By Ron Peltier
A child’s wish results in a teddy bear coming to life is the premise for the comedy Ted. Ted is voiced by writer and director Seth MacFarlane. John Bennett, played by Mark Wahlberg, eventually grows up with Ted as his lifelong buddy. The film plays the “talking bear” straight as footage of the miracle receives repeated news coverage, but as the narrator, Patrick Stewart, tells us, eventually the novelty of the talking teddy bear wears off.
Conflict arises, as it must, in the form of John’s girlfriend, Lori, played by Mila Kunis. As the couple has dated for four years, a natural and inevitable problem develops. John must grow up and become an adult — this means kicking his friend and roommate Ted to the curb and getting married. The story mines familiar territory — the fun but immature man-child must grow up and choose his girl over his friends — but at least the ride is a whole lot of fun.
Many funny scenes abound in the film, particularly when Ted is on screen. Some of the humor is generated from the bizarre juxtaposition on a child’s teddy bear doing bong hits, offering sardonic and vulgar quips, shooting shots and having sex with a cashier. A truth or dare game also creates some, shall we say, scatological humor. Indeed, the film is filled with vulgarity, profanity and all-around scatological humor. But it is very often funny. However, it is not just the novelty of the child’s toy doing “adult” things that creates the humor. Some of it comes via paying tribute to several movies.
The really terrible 1980 movie Flash Gordon and the actor, who plays him, Sam Jones, are featured prominently. The cheesiness of the film is ripe ground for humor. John and Ted love the film, and when they meet the real Sam Jones during a party, several over-the-top but funny scenes take place. Another film-inspired scene reprises the Saturday Night Fever dancing scene from Airplane! — a scene paying homage to a scene that pays homage to another scene. However, it is a fight between John and Ted that generate the best laughs in the film. The scene is played seriously, replete with requisite sound effects. It is funny seeing a teddy bear beating up a grown man.
When the film attempts to be earnest and sincere, it falls a little flat. So when John and Lori break up and Ted is blamed, we know that last act of the film will reconcile the relationship — all of them. Ted is kidnapped by a crazy father, played by Giovanni Ribisi, and must be rescued by a suddenly reunited John and Lori.
However, the film is not really trying to be profound and meditative. The “story” simply serves to generate a slew of funny and often crass scenes. If that’s your kind of movie, Ted won’t disappoint.