In television’s Family Guy we can feel the 15-year-old in Seth MacFarlane yearning to break from the constraints of broadcast television even if by Fox Network standards they’re not very restrictive.
In Ted, his first feature film, he pulls off the shackles and then some allowing his adolescent self to roam free for a generally wacky 90 minutes plus in the process presenting every dirty joke and word he couldn’t get across TV network censors.
If you’re a fan of his TV stuff, the aforementioned Family Guy and American Dad, this is a good thing as those free-form, animated comedies prove to be entertaining exercises in stupidity and sometimes searing satire on politics, sex and American life.
Ted, the story of a man and his stuffed bear come to life, owns no such delusions of grandeur as MacFarlane, who writes, directs and provides Ted’s voice, attacks the funny bone with juvenile humor that scores far more than it misses.
But when it’s not being digging low for depravity is there anything there to for moviegoers to sink their teeth into? Surprisingly, yes.
The audience will get to revel in the sheer absurdity and surrounding mayhem of the situation all while MacFarlane connects with his core audience – adult males with Peter Pan syndrome.
As a kid John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) was abused, pushed around and ignored by others in the neighborhood. After receiving a stuffed bear named Ted for Christmas, he wishes for the new-found friend to come to life. Voila, wish granted and Ted and John grow up together as a couple of socially stunted and completely unmotivated morons with one glaring exception.
John’s in a four-year relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis) and they cohabitate, making life with Ted interesting. As anyone could imagine a bong-toking, beer-drinking, hooker-hiring stuffed bear could make life a tad bit difficult for a couple in a relationship.
After four years, Ted’s act and his perceived influence over John wears thin and Lori asks that he move out. Separated for the first time in 27 years, they are forced to adapt to life without one another without much success.
Beyond the overt and over-the-top vulgarity, MacFarlane puts together more than a few funny few bits that work within the confines of his story, including the funniest and most ludicrous fight scene to hit a screen since Blazing Saddles.
His familiarity with his audience – and make no mistake about it, he has an audience – plays to his advantage as he mines pop culture obsession for gags. Check out the riff on the 1980 film Flash Gordon for example.
Does all of this make Ted a good film? Not necessarily. In fact, more than a few times I felt as if I needed a mind erase after. But I also had the same initial reaction to Family Guy when it first premiered. To date I have seen every episode.
MacFarlane has never wanted to do anything more than make people laugh. The motives are unquestionable. The methods very well may be hte opposite. Ultimately, however, this is a funny film that fulfills its intended desire – making you laugh until you wet your pants. In that regard, MacFarlane gets the last laugh.
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane
Rated: R (crude and pervasive sexual content, language and some drug use).
Running time: 106 minutes
George’s rating: 3-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com