'Ted' funny, crude, but flawed

July 1, 2012 

The logistics of a living teddy bear are more complicated than you'd think.

In Ted, the teddy bear in question can drink and smoke, implying he has digestive and respiratory systems of some kind. So what does he eat? Big bowls of raw cotton? That stuff must be tough to swallow. He must eat with a knife, a fork and a plunger. Maybe he snacks on buttons like potato chips. Tiny potato chips. That you can't actually crunch unless you get titanium teeth installed. Do you know how much those things cost? More than your average teddy bear's salary. Those guys are employed by small children.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

You can see how hard it is to make things add up. Ted has a smart solution to any and all inconsistencies: magic. A force so powerful it can even patch over plot holes with seamless efficiency. With all questions answered by "Magic!", Ted dives into its crude fairy story and doesn't look back.

Back when he was a kid, Mark Wahlberg was a friendless loser. One Christmas, he wished his teddy bear would come alive — and he got his wish. He and Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) have been best friends ever since.

But now Wahlberg is grown up, and girlfriend Mila Kunis doesn't like Ted's irresponsible, hard-partying ways. She wants Wahlberg to shape up and Ted to ship out. But even after Ted moves out, Wahlberg isn't ready to start taking life seriously.

Honestly, this review could be pretty short. Do you like Family Guy, American Dad, and the comedic stylings of Seth MacFarlane: Y/N? If you answered "Y," then you will enjoy Ted. If you answered "N," then save your money and spend it on digital music or dynamite or whatever you enjoy instead.

But I am not just here to make recommendations. I am here to cut things apart and make jokes about hobos. And occasionally to make jokes about cutting apart hobos. Is it weird to want to illustrate your own jokes? Wait, no, that's totally normal, they're called cartoons. Like what MacFarlane has made a living making.

And really, Ted is very much in the style of Family Guy. There are cutaway gags. Over-the-top violence. Ethnic humor. A lot of cleverness. Do these sound like complaints? Well, maybe they are, but I laughed pretty often, and I am generally lukewarm to MacFarlane. Some of its jokes are flat, but on the comedy front, Ted is a success.

On the "everything else" front, though, it's not as strong. Wahlberg's and Kunis' characters have been dating four years, but they talk to each other like they're out on a second date, just getting to know each other. It's not a relationship that feels lived-in. That's partly because Kunis feels less like a real woman and more like she's right off the assembly line of gorgeous movie girlfriends with generic complaints about boyfriends who won't grow up. Her complaint is actually very specific — she doesn't like that Wahlberg smokes weed on the couch all day with a magical living teddy bear — but it still feels incredibly bland.

You know what, I've got the same complaint about Ted and Wahlberg's relationship, too. Wahlberg is a guy whose only childhood friend was a talking teddy bear who became a child star. Does that sound like the recipe for a well-adjusted adult? It sounds to me like Wahlberg should have grow up to bottle his own urine and, with Ted's help, conduct an ongoing and completely imaginary war against the Pound Puppies.

Ted actually addresses Wahlberg's well-adjustedness logically enough, and anyway, that's not my complaint. Rather, it's that the movie doesn't do too much with its central relationship. They're buddies, and they're scared of thunder together, and that's about it. Not terribly imaginative.

Even if its dramatic elements don't really work, Ted is funny enough to make for a good time. MacFarlane isn't exactly spreading his comedic wings here, but his Hollywood directorial debut is plenty strong. If he wants, he could make a second career out of this.

Grade: C+

* Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com. His fiction is available on Kindle, Nook, and through Smashwords.

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