Arts movie review

Ted delivers cheap laughs, Family Guy style

The pot-smoking, party animal teddy bear is a laugh, but Ted’s storyline is wobbly at best

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John (Mark Wahlberg) with his best friend Ted (voiced by Seth Macfarlane)
courtesy of universal pictures/tippett studio



Directed by Seth MacFarlane

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, and Joel McHale

Rated R

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If you like to laugh, you should see Ted. It’s Seth MacFarlane’s (Family Guy) first try at directing for the silver screen, and he delivers on what he does best — telling hilarious vulgar, racist, or sexist jokes. But MacFarlane’s gift is also a curse, because Ted seems to skimp on everything else, making it feel more like a big-budget vehicle to tell the same jokes you can get from an episode of Family Guy.

MacFarlane lends his voice to Ted, an adorable stuffed bear that comes to life at the wish of a young John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg). But Ted is no Disney fairy tale. Twenty-or-so years later, John is stuck in a dead-end job renting cars in Boston, still living with the stuffed bear who’s now a wildly irresponsible pot-smoking party animal. Mila Kunis rounds out the main cast as Lori Collins, John’s longtime girlfriend. Lori, surprise surprise, is becoming increasingly frustrated with Ted and John’s teenage antics and not-so-secretly longs for John to pop the question so they can move on with their lives.

And … that’s basically it. Yeah, at some point in the film Ted finds himself in trouble, and the shared adventure in saving their friend does good things for the John-Lori romance. But without MacFarlane’s supreme knack for humor, Ted would be a virtually unwatchable romcom running on the same tired storyline you’ve seen a thousand times before.

Fortunately, Ted is really funny. The bear doesn’t hold anything back, capitalizing on the same shocking insensitivity and stupidity that made Peter Griffin a household name. MacFarlane’s Family Guy signature is all over the place, right down to the cut-to-joke flashbacks so popular on TV nowadays. It’s all the more absurd because we don’t expect vulgarity or wit from a stuffed animal, which is really the whole point of Ted.

Still, my movie-watching experience stopped with the humor. Wahlberg and Kunis are wholly unconvincing and don’t seem to take their roles seriously, as if their characters know they’re just in a stupid movie about a stuffed bear. Like the movie itself, character relationships seem to be built on some kind of wobbly house of cards — I got the sense MacFarlane just wanted to get in another punchline, not craft an interesting story or make me actually care about the people on the screen. Leaving the movie, I realized I could have laughed just as much by pulling up three episodes of Family Guy on Hulu.

Joel McHale deserves a shout-out for his supporting role as Rex, Lori’s creepy manager who hopes to scoop her up if things go south with John. The film might also please Boston fans, since most of the big Beantown landmarks make an appearance. (Sorry, no MIT cameo).

Drawbacks aside, don’t forget: Ted will make you laugh, and if that’s worth $12 to you, by all means, go see the film. Just don’t expect anything above and beyond what MacFarlane has been doing on TV for years.