How do you introduce a movie about a foul-mouthed talking plush toy? To quote “Ted” writer, director, and star MacFarlane from his own film: “Nothing is more powerful than the wish of a small boy. Except for an Apache helicopter. It has both machine guns and missiles. It is a pure death machine.” Nothing better sums up “Ted.” A wishful, debauchery-laced fantasy of a man and his talking bear. Suck it, Gentle Ben.
“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. (Synopsis by Universal)
The irreverent comedy stylings that MacFarlane is known for are on full display here. Most of the film is spent skewering pop culture with more references per minute than “Pop Up Video.” Unrestrained from the limitations of television content control, the jokes are certainly more vulgar. But also in this space, MacFarlane’s wit really shines. The target audience is the squarely the generation that grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s. So why a talking teddy bear? It seems an unlikely vehicle for this type of comedy. Mr. MacFarlane explains.
What is possibly more intriguing (at least for future projects) is that the unfettered MacFarlane manages to tell a decent if simple, story. There are even flashes of directorial expertise often missed by more senior helmsmen. Of course it helps when you don’t have a serious premise to start with. Sure, “Ted” is a basic buddy comedy story line where the guy gets the girl, but the comedy and directorial insights put this at a slightly higher level. Take the performances of Wahlberg and Kunis. Both play straight to the bear’s machine gun punch lines and nail it every single time. The cut back scenes to early plot developments—like the “clean up” scene in the living room after Ted’s lady friends’ visit—show MacFarlane’s talent for writing and creating comedy with his cast.
But what separates this movie from every other comedy you see this year is the inclusion of one key character. Flash (Ahh Ahhhhhh!) Gordon! Yes. Sam J. Jones. With his hair parted down the middle. Wearing the Flash costume. Riding the… uhhh… flying Nordic Track?… space Tread Mill… that flying space ship thingy with Wahlberg hanging on grinning like a stoned idiot as Queen rips out the theme song. (Note: I would totally ride shotgun into Ming’s lair with Flash. 100% chance.) Just watch this. I’ll wait. Flash shows up to one of Ted’s parties and the boys’ party like it’s the 1980’s. That’s right, “doing cocaine and banging a bunch of girls named Stephanie.” By God, they even have Wahlberg’s car making 70’s style laser streaks on the way to the party. Bravo.
Prediction: this will be this year’s best comedy. MacFarlane has waited long enough to create a feature film, and the thought he put into it shows. Sure it is crass, and riddled with a plush toy smoking pot like a Snoop Dogg video, but it never goes too far over the line—even if it gets dangerously close to that edge at times. There is a message here somewhere buried underneath all of the insults. But I don’t care. This is to be enjoyed for exactly what it is; a filthy little gem of comedy.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: See it. Sam J. Jones! I’m going to rewatch “Flash Gordon” right now.
He’ll save every one of us!
THREE AND A HALF STARS out of four.
Directed by Seth MacFarlane.
Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use.
Runtime: 1 hr. 46 min.