Directed By: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Aedin Mincks
Not going to lie. I kind of want my own talking teddy bear. But only if he guzzles beer, tells excessively dirty jokes, can drive and wants to be my best friend forever.
As a young kid, John Bennett didn’t have any friends. The kid who got picked on by the local bullies didn’t even want to hang out with him. However, that’s when Ted, came into his life. The adorable stuffed bear was a Christmas present from his parents and while John loved the inanimate plush toy to death, he wanted something more – John wanted Ted to be real and, it turns out, all he needed to do to make that happen was make a wish.
Now in his 30s, John (Mark Wahlberg) is all grown up, but his trash-talking teddy bear (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) is still right by his side. Playfully telling secrets under the covers turns into ogling ladies and indulging in an abundance of pot, and John’s girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), has just about had enough. The breaking point? Ted’s hooker party and a certain something left on the floor. Lori gives Ted the boot, forcing him to make it on his own and John to grow up once and for all.
Ted is like a warped version of a cute cartoon; there’s something undeniably appealing and adorable about a walking and talking teddy bear, but then there’s his bad behavior and garbage pail of a mouth, and the result is oddly charming. MacFarlane works wonders with the humor of the situation and manages to keep the talking teddy bear concept fully afloat from beginning to end, but clearly didn’t give the actual plot of his film the same attention.
Ted veers off in a number of different directions, the large majority of them noticeably cliché. The relationship drama between John and Lori is the most trite of them all, but thanks to winning performances from both Wahlberg and Kunis, it’s tolerable. There’s also a situation involving a creepy Ted fan and his son (Giovanni Ribisi and Aedin Mincks) and while the bit does boast a number of hilarious gags, as far as the narrative goes, it doesn’t flow in the least.
And that’s really the case with the entire film. MacFarlane has pitch perfect ideas for hysterical skits, but when it comes to building a plot and raising the stakes, Ted can feel quite jerky. It’s a rollercoaster of jokes, plateaus and then the need to one-up the last gag with something even more outrageous, and, thanks to the fact that the film is funny, it somewhat works. The trouble comes during moments that Ted disappears. The situation between John and Lori, John’s work life and Lori’s trouble with her persistent boss (Joel McHale) are all satisfactory storylines, but the material involving Ted is just so much more appealing, you can’t help but to want those other parts to come to an end so you can have Ted back in your life.
However, that’s not to say the human characters are entirely ineffective. MacFarlane is actually very successful with his development of both John and Lori. Minus the fact that Wahlberg’s eyebrows are constantly in this distractingly squiggly, “who me?” shape, he makes for a charming lead. John isn’t just the guy who’s friends with a Teddy bear; he’s got a lot to lose and even though you might care more about him losing Ted than Lori, both do manage to evoke emotion. As for Kunis, she does get a bit shafted by having her subplot reduce her to the film’s eye candy, but her notably honest performance does lend itself to making the Ted-driven portions even funnier.
Technically, the animation here is wildly impressive, putting almost every other live action animation hybrid to shame. Ted feels just as real as Lori and John and while part of that is certainly due to the writing, it would never have been as successful without this seamless animation work. Generally, the camerawork is satisfactory, but the excessive use of establishing shots, especially cityscapes and pans down from signs, is rather frustrating.
But really, who’s seeing Ted for the cinematography? In fact, who’s seeing Ted for any other reason, but to have a good laugh? The layer of the plot underneath the whole talking bear thing is totally rudimentary, uninspiring and certainly won’t leave you with something to think about after the credits, but Ted makes up for it with a slew of laugh out loud moments and unforgettable dialogue.