Fans of “Family Guy” already know what to expect from “Ted,” the big screen directorial debut of Seth MacFarlane. As the writer and the voice behind Peter Griffin on that show he has redefined the limits of what is acceptable on prime TV. Now imagine that without a network censor looking over his shoulder. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Ted.”
When John Bennett (Mark Walhberg) was a small, lonely child he wished for just one thing—a best friend. His wish came true, and Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane), his trusty teddy bear, came to life. The pair became “Thunder Buddies” for life, which causes problems when John grows up and moves in with his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). After four years of living with John and the pot smoking, foul-mouthed Ted—imagine rooming with Bob Marley and Charles Bukowski—she becomes fed up, and makes an ultimatum: It’s either her or the stuffed, stoned bear.
The novelty of watching a stuffed bear spout words that would make a biker blush fades soon after the opening credits. After that the movie relies on Seth MacFarlane’s trademarked blend of awkward, inappropriate humor to get laughs, and you know what? It works. I didn’t feel good about laughing at some of the gags, but I laughed.
The movie is structured like a long-form episode of “Family Guy.” There are flashbacks, fight sequences that intentionally go on too long, pop culture references—MacFarlane gives “Flash Gordon” star Sam Jones the biggest part he’s had in twenty years—and the kind of jokes you tell around the water cooler the next day, but only in a whisper. Seth MacFarlane is an enemy of political correctness, and no one or subject is off limits. You’ve been warned.
The movie works best when it is cursing and drinking, but it also has a heart. Sort of like an R-rated “Alf.” Despite the concept—a teddy comes to life and gets high with his owner—the movie is a fairy tale—although a very raunchy one—and wants you to take the relationship between John and the two most important people in his life—Ted and Lori—seriously. MacFarlane eases off on the raunch slightly in the last half-hour to allow the relationship part of the story to take center stage, but ends off with some memorable jabs.
“Ted” must be the coarsest movie to ever star a teddy bear, but beneath the crudeness is a real stuffed beating heart.