By Luke Whitmire

For a film to center around a crass and sordid child’s toy–the titular teddy bear, wished to life on Christmas night by a child–it doesn’t feel like a generic device we have viewed before. What makes this fuzzy-wuzzy cinematic experience profound and compelling is, the wit and strong character dimensions given to Ted. He is treated as a character with heart, rather than a squalid, one-dimensional gimmick. You actually care about this teddy bear and his relationship with others.

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarland–who wrote, directed and providing Ted‘s voice, gives us a very humorous, raucous and intelligent comedy. If you love MacFarland’s Family Guy, then you and the other devotees will cherish his cinematic debut. And I believe a lot of fans, as well as the uninitiated will find this film to be much more nuanced and cerebral than his TV work. Mark Wahlberg plays the grown-up version of John Bennett–the child who wished his only childhood friend to life, Ted. John is a 35-year-old man living in a flat with Ted and his longtime girlfriend of four years, Lori (Milia Kunis). Ted is no longer the sweet, innocent bear we are introduced to in the beginning, and Lori constantly asks John to grow up, kick Ted out, and propose to her.

The suspension of disbelief works very well due to MacFarland’s way of structuring the prologue–showing us a wonderful montage of the world finding out about Ted’s living existence with John and Lori. And within this montage we see a very funny segment of Ted as a guest on The Johnny Carson Show! So by the time we get to the present day, everything is old news about Ted’s miraculous existence. John and Lori and the rest of society interact with Ted very convincingly without it being too jarring or faux. MacFarland sets this up brilliantly with impeccable time-lapse photography and dainty editing. The real brilliance and sophistication of the film are the pokes and nabs at pop-culture, political incorrectness and political correctness, male bonding in its social and emotional context, and the cringe worthy anti-Semitism and racial slurs. All this permeates the very fabric of the film, making the narrative thrive furiously and risible!

MacFarland constructs a social satire that never looses its main objective, and that’s a finely wrought comedy. Much of this is helped by the wonderful CGI that has brought Ted to life. His expressions and intonations are perfect, and they bring a depth and emotional resonance to the different social situations with John and Lori. Wahlberg and Kunis have proven to be amazing comedic performers, and they elevate Ted’s existence and banter, making him all the more real and authentic to the audience. MacFarland’s genius really shows whenever these three are on-screen together. The film also carries a Noir style subplot that renders the film unique, an efficient method of storytelling. Intertwined within the story that weaves in and out is, a dark, brooding presence looming over Ted.

Donny (Giovani Ribisi) and his son, Robert (Aedin Mincks), want to buy Ted from John. Donny and Robert are emotionally and mentally off-balance. They will do just about anything to get Ted away from John and Lori. This twisted subplot adds so much depth and really completes the plot device surrounding the underlying theme of love and friendship. So many writers and directors try to mesh other genre styles together and fail miserably, but MacFarland succeeds greatly! How?! It is his keen eye for direction, emotion, clever dialogue, and his ability to develop wonderful, compelling characters we relate to. His three main protagonists–Ted, John and Lori, all have grace-notes that are well-conceived and polished.

Bottom Line: Ted is irreverent, foul-mouthed and crude, but it’s the funniest film of the year! A very clever and intelligent spin on the buddy comedy genre.Ted has sophistication and heart–maybe we can too.


* * * * ( 4 stars out of 5 )