John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is best friends with Ted (Seth MacFarlane), a teddy bear that he wished into life as a child. An animate teddy bear gets some attention but, like all fame, it’s fleeting. All the while, they’re best friends and spend almost no time away from one another. John starts to date Lori Collins (Mila Kunis) and they’ve been together for four years when we catch up to them. Though they’re good together, his arrested development with Ted is causing some strain on the relationship. Lori convinces John to get Ted to move out and get a job, but they still have trouble staying separated. One day, a fan of Ted’s, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) and his son Robert (Aedin Mincks), come up to John and Ted and try to buy Ted. When they refuse, Donny doesn’t give up.
The first rule of a comedy is to be funny. If it isn’t funny, it better be something else. Ted (2012) is a comedy and it is incredibly funny. The brand of humor has touches of the old Family Guy (1999-) flavor–which I wasn’t sure MacFarlane, the show’s creator, was going to be able to do–where they use a flashback to present an over-the-top moment that wouldn’t go over in a normal, linear narrative. I have to say, it worked incredibly well; better even than it does in animation. Then again, these moments were built with much more care (presumably) than they are in the show. They don’t just say, “this is like when…” and go from there. It’s a little more subtle.
Did I say subtle? I’m not sure if that’s the word since it is so over-the-top. There’s a moment where Lori and John have to pick up some poo and their reactions are a bit exaggerated. But it’s hilarious. Also making a comical appearance are the highly topical insults–Susan Boyle, for example–that have become the norm in comedy since around the time Family Guy arrived on the air. Causation or correlation, I could not say.
But I’ll tell you this, and put your open-minded caps on, MacFarlane may even be a great comedian. Ted, directed by MacFarlane and written by him, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild, is a shared piece, so the greatness I see in this movie may not belong to MacFarlane. Still, MacFarlane has proven in Family Guy that he’s the king of allusions. Not all allusions are created equal, so Family Guy tends towards the low and celebrity-oriented, but Ted calls on some classic film knowledge to get the jokes. And I’m not talking about the ones he builds up through the narrative, but the throw-away statements, like “Somebody had to go Joan Crawford on that kid.” I’m not going to give him Joyce-like credit for an allusion to Corey Feldman, but Joan Crawford shows potential.
Hey, that’s Ryan Reynolds!
Let’s talk about the bear because that’s a pretty central part of the movie. The bear is great. You’ve got an actor who has thirteen very ful years of voice acting and it comes through. He probably puts more emotion into his voice than he’s ever had to before, but with his skill and the CGI quality available, you’ve got a full sympathetic character, not just a gimmick. You’ve also got a gimmick. That’s Pareto efficiency right there.
Everybody’s great. The music is classic. MacFarlane can direct.
Nothing left to say. Check it out. Now you can buy it. God knows what an “Unrated” version looks like.