John Bennett’s (Mark Wahlberg) childhood was a sad one at first. As a boy, John could never make friends, so he decided to wish for one that would stand by him for the rest of his life, which he does get… in the form of his now-living teddy bear Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane). After years of now forgotten fame over this amazing anomaly of magic, Ted and John are now a couple of semi-successful slackers that spend a lot of time together, smoking weed and cracking each other up. This friendship has taken its toll on John’s extremely attractive girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis), whose tolerance for Ted’s schlubish influence on John has become razor thin. Now, John must try to better himself, which could cost him his most loyal friend of nearly 30 years.
Ted has the notable distinction of being Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s first foray into feature films. I’ll just state this quite clear; with the exceptions of American Dad and his recent jazz album Music Is Better Than Words, I’m not a big fan of MacFarlane’s resume. Most of my issues with MacFarlane’s work in television has to do with a heavy reliance on very lazy jokes like cutaway gags and pop culture references and less care into making his characters seem likable or engaging on any level. Thankfully, MacFarlane manages to mostly avoid leaning on his crutches and gives his characters some endearing merits. Sure, he doesn’t avoid this entirely; there’s one completely baffling scene where Kunis and Wahlberg remake a scene from Airplane! and a running joke involving the cheese filled camp classic Flash Gordon that really starts to lose it’s welcome after a certain point. Yet, despite those fumbles, the film’s humor is centrally based within the story and characters, which makes certain moments all the more hilarious.
The film’s core plot may sound like familiar romantic/raunchy comedy territory in a world dominated by Judd Apatow style comedies. Yet, Ted manages to take this tried and true formula and spark some genuine life into it. The relationship between Mark Wahlberg and his titular stuffed friend is one that feels so genuine. They have chemistry that feels like total brotherly love, with each immature insult and vulgar conversation having a solid foundation in a friendship that never seems forced and is actually quite emotionally affecting at times. So much of this can be credited to Wahlberg and MacFarlane’s voice acting, but the visual effects artists behind Ted also deserve so much credit, as they made this computer-generated bear seamless with the rest of the environment. The romantic side of this also works quite well, with Wahlberg and Kunis having genuine chemistry and Kunis feeling like a real human being rather than a contrived love interest that’s so common in modern rom-coms.
The film’s humor tends to run at a rapid fire pace, much in the same vein as MacFarlane’s other works. If one joke doesn’t work, another (and most likely far more offensive one) joke will fill the void. The only time where the humor comes to a halt is during a really contrived third act chase involving Giovanni Ribsi’s character. The sequence causes a huge lull in jokes to set up an emotional climax that could have been woven in far more smoothly. That’s not to say that Ribisi is unfunny in the film, as MacFarlane knows how to utilize even the smallest of cast members well, with Patrick Warburton, Patrick Stewart, Joel McHale, Matt Walsh, Jessica Barth, and a few spoilery cameos being particular highlights.
Bottom line, Ted succeeds at having a high joke success rate, which is the main thing all comedies should strive for and what Seth MacFarlane was most likely to succeed at. Yet, the film still manages to work on an emotional level, making tis leads investing throughout without sacrificing jokes. Sure, MacFarlane’s typical issues seep into the film, but it doesn’t plague this effort anywhere near as much as it does some of MacFarlane’s other stuff. Oh, and one more thing… it is AMAZINGLY offensive. I mean, I’m not an easy stone to turn in terms of horribly offensive humor, but even I winced a couple of times. Whether this is a positive or a negative is up to you.