Young John Bennett (Bretton Manley) did not have a lot of friends growing up in suburban Boston. So one night he wished that his teddy bear, Ted (voice of MacFarlane), would come to life and be his best friend. To his shock — and the even greater shock of his parents (Ralph Garman, Alex Borstein) — his wish came true and Ted started walking and talking. Fame ensued; Ted appeared on Carson (it was the mid-’80s) and got involved in tabloid scandal. But eventually, decades later, he’s forgotten and living in an apartment, still best friends with John (Mark Wahlberg). And, not surprising for an out-of-work former star, he spends most of his time smoking pot and trying to get John to smoke pot with him (and John mostly obliges). This behavior isn’t good for John — he’s late to work, doesn’t seem terribly ambitious — and it is absolutely not cool with John’s girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis). They’ve been dating for four years and she sincerely hopes the relationship is going somewhere — somewhere without the bear. John is conflicted about this. He helps Ted move out but doesn’t seem willing to stop wasting time (and second chances) with his furry friend.
A lot of what happens I can’t repeat in the newspaper. Ever wondered what Family Guy would be like without the minimal constraints of Fox? This. It would be like this, with prostitutes, a grand poop joke, a whole lot of pot, profanity-laced narration by Patrick Stewart (!), a lot of swearing in general and a good helping of ethnic slurs. Much like Family Guy, Ted features some flights of fancy, including a whole thing with Flash Gordon and Sam Jones that is both exceptionally weird and pretty successful. I can take or leave Family Guy most of the time, and not everything works here, but I found myself laughing at enough of the jokes to keep the movie lively.
I credit two things for elevating this to the level of moderately successful movie from the pile of Family Guy leftover jokes it so easily could have been. (1) MacFarlane (whose Ted voice is almost identical to his Peter Griffin voice) and Wahlberg turn in a very believable performance. I buy Ted (with the help, obviously, of some really top-notch animation) and I buy the relationship they have. (2) The movie’s pacing and scoring, which resemble a musical. MacFarlane, who put out an album of American songbook-type covers, seems to have that sensibility. I heard him talk about his cover of “Sadder But Wiser Girl” from The Music Man on the radio show Fresh Air and it was that interview that I kept thinking about throughout the movie. The orchestration that ties up many of the scenes injects a kind of effervescence in what could have felt like a bitter, Moxie-flavored movie. Musicals, with their dance numbers and their monologues delivered in song, are absurd, but we except the absurdity. Somehow, the musical-like presentation helped me accept the craziness of Ted’s existence and frat-boy personality. B
Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use. Directed by Seth MacFarlane with a screenplay by MacFarlane and Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild, Ted is an hour and 46 minutes long and distributed by Universal Pictures.