- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s incredible to think how different Seth MacFarlane’s career might have turned out had Fox not decided to bring “Family Guy” back from the dead, because after the show’s revival in 2005, MacFarlane parlayed its success into an animation empire in just a few short years. Currently dominating Fox's Sunday night lineup with three animated series, it was only inevitable that MacFarlane would seek out a bigger challenge. But while “Ted” represents the multi-hyphenate’s first foray into live action and feature filmmaking, the movie is such a solid, confident debut that you have to wonder why it took so long to make the jump in the first place.
Mark Wahlberg stars as John Bennett, a blue-collar Bostonian who didn’t have many friends growing up. In fact, he didn’t have any at all, which is what led him to make a wish one night for his Christmas teddy bear to come to life, only to be surprised when it actually came true. Fast forward a few decades later and the two are still best friends. While John spends his days working a dead-end job at a rental car company, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) has become a bad influence on him. No longer an international celebrity after his existence was made public, he’s matured from a cute, cuddly teddy bear into a pot-smoking, uncouth Swear Bear. But when John’s girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), gets fed up with having to share him (and her apartment) with his furry friend, she gives him one last chance to clean up his act or risk losing her.
Credit to Seth MacFarlane and co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild (both of whom have worked on "Family Guy" since its return from cancellation) for making Lori seem entirely rational in her demands, because she could have easily come off as a nagging bitch. In fact, all three characters have an authenticity to them that you don’t see in many comedies (particularly ones with a fantastical premise like this), and it goes a long way in making you care about what happens to them. Mark Wahlberg does a good job playing the straight man of the pair, proving once again that he can be funny when given the right role, while Mila Kunis makes the most of her somewhat limited screen time.
Nevertheless, it’s MacFarlane that ends up stealing the show. Although he’s given himself most of the best dialogue in the film, his decision to perform the motion capture for Ted in addition to providing the voice does wonders for the interactions between him and Wahlberg. Ted may not be totally photorealistic (although it’s pretty darn close), but he feels like a real, living, breathing thing because of MacFarlane’s performance. The writer/director even takes a fun jab at himself about how much Ted sounds like Peter Griffin during a drug-fueled party scene later in the movie that involves the washed-up star of a certain 1980 sci-fi cult classic. I won't spoil the cameo here, but it's a good one.
Fans of MacFarlane’s animated TV series wouldn’t expect anything less, but while the movie feels like a live-action version of “Family Guy” at times – featuring many of the same trademarks, including cutaway gags, a knock-down-drag-out fight, and of course, enough boundary-pushing humor to comfortably earn its R rating – you don’t have to be a fan of his shows to enjoy “Ted.” It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but there are also things that MacFarlane is able to do here that can’t be done in animation, and it creates a more well-rounded movie as a result. Some of the subplots (particularly one with Giovanni Ribisi as a creepy single dad who wants to get Ted for his son) don’t work as well as others, and the laughs don't come quite as fast and furious as I had hoped, but “Ted” is still incredibly funny and a potential candidate for one of the best comedies of the year.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
There’s plenty of great bonus material on Universal's Blu-ray release, highlighted by an entertaining audio commentary with director/co-writer/co-star Seth MacFarlane, actor Mark Wahlberg and co-writer Alec Sulkin. Other extras include the usual suspects like deleted scenes, alternate takes and a gag reel, as well as a making-of featurette that focuses on visual effects and a behind-the-scenes look at shooting the fight sequence.