I Want One!

Ted may open like any number of family-friendly Christmas movies and be about a talking teddy bear, but make no mistake, this is not a movie you take your kids to.  Ted is the live-action debut of writer/director Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the television show Family Guy.  Although the show manages to push some buttons, it is restricted by being on network television.  Given the freedom of an R rating, MacFarlane is able to crank up the dirtiness.  Fortunately, the extra level of filth does not lessen the impact of his one-of-a-kind sense of humor; if anything, it enhances it.

Ted opens in the mid-1980s, an era that MacFarlane is obviously a huge fan of as this film is littered from start-to-finish with references to the decade.  It is in this opening that we learn about young John Bennett.  John is a lonely boy who struggles to make friends.  When his parents give him a teddy bear for Christmas that says “I love you” when you push its belly, he makes a wish that his bear could really talk.  Magically, his wish comes true. Ted even becomes a world-wide celebrity.  It is every little boy’s dream, but what happens when the little boy grows up?

Writer/Director Seth MacFarlaneFlash-forward to present day and John is now a 35-year-old in a 4-year relationship with his girlfriend Lori.  He also still lives with Ted, whose celebrity has faded right along with the color of his toy fur.  Lori likes Ted, but she is starting to want more out of her relationship with John and knows that in order for that to happen, John needs to grow up a little bit; something he can’t really do while hanging out with dead all day long.  They find Ted a job and his own apartment, but these two lifelong friends—or “thunder buddies”—find that being apart is not something that they can do easily.

MacFarlane’s sense of humor definitely translates to the big screen and fans of his other work will not be disappointed.  Ted is very funny from start to finish, slowing a little bit towards the end to allow something that resembles a heart to pervade the humor.  It is a little strange that it suddenly translates into kind of an action movie at one point, but you are enjoying the film so much by that point that you are willing to just go with it.

Better known for his dramatic work, Mark Wahlberg takes full advantage of a rare opportunity to play a comic lead and the result is one of the actor’s most likeable performances.  He really seems to have a grasp on MacFarlane’s sense of humor.  Of course, he’s given some help as co-star Mila Kunis has been working with MacFarlane for years, voicing the character of Meg on Family Guy.

In addition to writing and directing, MacFarlane also plays Ted, courtesy of motion capture technology.  As he also voices three of the main characters on his television show, his voice is easily recognizable and he manages to even work in a gag pointing out how similar his characters’ voices are.

Ted, the character, is very well done.  The combination of MacFarlane’s virtual performance and the talents of the film’s digital wizards make the talking teddy bear feel like a real character and not just a special effect. They also do well to appropriately age him.

In addition to the movie’s wonderful wit and sense of humor, the many ’80s references are a lot of fun and there are a couple of random cameos that add an extra chuckle or two.  It is difficult to tell after just one viewing whether Ted will end up being one of those comedies that you find yourself going back to on rainy days or whether it is just funny the first time.  One thing is for sure, though.  I’m ready to watch it a few more times to find out.

Ted is rated R for “crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use.”  If you like your humor clean, this movie is not for you.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Ted.