TED (director/writer: Seth MacFarlane; screenwriters: Alec Sulkin/Wellesley Wild/based on a story by Mr. MacFarlane; cinematographer: Michael Barrett; editor: Jeff Freeman; music: Walter Murphy; cast: Mark Wahlberg (John Bennett), Mila Kunis (Lori Collins), Joel McHale (Rex), Jessica Barth (Tami-Lyn), Patrick Warburton (Guy), Giovanni Ribisi (Donny), Norah Jones (herself), Sam J. Jones (himself), Aedin Mincks (Robert), Seth MacFarlane (Ted), Patrick Stewart (narrator), Bretton Manley (John as a kid), Matt Walsh (Thomas Murphy), Bill Smitrovich (Frank Stevens), Robert Wu (Wu Ming), Ralph Garman (John’s Dad), Alix Borstein (John’s Mom), Laura Vandervoort (Tanya), Ryan Reynolds (Guy’s Boyfriend), Tom Skerritt (Himself); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Seth MacFarlane/Scott Stuber/John Jacobs/Jason Clark; Universal Pictures; 2012)
“MacFarlane throws everything against the wall to get a laugh or two, but most of the bits fail to stick.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Seth MacFarlane has become part of the pop culture scene with his scatological humor and a machine-gun onslaught of raunchy jokes in his animated TV shows (“The Family Guy,” “American Dad!” and “The Cleveland Show”). For his feature film debut MacFarlane presents a non-PC live-action one-joke flick that ventures onto the same sophomoric formulaic frat house humor turf as his TV works, but offers more plot structure and a well-cast lead in Mark Wahlberg playing with believable innocence a childlike manchild. For the targeted male young adult audience it might be appealing to laugh at poop jokes, but for others this might not be the kind of teddy bear pic they want to hug. It takes a healthy dose of suspended belief and a tolerance for fart jokes to come to grips with this kind of fantasy juvenilia.
Things open in the Boston suburbs in 1985, on Christmas Day, when lonely 8-year-old John Bennett (Bretton Manley) receives a teddy bear present from his parents and after making a wish when a shooting star is spotted, for teddy to be a real friend, the toy suddenly comes to life and talks (Seth MacFarlane doing the voice). The foul-mouthed talking teddy becomes a celebrity, even appearing on The Johnny Carson show. After 27 years, the now 35-year-old bachelor John (Mark Wahlberg) lives with his best pal teddy and has a low-paying dead-end job for a car rental company. The wisecracking Teddy occupies most of nice guy John’s time, as they smoke pot and watch movies together. This upsets John’s long-time suffering hot business girlfriend of the last four years Lori Collins (Mila Kunis), who makes him choose teddy or her. With that teddy gets his own apartment and a supermarket counter job, where despite insulting his boss (Bill Smitrovich) and screwing up he’s promoted. The film’s funniest bit has John trying to guess teddy’s busty checker girlfriend’s (Jessica Barth) name by running through every ‘white trash’ girl’s name he can.
MacFarlane throws everything against the wall to get a laugh or two, but most of the bits fail to stick. There’s the kidnapping of teddy by the creepy Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), John singing at an outdoor park concert with Norah Jones, John doing cocaine and Flash Gordon things with Sam J. Jones, John fighting off Lori’s wealthy asshole boss (Joel McHale) from stealing his girl and, then, MacFarlane shoots for emotional impact by seeing if teddy can be patched back to life and if a more responsible Jon and Lori can reconcile and live happily ever after.
It’s narrated by Patrick Stewart. That the comedy is witless, doesn’t bother this filmmaker. He seems to be aiming to be offensive and win over the crowd in love with naughty pop culture jokes. Unfortunately in the third act the film runs out of gas and becomes a stinker when it tries to get too sentimental. MacFarlane got trapped by not knowing where to go with this wacky teddy bear story and his try for an impossible fairy tale happy ending was just too unbelievable, even if one suspended their belief.
REVIEWED ON 7/1/2012 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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