LITTLE ROCK — To get through our difficult lives, some of us have lucky rings, rabbit’s feet or other charms. John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) has a weed-huffing teddy bear.
Just as he has done for cartoons, Family Guy mastermind Seth MacFarlane has made what could have been a children’s story safe for raunch. Ted the teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) may be cute, but his antics are for the adults and the stunted adolescents in the audience. Toddlers might find MacFarlane’s politically incorrect wit a tad too sophomoric.
At its best, Ted is a clever reworking of Harvey. In the previous film (and in the play on which it’s based), Harvey was giant invisible rabbit that only Jimmy Stewart could see. While Ted has come to life through magic, there are times that John probably wishes his stuffed best friend were invisible.
John has a dead-end job at a car rental company in Boston, and his longtime girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), would like him to stop wandering through a smoke-filled haze with Ted. While she likes the foul-mouthed, hard partying toy, he’s inadvertently keeping the good-natured John from getting into a marriageable state.
For all of the broad, raunchy antics, MacFarlane, in his big-screen directing debut, treats his fantasy tale with an oddly appropriate seriousness.Through motion capture, he convincingly plays the sort of fellow you’d love to share a toke with, if such a person could be a 2-and-a-half-foot stuffed animal. Wahlberg and the rest of the cast behave as if Ted were one of them, so there’s a beating heart that drives the bodily functions in the film.
Wahlberg demonstrates some comedy chops. While he has made his mark as an action hero, he’s not afraid to make John a complete doofus, and hearing him mangle a James Bond theme is worth the price of admission.
As for the brains behind Ted, sometimes MacFarlane and his co-screenwriters Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild can be as clever as they are gross, but sometimes they can’t. The opening, where Ted comes to life, is a spot-on parody of kids movies, and Sir Patrick Stewart’s narration is suitably sarcastic.
There’s also an astonishing sequence where Ted interacts with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.
Some of the pop culture references, however, are as stale as Ted’s beer-soaked stuffing. While the banter is appropriately snappy, the nods to ’80s and ’90s nostalgia get old quickly.
There are a lot of celebrity cameos, and some work better than others. Norah Jones is happy to go along with the joke, but some of the other celebs playing themselves act as if their agents are waving paychecks at them off camera.
MacFarlane still comes up with enough guilt-inducing delight to satisfy viewers who haven’t shared a bong hit with Ted.
Ted 80 Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, Matt Walsh and the voice of Seth MacFarlane Director: Seth MacFarlane Rating: R, for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use Running time: 106 minutes