Music Feature

Film Review: Ted

by Piers Marchant
A talking bear with a mouth like a teamster.

Dir. Seth MacFarlane
Score: 5.5

I think its safe to say Seth MacFarlane has pretty much established his comic milieu by this point. In a MacFarlane comedy, you're going to have a slew of pop culture jokes, fart jokes, and a bit of racial humor with a small spike of slapstick, all crocheted around a vocabulary so blue it would give a drunken teamster pause. The fact that most of the profanity is uttered by an adorable teddy bear here only adds to fun.

Seriously, will we as a movie-going public ever tire of children's toys spewing physically improbable vulgarities at us? Like footballs to the groin, and fat people losing their balance and rolling down hills, there's something about a swearing puppet woodchuck or pornographic Barbie doll that consistently kills us.

In the case of this comic meditation on childhood dreams and personal responsibility, the toy doing all the cursing is our titular hero (voiced by MacFarlane, naturally), a soft and cuddly teddy bear who looks a bit like Snuggles' wilder uncle, gone to seed. He came to life because his best friend, John (Mark Wahlberg), made a fateful wish on a Christmas night many years before. Since then, they've been best pals growing up together.

One of the film's winning conceits betrays the first rule of the inanimate-come-to-life genre that maintains you must keep this all a secret. Ted, the little boy's bear who came to life in a Christmas miracle, instead became an instant celebrity, appearing on all the talk shows and making a big splash. At least up until when the novelty wore off, whereupon everyone pretty much forgot about him. Everyone, that is, except his best friend. When we meet the duo in the present day, they're still roomies, drinking, busting on each other, getting baked, and giggling at the infamous Dino De Laurentiis-produced Flash Gordon flick from 1980. Unfortunately for the pals, John, now 35, has a serious girlfriend, Laurie (Mila Kundis), with a professional job, who doesn't altogether appreciate the fact that her man works a meaningless, dead-end job and spends all his free time scrounging around with his stuffed bear.

Naturally, this leads to the film's major conflict: Can John grow up enough to take his relationship seriously, while in the process not losing his childhood best friend? It's a fair -- though certainly well-traveled -- basis for a movie, I suppose, but MacFarlane, who wrote the script with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, falls into the novice movie-writing trap of giving himself all the best and funniest moments. Pity poor Wahlberg, who pretty much has to spend the film getting bossed around by his bear, and receiving verbal beat-downs from his one-dimensional girlfriend. Speaking of whom, there's certainly a long legacy of wet-blanket women in boys-to-men comedies, but for the vast majority of the film, Laurie's sole purpose is to act as the film's perpetual buzzkill. So unrelenting is she on the subject of spoiling John's good times, you have to wonder what sort of pathetic man he is to put up with it.

The film still has its moments of comic flight -- MacFarlane has a knack for pushing the envelope just far enough to get a laugh without going totally over-the-top -- and his pop culture microscope remains as ever impressive (in addition to Flash's Sam J. Jones, MacFarlane also gets some unlikely laughs out of Tom Skerritt and Ryan Reynolds) but it gets to the point where any scene that doesn't have Ted cracking wise and hitting on hookers feels like a waste of (digital) film.

In other words, if you plan on coming to this movie for an engrossing examination of human relationships, you might want to recheck the other films playing at your local Cineplex. But if you happen to be after a ribald laugh or three with a cussing bear that sounds a great deal like Peter Griffin (a little detail that does not slip past MacFarlane's watchful comic eye), and certainly won't be part of any commercial tie-ins with Burger King, you won't be utterly disappointed.

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