intimate than anything else he has done. Needless to say, it is also really, really funny.

First of all, the motion-capture animation of Ted is terrific; one can’t imagine how a fist-fight between Mark Wahlberg and a teddy bear could be any more hysterical. Humor aside, the film is also very astute in its examination of love and friendship, something you would never find in a MacFarlane-associated television episode. Lori attempts to be as understanding as possible, but wants John to let go of his childhood need for an undyingly loyal pal. Anyway, isn’t that what she should be? This is something John does understand, yet he can’t bring himself to leave his buddy-for-life in the dust.

All three of these principal characters care for one another in some shape or form, and it is a sure-fire complement of Kunis’ performance in that her character comes to a significant realization. She wants her man in his truest form, and soon begins to realize that unless he has his teddy bear (or in the circumstances of real life, that best friend who we would never equate to our own level of responsibility), a piece of what makes him John Bennett will be lost. Every man, no matter how old, has a talking teddy bear in his life, and a girlfriend who sometimes wants that seemingly bad influence out of the picture. But all the people in our lives come to make us who we are, and it is important to reach the point where we are comfortable in sharing the ones we love with other people.

MacFarlane makes great comedy because he knows how society interprets certain subjects, and in such a combination of pop-culture references and vulgarity, is able to arouse laughs that are often directed at our own, naive conceptions of the world. Like the characters in Ted, he proves his maturity. The 38-year-old man-child shows that he also understands relationships between individual people, and executes his narrative with laughs that just keep coming. We may also be the butt of the joke, but we love it just as much on the big screen. At the showing I attended, many lines were unheard due to the audience’s uproarious laughter. For lovers of both nostalgic and undeniably “modern” humor, Seth MacFarlane’s debut delivers. At the box-office, this has already become apparent. Ted has scored the highest opening weekend gross of all time for an R-rated film.

CKEP’S VERDICT – 3.5/5

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2 Comments

  1. Can’t wait to see it!

  2. […] is enough. He makes a childhood wish, that his teddy bear would come to life. Something happens and Ted, the talking, running, swearing, pot smoking teddy bear is born. Image source: […]


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