Way back before we worried about downloading the latest smartphone apps that let us to play back classical symphony to the tune of fart noises made by every endangered species on the planet; we each had that one toy.
It was our secret best friend forever before we even knew what BF’s, BFF’s, NBFF’s, BFFFU’s, and OMGWTFISABFF stood for. Side (and relative) note, the thought of not saying words anymore frightens me.
Whether it was an action figure, stuffed animal, doll or the box of paperclips we got from our parents whom told us it was a “Make-your-own-skinny-robot” kit; we all had a toy that we loved more than life itself… one we wished was real.
That is the simple premise of the move ‘Ted’. Except, it takes that concept and brings it to adulthood. ‘Ted’ begs the question, what if your favorite toy magically became real? Would that toy friend grow with you through life and would you ever make it look for its own apartment?
Those burning questions are answered in hilarious fashion in Seth MacFarlane’s first ever motion picture starring Mark Wahlberg , Mila Kunis and the voice of MacFarlane himself as the fuzzy little miscreant.
Being a MacFarlane creation, there is some major DNA strands borrowed from his Family Guy animated series. MacFarlane apologetically uses his Peter Griffin character voice to give Ted life (short for Teddy, duh) and even manages to make light of it during the film itself.
More importantly, there is so much awesome nerd pop-culture in this film; I started writing this review at 2am in the morning after seeing a late night showing just so I didn’t forget to mention some of my favorite references. (The things I do for you guys) Of course, I should have just seen the move during non-vampire/lawyer hours, but I digress.
SPOILER ALERT: I may be giving away some minor plot details and other film specifics, but as always, I will not try to ruin the movie-going experience for you. That’s just the kind of Outlaw I am.
Fortunately the plot itself isn’t very complicated, and most of it is revealed in the trailers (which I hate, but that’s a gripe for another day).
The story begins with classic narration by Patrick Stewart (Star Trek TNG, American Dad… another MacFarlane creation), whom delivers a mostly traditional storybook intro with an explanation of how Ted came to be. Make sure to listen carefully because he has some great random lines scattered about, and in combination with his stoic captain like voice, you could easily miss the intended humor.
A cute opening credits montage fast-forwards the audience from John Bennentt at about age 7 to John Bennett at 35 (Whalberg). I just realized I myself am only 5 months from that monumental age milestone… good lord. Moving on…
The current day Bennentt, whom is trying to climb the local rental car management step-stool, is at a major 4 year relationship marker with his going-places executive girlfriend, Lori Collins (played by the drool inducing Kunis).
Ted (McFarlane) has also grown out of his sweet and innocent young bear cub toddler attitude into a wise-cracking, ganja smoking womanizer that just wants to have fun with his thunder buddy all day, every day.
While the pair still has fun together (if fun means getting stoned to Flash Gordon and Cheers reruns all day), it soon becomes clear that Ted is becoming a road block on John’s highway to maturity. Of course this becomes a major factor in his ability to keep his 4 year relationship from completely falling apart.
‘Ted’ presents the classic dilemma of having to choose between the obnoxious best friend holding you back in life vs. the incredibly perfect-in-every-way mate, whom represents moving forward into the next stages of adulthood.
In this story, the choices are represented by a super horny, fowl mouthed stuffed animal and a successful, modelesque, just one of the guys, put up with all of your significant other’s sh*t type of girlfriend.
In both cases, neither really exists… unless you count the magical teddy bear which you probably have better odds of finding.
All the main players deliver funny, and most importantly, believable performances in a movie about a toy bear come to life.
There are also some great bit roles in the movie; one of them by Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld, The Tick) as John’s oblivious and sexually confused co-worker simply named, Guy. Joel McHale of the ever so geeky ‘Community’ and ‘Soup’ fame, plays Lori’s boss whom is a living version of a sexual harassment vending machine. Another hilarious side character is that of Ted’s supermarket boss, Frank (played to dead-pan comic perfection by Bill Smitrovich)
There are a few other extremely funny cameos as well that I just refuse to ruin!
To my surprise, MacFarlane gave some props to Ghostbusters as inspiration (for location anyway) when making this movie in that he wanted to incorporate the idea of using an out-there magical make-believe element, all while still keeping it grounded in the reality of a real city people could relate to (In this instance, Boston).
In that sense, MacFarlane proves successful as you truly view Ted as a real true to life personality that integrates seamlessly with his human actors and surroundings.
What also helps in this department are the special effects, or shall I say special effect. That’s because Ted is the only effect. The CGI of Ted never looks hokey or out of place. If a bear ever came to life, ordered hookers and snorted cocaine, you can bet it would look exactly as its presented on screen.
The non-stop entourage of incredibly hot women that parade across the screen also don’t hurt the overall visual appeal of the experience either.
As I noted above, there is heavy draw from Family Guy with it’s over-the-top flashbacks, Ted’s Peter Griffin voice, and vulgar humor… very vulgar humor. Taking that all into account, I was a bit weary before seeing the movie since I honestly – and I’m going to get put through a life size meat grinder for this – haven’t been a fan or follower of Family guy the past few years. I used to follow the show religiously when it first came out, but felt like it was getting a bit over the top and too random for me.
This is coming from a guy who still enjoys South Park where an episode can deal with the national security issue of Hillary Clinton having a bomb hardwired inside her Va-Jay-jay. In spite of such insane story lines, I still feel that South Park – and more so The Simpsons – have what Family Guy has always lacked; heart.
‘Ted’ on the other hand is a much different ball of fur. Kunis definitely provides much of the emotional depth in this buddy-bear-rom-con, however – and this stays between us – I got a bit teary eyed during a few of the scenes where Ted actually puts the humor on hold for some serious moments.
Another reason I really enjoyed this film – as hinted at earlier – had to do with all of the geeky pop-culture references sprinkled throughout. There were some great nods to Indiana Jones, Aliens, Star Wars, Superman, Nintendo, Flash Gordon and quite a few others (that I’m now starting to forget since it’s officially 3:30am in the morning).
I can also attribute my forgetfulness to the pace of the jokes – as in true MacFarlane style - are fired off in rapid succession faster than the charges on a Lindsay Lohan Rap sheet. I’ll will definitely be taking in another viewing, if not adding this to my collection to catch everything I may have forgotten.
Overall, the movie can come across a bit like a live action Family Guy episode (even the soundtrack covers familiar ground). However, it’s the live action overlay and the injection of some heart that keeps the entire movie successfully grounded despite the over-the-top antics of a real life teddy bear humping a cash register and performing fellatio on a candy bar.
Still, buried under the vulgar, gruff and matted exterior of Ted, there lies a warm and heart felt story of friendship and growing up.
Oh yeah, and did I mention Ted has sex with human women?
You’ll have to excuse me while I proceed to wish for my life-size Lara Croft doll to come to life.