Ted will warp your mind, in a good way. Ted doesn’t have a dick but he fucks. Ted doesn’t have a soul but he’s evidently immortal. Ted is a two-foot tall teddy bear come to life as a real life friend to friendless 80s-era Boston lad John (Mark Wahlberg). Fast forward to the present and Ted and John are dope smoking roommates whose friendship is about to be tested by John’s commitment to his girlfriend (Mila Kunis).
Under the direction of Seth MacFarlane (who also co-wrote as well as voices Ted) Ted lampoons aspects of society that other films take for granted. There are moments during Ted where the audience is laughing hysterically, and you know what, sitting in such an audience is a thing a joy. One woman was laughing with such paroxysms of hilarity that it sounded like it was coming out of the theater speakers. I myself was convulsed with guffaws during the scene where Ted interviews for a job at a grocery store.
Watching Ted all I could think was that this film was too good to be true. Sure enough in the third act Ted goes from surreal free form laughs to a almost cliché narrative twist that involves a creepy dad and his equally creepy son who kidnap Ted. This part of the film while bringing it back down to Earth also slammed on the brakes of its maniacal atmosphere. In a twisted Boston alley this part of the film could be seen as a nod to Dennis Lahane novels like Gone, Baby Gone.
Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, and Norah Jones co-star along with Flash Gordon (1980) star Sam Jones plus a couple of other cameos we won’t reveal. In many ways MacFarlane establishes himself as a go-to force for the big screen, a natural evolution of his small screen persona. One can wish that Ted was less interested in a tidy happy ending and instead stayed the course of brutal social satire, but that film would be God Bless America and not Ted. Whereas Ted makes light fun of, say, Adam Sandler films and movies with soundtracks by Queen it’s not the harsh wake-up-with-a-slap take down that God Bless America delivers to, say, Diablo Cody or Woody Allen. MacFarlane seems to be testing the waters by submerging his toe to see how cold it is rather than diving in.
Still, MacFarlane does successfully channel the spirit of talking animal fantasies with a vengeance. Consider that Mr. Ed in its original form, short stories in the 1940s by Walter Brooks in the Saturday Evening Post and other mags, had a talking horse who’d get drunk with his human and play pranks on other people, an aspect that was obviously toned down for the subsequent 60s television series. Perhaps not oddly, Ted is about a bear that becomes human and comes out a week after another fantasy where a human becomes a bear (Brave).
– Michael Bergeron