July 01, 2012


Seth McFarlane's first movie, which he co-wrote, co-produced, directed, and stars in. He lends his voice to a fuzzy teddy bear who comes to life after his eight-year-old owner John wishes upon a falling star. Jump ahead about thirty years later, and Ted and now-grown John (played by Mark Wahlberg) are still practically joined at the hip, much to John's longtime girlfriend's annoyance. (She's played by Mila Kunis.)

The voice of Ted, as you may have guessed, sounds exactly like the voice of Peter Griffin, the moronic Rhode Islander from McFarlane's long-running cartoon sitcom, Family Guy, which specializes in middle school humor of the most repetitive variety.

With Ted, Seth McFarlane recycles the same schtick that has made him a rich man who presumably feels no need to re-invent himself or open himself up to the possibility of new ideas and new jokes. McFarlane keeps this on a sitcom level, which means that everything in Ted is obvious. And while the crassness has a funny edge to it for a while, the movie soon runs out of steam. We can all imagine where Ted and John are headed, where John's relationship with his girlfriend is headed, and where the contrived conflict is headed. (There's a subplot about a creepy dad and his roly-poly son, who's drooling at the mouth to get his greedy hands on Ted. The narrator informs us that Ted became a celebrity for a while, but, like all celebs, was forgotten about eventually. This creeper of a villain has remained obsessed with obtaining him for his own son.)

John is an annoyingly thick character and therefore all-too-akin to so many other male characters in recent movie and television history. This is the era of the man-child. There's something grossly unappealing about seeing Mark Wahlberg in such a role, because he has the tendency to be whiny anyway. He needed a director who knew what he was doing, and writers who cared enough about the actual story to cook up something more original. You start to wonder if Seth McFarlane truly has contempt for his audience that he would take such little care for his own movie. The jokes can't possibly sustain such a dud of a script. And Ted isn't endearing. I don't know how they thought he would be. Does anyone feel empathy for Peter Griffin? And Ted is so obviously Peter Griffin in disguise. When you close your eyes you see the boor, not the bear.

Co-stars include Joel McHale (wasted as Mila's sleazy boss), Patrick Warburton, Giovanni Ribisi, Alex Borstein (McFarlane's co-star on Family Guy; she plays John's mom), and Patrick Stewart as the narrator. The cameo appearances by Ryan Reynolds, Norah Jones, Tom Skerrit, and Sam Jones (who played Flash Gordon), are uninspired.

If you're 13, this will probably be your favorite comedy of the year. Otherwise, Ted is a good example of what happens when a writer's love affair with pop culture exceeds his ability to craft a good, original story.

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