As most comedies in the post-Apatow era are about slacker man-children who refuse to grow up, Seth MacFarlane’s Ted deserves credit for being hilariously on point, as Mark Wahlberg stars as a 35-year-old who can’t let go of his teddy bear.
The catch here is that the bear can talk, thanks to a magical wish made at Christmastime, which the movie reminds us is “that magical time of year when the children of Boston gather together and beat up the Jewish kids.” The walking, talking stuffed animal was a minor celebrity back in the ’80s, but now it’s three decades later and he just likes to sit around on the couch all day smoking weed.
Voiced by co-writer and director MacFarlane as a broad Bahston bray, Ted is a fountain of obscenity and obscure pop-culture references. Much like MacFarlane’s TV series Family Guy and American Dad, Ted relies mainly on allusions to junk 1980s artifacts and random nonsequiturs. Also much like MacFarlane’s TV series Family Guy and American Dad, Ted is very funny until all of the sudden it’s not anymore. Everybody’s personal MacFarlane mileage varies according to their own internal clock. I had a great time at Ted until it decided to try and have a plot.
The agreeably shapeless first hour follows commitment-phobe Wahlberg and his furry roommate doing bong-rips and screenings of the 1980’s Dino DeLaurentis Flash Gordon while the former endures a great deal of eye-rolling from his longtime girlfriend (Mila Kunis in a thankless role) and the latter picks up a bunch of hookers and gets wasted all the time.
At its heart, this is a very conventional tale, with the bear taking the place of the loudmouth loser best friend role as the protagonist attempts to grow up. What makes Ted work for as long as it does is Wahlberg’s ridiculous commitment to the material. He’s a brilliant comedian who just so happens to be built like a brick: The dimmer and louder Wahlberg is onscreen, the better.
Ted loops around wonderfully for about an hour going nowhere in particular, the movie’s ecstatic highlight being a cocaine party in which Walhberg and his lifelong pal live out their Flash Gordon-inspired fantasies. Bummer when Giovanni Ribisi shows up and the movie devolves into terrible chase scenes, with a flustered Kunis limping along like a wet blanket, because of course girls aren’t allowed to be funny in this boy’s club.
Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.