Rarely is a movie ever as consistently funny as Ted, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s first stab at a feature film. It includes less Family Guy tropes than you might expect, leaving room for MacFarlane to establish his quasi-renaissance-funny-man credentials. On display in Ted are pop culture references that hit their mark, gags confirming that bodily functions are funny no matter your age, and good, old fashioned laughs that stem from competent comedic filmmaking.
I guess you could say Ted is stuffed full of laughs. Sorry, I figured I’d get the obligatory teddy bear pun out of the way early.
Our story begins with young John Bennett (Bretton Manley) making a wish back in the ’80s that his stuffed teddy bear could talk for real. Nothing is more powerful than a young boy’s wish — at least according to a narrating Patrick Stewart — and the next day John awakens to a live and talking Ted. As the two grow up, Ted becomes a star for his ability to speak, but he never strays from his loyalty to John.
Present day John (Mark Wahlberg) has been in a relationship with his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) going on four years. She’s ready for marriage, while he’s ready to smoke more weed and watch old episodes of Flash Gordon with Ted (voiced by MacFarlane). The three of them live together, and some serious convincing from Lori has John come to terms with the fact that it’s best for their future together if Ted move out.
A 27-year friendship doesn’t break off very easily, though. Ted scores a job at a grocery store, a sexy girlfriend with a white trash name (Jessica Barth as Tammy-Lynn) and an apartment of his own. But he’s constantly giving John reasons to ditch his rental car agency job or bail on Lori when she could use him around, like when her boss, Rex (Joel McHale), continually tries to get her in bed. Then there’s an additional subplot that has Ted being stalked by a man (Giovanni Ribisi, excellent at playing the creepy guy, though he makes it very funny this time) and his son who want to take Ted home and call him their very own.
I didn’t laugh uncontrollably from any one joke during Ted, but I still found myself chuckling throughout thanks to the bits that are supposed to be funny actually being funny. Consistency is key, and I rather recall a dozen funny moments in a movie than just a few. As such, I enjoyed the balanced and level-headed teddy bear movie more than Sasha Baron Cohen’s outrageous but far more hit-or-miss The Dictator.
Mark Wahlberg is a reliable Hollywood leading man outside of comedy, which makes it even funnier when he’s dialing up the funny alongside a stuffed animal. As good as he’s been in serious roles in acclaimed films like The Departed and The Fighter, I’m equally impressed with his natural comedic timing and everyman passivity found in The Other Guys and now Ted. Wahlberg and Ted have such great chemistry that it’s almost a formality that one of them isn’t human. (I can’t wait for the Blu-Ray extras to see how their scenes together were filmed. Was Wahlberg acting with nothing, or a teddy bear stand-in?) The actor gets less screen time with Kunis, but their chemistry is just as believable.
It must be nice to be Seth MacFarlane. He has a stable of winners in Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show. Now he can add Ted to that list, his first big screen victory. But will it be remembered and referenced years later like Family Guy? We’ll see …