By Bob Garver
I cannot imagine that “Ted” is going to win many people over. There is an audience for this movie, and they may like it, but they know who they are. What I have a hard time picturing is people with better taste saying, “I’m sure glad I took a chance on that foul-mouthed teddy bear movie.” If you’ve seen the ads and you think “Ted” looks too dumb for you, you’re right. If you’re okay with “Ted” being a dumb movie and you want to see it anyway, chances are you still won’t like it.
For the record, I actually am the audience for “Ted”. I’m a big fan of star/director Seth MacFarlane’s animated shows “Family Guy”, “American Dad”, and the underappreciated “Cleveland Show”. I look forward to the Sundays where all three have new episodes and I can watch them in a marathon. I’ve always loved how MacFarlane inserts completely random cutaway gags into his episodes so they veer off from the main storyline at the drop of a hat. I also think it’s funny when he makes children and animals act like crude adults.
Which brings me to Ted, a stuffed bear voiced by MacFarlane. Ted was given to John (Mark Wahlberg) when the boy was just eight. Not having any human friends, John made a special Christmas wish for Ted to come to life, which he did. Now both are all grown up, though neither is what you’d call “mature”. John is in a relationship with Lori (Mila Kunis). Lori shares John’s affection, but wishes he would do more with his life than party with Ted all the time. She tries to get John to gradually break his attachment to Ted, but the childhood bond is the one thing in life that John takes seriously.
A lot of the film’s humor is based on the idea of Ted drinking, cussing, and otherwise acting obnoxious and immature. It’s not a humor that can sustain itself for a hundred minutes, though it is pretty funny to see Ted and John get into a fistfight late in the film. Other gags include played-out jokes about anatomy, bodily functions, stereotypes, and sex acts. Also, profanity is used as a punchline an awful lot. The characters will throw a swear word into the middle of a sentence (or in some cases the middle of a word) and we’re supposed to laugh. It’s another type of gag that would be funny in small doses, but is annoyingly overused.
MacFarlane’s humor doesn’t translate well into live action. I think it’s because he doesn’t have the time or budget to change the setting as often as he needs to, and as a result the pace is thrown out of whack. It also severely limits the number of cutaway gags he can do. He tries to make up for it with cameos from Ryan Reynolds, Tom Skerritt, Norah Jones, and Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones (surprisingly it’s delicate singer Norah Jones who’s the funniest). Apparently the idea is to write bit parts for random celebrities into the story instead of referencing them out of the blue. It sounds like a decent compromise, but a lot gets lost in the translation.
“Ted” gets weird toward the end when it forgets to be a dumb comedy and goes for an ill-advised emotional punch. It’s a bad decision that has also marred the last few seasons of MacFarlane’s “Family Guy”. But if “Ted” wants to get sappy, I can get sappy too. My favorite stuffed animal from childhood was a pink and purple bear that my dad won playing Skee-ball at Hersheypark. I named him Cuddlylike because he was cuddly and everybody liked him. I don’t care much for “Ted”, but at least it does the good deed of getting me nostalgic. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to reminisce about your old toys as well.
One and a Half Stars out of Five.
“Ted” is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use. Its running time is 106 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.