I went into seeing Seth MacFarlane’s debut feature expecting nothing more than a crude and funny comedy. What I didn’t expect was a genuinely touching and smart movie about a trio of soul mates coming to terms with growing up. Now if MacFarlane himself were to read this he might dismiss what I wrote and say, “Sorry Juan, but it’s just a funny movie about a guy and his talking stuffed animal.” Thankfully, for the most part, that’s just what it is. It is also however, a smart and genuine story not only about the relationship of the three main characters, but also about the relationship between the American people and celebrities.
Patrick Stewart, as the narrator tells us in the opening of how little John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (MacFarlane) first came to be. It is in this opening sequence that MacFarlane throws his first jab at pop culture, and how the movie deals with putting this magical character in the real world. Ted’s existence first throws the world for a loop, but then very quickly, he’s tossed aside. We then see Ted and John twenty seven years later, and neither has really changed. They both seem to be stuck emotionally in the same state they were in when John was a teen-ager. The only substantial change to their relationship is that for the last four years, John has been in a relationship with a beautiful young PR executive on the rise by the name of Lori. Lori is played by MacFarlane favorite, Mila Kunis. The story then centers on Lori trying to break John from the tight grip his relationship with Ted has on his personal development.
I think it’s a testament to MacFarlane that eventually we’re pretty much not interested in the fact that Ted is a toy. He’s really just a fun loving, politically incorrect, slacker whose best friend is having trouble choosing between him and the love of his life. All three leads do a good job in their roles. Wahlberg is funnier than he’s ever been, and Kunis navigates her performance between comedy and drama better than most lead actresses who are currently cast in so-called romantic comedies. I’m looking at you Aniston and Heigl. MacFarlane’s voice work is spot on. When I heard his voice in the trailer I thought it sounded too much like his much beloved Family Guy character, but despite that, he managed to create an original character in Ted.
There are some other funny performances by Joel Mchale as Kunis’ sleazy boss, Giovanni Ribisi as an obsessed fan, and Patrick Warburton as John’s confused co-worker, but it’s really the cameos that supply the movie with some of the funnier moments. Like many of the bit pieces that play on Family Guy, this movie utilizes the cameos as a way to comment on our celebrity obsessed culture. I think it’s always best that cameos are kept a secret, otherwise they don’t work. I will say however, that the horrible 80s movie Flash Gordon comes into play here, and it was more entertaining in this film than the actual movie was. I think anyone going to see Ted would be wise not to expect too much more than a crude and funny comedy, even though there is more to it. I also think this film is a solid indication that MacFarlane has a future in feature films.