Ted, the uneven, taboo-taunting directorial debut film by Family Guy mastermind Seth MacFarlane, seriously strains plausibility. Not in regards to the cursing, boozing, whore-mongering teddy bear title character. No, that part I can believe. But rather that a 35-year-old man would struggle for even a split second to choose between said stuffed animal and Mila Kunis. Madness!
Amazingly, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is just that dunderheaded. He’s a Bostonian stoner man-child, half-assing his days away at a dumpy rental car lot, who won the heart of Kunis’s smart and stunning Lori Collins four years ago by doofishly clocking her on the dance floor. Standing crudely in the way of their relationship’s long-term prospects is Ted (MacFarlane, recycling his Peter Griffin voice), an anthropomorphized plush toy John wished to life one fateful 1985 Christmas day, who now must adapt to a world beyond his best “thunder buddy’s” pot-scented apartment. Can their unhealthy codependent friendship survive?
As far as premises for raunchy R-rated comedies go, Ted has a damn good one. Unfortunately the movie, scripted by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, too often feels like a slightly sweeter extended Family Guy episode – packed with characteristic hit-or-miss random pop-culture references (Flash Gordon and Indiana Jones feature heavily), warped cutaway gags and “edgy” offensive punchlines – mated in an unholy union with a generic, flat human-centeric rom-com. And as much as the picture wants us to love Ted, he’s really not spectacularly fun to hang out with; an effective CG presence with inconsistent physical abilities whose non-stop vulgarity isn’t as clever or shocking as his creators appear to think it is.
The film works in fits and starts; a brilliantly strange ‘80s quasi-celebrity cameo here, a perverse produce-penetrating babe-on-bear sex scene there. Yet it never quite gels into the crass, confidently engaging crowd-pleaser it yearns to be. Alas, like it’s fuzzy ‘lil hellraiser, Ted is ultimately pretty much just disposable fluff.