McFarlane Gets Back to Early ‘Family Guy’ Humor with ‘Ted’
Remember early ‘Family Guy’ before it got excessively gross? Back then, the writers made you laugh with clever pop culture references instead of relying on the shock value outrageous plotlines. If those were your favorite episodes of the animated series, then you’re going to love Seth McFarlane’s live action directing debut “Ted.” The film, which McFarlane co-wrote with former “Family Guy” scribes Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, is hilarious and slightly edgy way without going over-the-top.
McFarlane’s comedy explores a childhood wish that yields amusing adult consequences. The flick focuses on John, a lonely child in the Boston area. John wishes that his teddy bear Ted could really walk and talk. Miraculously Ted comes to life and gives John the true friend that he always wanted. Although little John couldn’t possibly have considered what his adulthood would be like with a teddy bear as his best friend.
The film then cuts to present day, where thirtysomethings Ted and John are roommates in Boston. Ted (voiced by McFarlane) has become a rude, crude, Massachusetts bro who smokes weed and womanizes to excess. However John (Mark Wahlberg) has grown into a goofy man-child with more propriety. He has a crappy yet steady job, and a loving girlfriend named Lori (Mila Kunis). Much to Lori’s annoyance, John is a complete pushover when it comes to Ted. He never refuses Ted’s schemes for slacking off, or gets angry when the bear makes a mess.
So on the eve of their fourth anniversary, Lori issues John an ultimatum: if he wants to stay with her, Ted has to move out. The remainder of the film largely deals with John’s conflicting allegiances to both Ted and Lori. During that time John has plenty of humorous misadventures with Ted, but with each incident, John’s antics bring him closer to destroying his relationship.
In addition to the Lori/Ted conflict, there are a couple of underdeveloped subplots that weaken the story, like a wacky father (Giovanni Ribisi) who wants to kidnap Ted, and Lori’s boss (Joel McHale) trying to get in her pants. Ribisi’s socially awkward character is funny in a demented way, but the portions with McHale feel forced. It’s almost like McFarlane needed an excuse to squeeze McHale in and an egotistical boss was the only open part.
Despite his vulgar personality and gruff accent, McFarlane gets you to love Ted as a character. That’s primarily due to Ted’s fierce loyalty, which makes it easier to forgive his negative qualities. Wahlberg appropriately balances Ted out as the straight man in this comedy. Mila Kunis on the other hand does a fine job, but she’s placed in the unenviable position of playing a typical bitchy girlfriend. Because she has to operate in this stereotype, it’s very difficult to appreciate her character.
Reminiscent of early “Family Guy,” much of the comedy in “Ted” is derived from well-placed pop culture references to 1980s mainstays like “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones,” and “Flash Gordon.” McFarlane milks a cameo from Mr. Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones, for every laugh that he can. Familiarity with the hero isn’t required, although if you know him, you’ll laugh a lot more. The same could be said about Boston. If you know the city, you’ll get more out of McFarlane’s jabs at Beantown women, but you’ll still have a good time even if you’re not a Boston local.
For a raunchy comedy, “Ted” will surprise you with its sentimentality. Even though it loses focus in a couple of places, you’ll still laugh your ass off when you watch this strangely charming tale about growing up.
My Grade: B+
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