Seth MacFarlane is a clever bastard. He knows that only way to get away with transferring his Peter Griffin voice to a walking, talking teddy bear in a movie is to acknowledge the party foul with a self-deprecating joke. So he uses one line two-thirds of the way into the movie and he's suddenly excused him from any accusations of laziness.
The animation mastermind behind Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show, MacFarlane has made a career out of that sort of circular humor. He has an ear for the absurd, and flings outrageous references up against the wall. It doesn't matter that only half of them stick, because the ones that do are funny enough to excuse the misfires. Ted may make you groan as much as it will make you laugh, but when it's on, the comedy gets you so giddy it makes you forget the awful stuff and halfway tricks you into thinking it's thoroughly perfect.
Part Child's Play, part Family Guy, part Wilfred and part fart joke marathon, Ted is all MacFarlane, for both better and worse. But mostly better.
MacFarlane voices the title character, a boozing, carousing plush doll who was dreamed into life back in the 1980s by John (Mark Wahlberg). Ted and John have grown into a pair of Flash Gordon reruns-watching, pot-smoking burnouts, much to the chagrin of John's ears-steaming girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis).
Lori drags John by the ear into adulthood, while Ted longs to lure John into suspended adolescence. That leaves Ted in the middle of the tug-of-war, juggling the only fart-joke-filled life he's known against a future of constant sex with a girl who looks like Mila Kunis. Both Wahlberg and Kunis play adequate straight parts, but they're really just the backup dancers for Ted's one-teddy show. The relationship stuff is dull, existing only to post up some framework for Ted's sickening-in-great-ways escapades.
Ted can rock a party like Charlie Sheen. He can hold his bong smoke, drink grown men under the table and is capable of seducing supermarket checkout girls, strippers and jazz singers with equal ease. He's got a knack for ironically racist wisecracks, a mean right hook and an inexplicable confidence in his awful driving ability. And boy, does he hate that Teddy Ruxpin.
Like Family Guy, Ted has its share of awkwardness, both intended and otherwise. Stars make surprise, self-mocking cameos that aren't quite as funny as intended, there are uncomfortably long pauses after punchlines that aren't as great as MacFarlane intended and then there's that Peter Griffin voice, which makes it tough to separate Ted from the character who's spent way too much time in your living room.
But overall, Ted is a ginormous victory for MacFarlane. Proof that his silly, so-stupid-it's-smart shtick can hold up over 106 minutes. Haters beware, because MacFarlane shows he's going to be just as popular a filmmaker as he is at TV animation. Lord help us all.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane's voice, Giovanni Ribisi and Patrick Warburton. Written by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, based on a story by MacFarlane. Directed by MacFarlane. 106 minutes. Rated R.
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