DIRECTED BY Seth MacFarlane
STARS Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis
HE'LL OUTDRINK EVERY ONE OF US: Flash Gordon star Sam Jones (far right) does rum shots with Ted and John (Mark Wahlberg) in Ted. (Photo: Universal Pictures / Tippett Studio)
Rude, raunchy and decidedly non-PC, Ted is the sort of movie for which trailers serve no purpose, since they can't convey the R-rated content in PG-approved snippets. In fact, even the adults-only "red band" trailer plays it relatively safe — actually a good thing, since that just reserves more out-of-left-field hilarity for the actual viewing experience.
The idea of Mark Wahlberg and a talking teddy bear sounds as potentially disastrous as Mel Gibson and a talking beaver sock-puppet, but writer-director Seth MacFarlane manages to wring every last drop of comic potential out of this dubious premise. We first meet Ted during the 1980s, when friendless child John Bennett receives him as an ordinary Christmas present and, thanks to a well-timed falling star, discovers that his wish to have a live teddy bear has come true. ("It's a Christmas miracle!" declares John's mom. "Like baby Jesus!") Ted naturally becomes a celebrity, even appearing alongside Johnny Carson in a bit of Forrest-Gump-meets-JFK sleight of hand, but like other child celebrities ("Corey Feldman ... Frankie Muniz," the narrator reminds us), he's been long forgotten over the ensuing decades, and he now spends his time on the couch, sharing bong hits with the grown-up John (Wahlberg) and repeatedly watching their favorite movie from their formative years, 1980's Flash Gordon ("So bad, but so good," states John, the best review ever given for this wonderful bit of cult kitsch).
John has a beauteous, loving girlfriend in Lori (Mila Kunis), and while she's been generally good-natured about the friendship between John and Ted, she realizes that it's time John accepts adult responsibility so they might consider a real life together. She basically makes John choose between her and the bear, and it's to the film's credit that she's not presented as an overbearing (no pun intended) shrew but as the most sensible person in the picture. John does indeed give adult life a try, and Ted even gets his own apartment and lands a job as a grocery store clerk (what he does on the job with two bottles of lotion is so naughty that the scene was even edited for the "red band" trailer!). But with so many parties to attend and so many bongs to tap, it's hard for the best buds to remain apart for long.
Prostitutes, rich doofuses, fat kids, 9/11, Jews, '80s music, Susan Boyle, James Franco, testicular cancer — pretty much everything's open for funny business in Ted. Flatulence gags and gay-panic riffs — two long-standing faves of man-boys like MacFarlane — make appearances, and it's no surprise that these bits are the ones that most frequently fail to hit their marks. But favorably adding to the mirth are some superb cameos — not the lazy sorts that mark too many other modern comedies, but ones that are expertly woven into the fabric of the story.
Whether he's wooing Kunis or roughhousing with Ted, Wahlberg is a lively presence in this film, and the scene in which he serves up a stream-of-consciousness tear through "white trash" girl names is an improvisational tour de force. As for Ted, we have no problem accepting him as a living, breathing entity, thanks to the superb effects work that seamlessly places him in the thick of the action. To be honest, I'm more impressed with the comparatively low-tech look of Ted than the been-there-done-that razzle dazzle of The Amazing Spider-Man — a startling declaration that might make some wonder if I've spent too much time myself on the couch with the bong-banging bear.