“To thine own self be true.” Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, is a comedian who has perfected a formula of pop culture non-sequiturs and goofy raunchiness, and people either love him or hate him for it. When MacFarlane announced that he would write, direct, and star in his first big screen venture, critics speculated whether the final product would be a feature-length episode of Family Guy with cutaway flashbacks and epic chicken fights. The verdict? Ted is distinctly MacFarlane's work, and it won't convert anyone who wasn't already a fan of his brand of comedy. For those who worried that Ted would feel like an overstuffed TV episode, though, put those worries to rest. Ted is a solid comedy packed to the brim with quotable one-liners and enough clever moments and heart to make it worth watching a few times.
John (Mark Wahlberg) was a lonely Boston kid without a friend in the world until one Christmas when a magical wish brought his teddy bear Ted (Seth MacFarlane) to life. Now a grown man, John works at a rental car service and still clings to his immature, childish life. By extension, he also clings to Ted who has grown into a stoned slacker that is a ton of fun to party with but is that friend who drinks the last beer in the fridge without replacing it. Most days, he just gets high, watches Flash Gordon, and invites some hookers over for a game of Truth or Dare. Lori (Mila Kunis), John's girlfriend of five years, has put up with John's lack of ambition for too long, and she's fed up with Ted's negative influence. Not wanting to lose Lori, John asks Ted to move out and get his own place. John even sets Ted up with the perfect job at the local supermarket. Ted couldn't get fired if he tried (and he really tries). Unfortunately, John's lack of ambition and his inability to take responsibility for his actions don't change when Ted moves out. Instead, John runs away to Ted's new place on a daily basis to escape his grown-up life while pretending to be a responsible adult occasionally led astray. Eventually, he has to choose between the woman he loves or staying a boy with his teddy bear.
As previously stated, a person's enjoyment of Ted will mostly depend on their enjoyment of MacFarlane's other work. Personally, I am a fan of the early seasons of Family Guy, though I think the show has been lacking in recent seasons. And while Eric Cartman wouldn't appreciate the comparison, Family Guy is a lot like South Park but with less social commentary and less ambitious plot lines. MacFarlane is strongest when he sticks to pure laughs and steers clear of deeper meaning. While Ted does have a few insightful moments, writers like Trey Parker and Matt Stone could have probably gotten more out of the man-child with his teddy bear concept.
It is unfair, however, to compare MacFarlane to Parker and Stone. What Ted might lack in subtlety and deeper meaning, the film more than makes up for in laughs. There were jokes in this movie that will make you roar, giggle, do the ol' groan-and-shake-your-head, and everything in between. Some of the dick and fart jokes won't hold up on multiple viewings, especially if that isn't your brand of humor, but there are scenes in this movie that will always make you laugh. Not to spoil anything, but the White Trash Girl names (which also appears in the film's trailer) is one of the funniest movie moments I have seen in a very long time. Mark Wahlberg rattling off “Brandy, Heather, Channing, Brianna, Amber...” would make a great ringtone.
Is Ted a sharp satire of the modern-day man child? Definitely not, but it doesn't need to be. MacFarlane knows himself. He knows his audience. And he knows what he does best. Ted manages to capture what made MacFarlane a TV comedy icon while still feeling like it belongs on the big screen. By being true to himself and his strengths, MacFarlane has made the summer's first must-see comedy.
"Ted" opens June 29, 2012 and is rated R. Comedy. Directed by Seth Macfarlane. Written by Seth MacFarlane. Starring Giovanni Ribisi, Joel Mchale, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane.