“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane makes his feature-length debut with “Ted”
Just like its cuddly title character, Seth Macfarlane’s “Ted” is crude, rude and surprisingly entertaining.
There’s an endless stream of R-rated gags, tasteless jokes and off-color humor, spiced up with a few violent scuffles and the occasional non-sequitur.
In fact, the movie feels a lot like a live-action episode of “Family Guy,” MacFarlane’s Emmy Award-winning animated show about a dysfunctional Rhode Island family. Although “Ted” retains the New England setting, the shock factor here is even higher than on the popular Fox series.
Our story opens on Christmas Eve, 1985.
As a shooting star flashes across the sky, eight-year-old John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) wishes that his stuffed teddy bear could really talk.
The next morning, he’s shocked to discover that Ted (voiced by McFarlane) is indeed alive. The two vow to be best friends “forever.”
Twenty-seven years later, John and Ted are still best buds. United by their shared love of “Flash Gordon” and their fear of thunderstorms, they spent almost every waking hour together — much to the annoyance of John’s girlfriend of four years, the beautiful, caring and accomplished Lori (Mila Kunis).
She’s convinced that John, who’s currently trapped at a dead-end job at a Boston car rental business, would be in a much better place if he didn’t spend so much time with Ted. This is a bear, after all, that spends his days smoking pot, swilling beer and hanging out with hookers named Sauvignon Blanc.
So Lori issues an ultimatum: Either Ted goes, or she does.
Raunchy and stuffed with pop culture reference, “Ted” is exactly the kind of comedy you’d expect from writer-director Seth MacFarlane, the politically incorrect creator of “Family Guy,” “American Dad!” and “The Cleveland Show.”
The movie features appearances by several cast members from those shows, including Alex Borstein as John’s mom, Patrick Warburton as his coworker and Patrick Stewart as the movie’s droll narrator.
Giovanni Ribisi shows up as a crazed dad who wants to bring Ted home to his kid, and Joel McHale plays Lori’s creepy boss. We also get a couple of terrific celebrity cameos, too good to spoil here. (Suffice it to say that MacFarlane has a few famous friends.)
Of course, it’s the central trio that deserves the most praise.
Mark Wahlberg, who first dabbled in comedy in “Date Night” and “The Other Guys,” proves surprisingly adept here as an ordinary schlub with a comically broad Boston accent. His bromance with Ted is believable and, at times, rather touching.
As the long-suffering girlfriend, Mila Kunis is a willing, winning foil. (In the tradition of long-suffering movie girlfriends everywhere, she is also unspeakably lovely and impossibly patient.)
MacFarlane, meanwhile, manages to make tired jokes refreshingly funny by putting them in the mouth of a cute, furry teddy bear. His Ted, at times an actual toy and at others a computer-animated creature, may be a bad influence, but he has a warm heart.
Although “Ted” doesn’t always work, it’s a nice departure for MacFarlane, an animation whiz whose schtick has grown increasingly stale over the years. I’m looking forward to his next project with renewed interest.
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