‘Ted’ one of summer’s funniest, fuzziest
As creator, producer, writer and actor on animated hits like
“Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show,” Seth MacFarlane dominates Fox’s Sunday
Some clever network executive might even call it “animation domination.”
Like it or not, there’s a reason he got there – the man is funny, and “Ted,” his first full-length feature film, is hilarious proof.
“Family Guy” was a surefire hit when it premiered in 1999, surprising, delighting and shocking audiences with its gleeful obscurity and unabashed irreverence, only to be canceled in 2001. A surge in DVD sales and rerun viewership prompted Fox to resurrect it in 2005, and it’s been kicking ever since.
Sure, its writing has gone downhill, but “Ted” is a reminder of why the show was so funny in the first place, and it’s one of MacFarlane’s most cohesive efforts of late. MacFarlane specializes in transmuting the mundane, taking a familiar concept and turning it on its head, while keeping the gags – no matter how outrageous – relatable to the human experience, as much as some people refuse to admit it.
In directing, co-writing and starring in “Ted,” he makes a comedy about growing up into something outrageous, original and laugh-out-loud funny.
Mark Wahlberg (“The Fighter”) is Johnny, a 35-year-old Bostonian with a most unusual best friend – a living teddy bear.
Named Ted (and voiced by MacFarlane), the bear was a childhood gift to the otherwise lonely Johnny, who one night wished for his inanimate best friend to come to life. Sure enough, his wish was granted – to his parents’ initial horror and national media coverage.
They became besties for life, and, despite his rise to fame, Ted remained by Johnny’s side throughout it all. But, as narrator Patrick Stewart (yes, Patrick Stewart, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) explains, like with Corey Feldman, Frankie Muniz and Justin Bieber, the years go by “and nobody gives a **** anymore.”
Now, Johnny and Ted are both grown up, devoting their time to recreational passions, like getting high and watching “Flash Gordon” reruns. Johnny’s barely clinging on to a dead-end job, but has managed to keep his beautiful and endearingly patient girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), who’s surprisingly OK with the rather unconventional living situation.
With their four-year anniversary approaching, Johnny wonders whether Lori’s looking for something more permanent. She is, and it’s not only marriage. She wants Johnny to grow up, something he can’t seem to do when always hanging out with a walking, talking metaphor.
But as Johnny clings to his arrested development and maintains his juvenile lifestyle – skipping out of work to watch “Cheers” DVD extras, shirking a date with Lori to get drunk with Flash Gordon himself (actor Sam J. Jones playing a caricature of himself) – his romance is increasingly at odds with his bromance, causing Lori to have second thoughts.
The story’s somewhat predictable, as is a bear-napping subplot involving an effectively creepy-as-usual Giovanni Ribisi (“The Rum Diary”), but “Ted” has such a fresh concept and clever gags that even an otherwise tired theme is given a fresh and hilarious take on life, sort of like the titular character.
MacFarlane voices Ted like a fuzzy and likeable Peter Griffin from “Family Guy,” and Wahlberg’s perfect as his human counterpart. I never thought I’d say it, but Wahlberg shares an outstanding chemistry with an anthropomorphic teddy bear, much of the comedy derived from their oddball conversations, as the two genuinely seem like a couple of longtime friends.
Both are foul-mouthed, crass and absurdly likable, despite their poor decision-making skills. Even though one of them is computer-generated (expertly at that), MacFarlane makes their relationship seem more plausible than it has any right to be.
Like with “Family Guy,” “Ted” is loaded with obscure references, cutaways and cameos, often stemming from MacFarlane’s love for all things ’80s, such as a hysterically arbitrary running gag with Tom Skerritt (“Top Gun”).
Comfortable in its R rating, “Ted” isn’t for those with a low tolerance for raunchiness or dirty humor, which it more than happily flaunts. But it balances this with clever dialogue, genuine heart and Tom Skerritt.
“Ted,” rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.